It’s been a while since I’ve been unable to watch Liverpool’s opening day match live. The last time was 2007 against Aston Villa. It went like this: George (A Mancunian; a regular at the brewery where I bartended; a City diehard; a Setanta subscriber) plopped the tape of the match on the bar top. I filled his half-gallon growler with fresh India Pale Ale. He nodded in thanks: poker-faced. He’d watched the match but would never give away the ending. There’s an unspoken pact with the diaspora of football fanatics. You don’t give away the result until you know the other guy knows.
Hours later, Tim (the other bartender; my fellow, burgeoning Liverpool fanatic; my brother-for-life) would lock the doors and dim the lights. Meanwhile, I rolled the vcr and projector out from the storage closet, threw the image on the wall and connected the sound to the house speakers. We poured ourselves fresh pints and sank into the deep couches in the corner by the fireplace. We took in the match with virgin eyes. We knew nothing. It was as if it was happening fresh. It was a good ten hours after the fact.
And when Stevie G blasted that 86th minute free kick in from distance, we launched into the air as if the moment was current and alive. We hugged and shouted and jumped and spilled beer all over those leather couches. Our joy rattled against the empty corners of the pub as the Reds took all three points.
It remains my greatest Liverpool memory involving tape-delay.
Since then I’ve caught the openers (and most of the league fixtures) live. I’ve managed to keep all those Saturday and Sunday mornings and all those Monday afternoons (and other odd weekdays) in the clear from my various restaurant jobs.
But today was different. I’ve taken too many days off this summer for various commitments. I couldn’t rightly ask for today off without seeming to ask for too much in my first summer at a new job, nor could I afford to miss out on the income.
So I missed the live broadcast of Liverpool’s opener. And it was at home against Arsenal of all things.
So here I am. Ten o’clock at night. Eleven hours after kick off. Unaware. You, the reader, have likely tuned into this post to read the thoughts of an informed supporter. But, alas: you know more than I.
If Red hopes soared or sanked, I have no idea. I’ll put a drawing of Steven Gerrard up with this article in hopefullness that the captain made his mark on the outing, but I can’t know if he managed another moment of pure glory to echo that kick against Villa, or if he hung his head at the final whistle, dismayed by two or three points dropped. And it’s an old drawing. It actually comes from a photograph of him in a celebration of an England moment. But I like the drawing and I can’t risk googling a fresher image to model for a fresh illustration. The search could give away today’s result.
I made it most of today without even a chance of spoiling my late-night viewing of the match. I finished my shift and sat down to dine, ignorant, when a bar-goer wandered in in a distinctive red shirt. It was an early 90s Liverpool kit. Occasionally in Boston one runs into a casual fan in a Liverpool shirt, who vaguely likes the side but doesn’t keep up with the results. Red doesn’t mean dead when avoiding the result. But this dude couldn’t fall into that category. Not in a pristine kit from the days of Robbie Fowler. This man knew what was on today. He knew what happened.
I avoided him at first, afraid that even commenting on his jersey would bring on more information than I wanted on the match I’d yet to watch. But when I went to use the restroom some twenty minutes later, he was emerging. I couldn’t stop myself: Great kit, man!
Then – quick – before he could respond: Ihaven’tseenthematchyetdudepleasedon’ttellmeanything!!!!
Without disclosing any telling details, he talked about the side. Our hopes. Our concerns. All long term of course. I asked him where he liked to watch the matches. He reeled off a list of pubs that included my local. We agreed we’d bump into each other at the Phoenix Landing in Cambridge sometime soon.
But then… as he turned away… He said it: Take care. I think you’ll enjoy the match: it’s a good one.
A good one? A good one how? We destroy Arsenal? Or at least win by a goal to nil? Or there’s late drama, no matter the result? Or it’s simply a good footballing contest?? What what what????
WHAT THE EFF DID HE MEAN???
You know nothing.
In about an hour, I’m going to sit down, crack a beer and watch the match on Fox Soccer Channel when it is rebroadcast at 11pm EST. (Yes: I am the last football fan in America who doesn’t have DVR. I’m over it.)
Our starting XI are going to march out. I’m going to get chills. The match will commence and I (the blank slate) will take it in like it’s a live event.
This is not my favorite way. I’d rather be in the pub watching it live with my people.
But tonight: this is what I’ve got. C’mon, you Redmen.
I plan to start another article later this evening. I’ll write half of it during halftime. I’ll write the rest after the final whistle and post my thoughts in the morning. I may recycle the Stevie G drawing (if I’m too tired to whip up a more current, more relevant one), but at least my thoughts will be caught up to what you, the informed reader, already knows. The final result.
So it goes.
C’mon, you Redmen.
As far as I’m concerned you’ve yet to run out tonight.
And my hope for the event is still intact.