I've never smelled the glorious smell of fresh-cut grass, stale beer and urine that wafts throughout Anfield. I've never joined fellow Kopites as they derisively chanted about Wayne Rooney's hairline. I've never sat alongside the dingy waters of the river Mersey. Hell, I've never even set foot in England; but I'm a Scouser through and through. Now, before you roll your eyes so violently they pop directly out of your head, let me explain.
It all happened one May afternoon in 2007. While skipping class on a beautiful Philadelphia afternoon - as college freshman are wont to do - I stumbled across the UEFA Champions League Final on TV. Now, my appetite for the beautiful game had been whet the previous summer watching the World Cup (Zidane is still a personal hero for head-butting Materazzi, ramifications be damned), but I had yet to delve into club football. At the time I had no idea that Liverpool were looking to win their English-record sixth European title and second in three years. I had no idea that the last Champions League Final between AC Milan and Liverpool produced quite possibly the greatest comeback in football history. None of that mattered though, because at the end of the match I knew I was hooked and Liverpool were my team.
Over the course of those 90+ minutes I fell in love with the technical beauty of Xabi Alonso; the tireless attack of Gerrard and the visceral tenacity of Jamie Carragher. The fact that they lost the match, while disappointing, was somehow strangely endearing. Perhaps it has something to do with growing up a Boston sports fan and always (until recently) rooting for losers. Whatever the reason, I immediately set forth to learn everything I could about my new love. I started with the most important piece of information a sports fan can have: who am I supposed to hate? Lucky for me that answer is a very easy one. I had inadvertently stumbled into the greatest rivalry in English football. The only thing that matched my new found love for Liverpool was my new found hatred for Manchester United. Now that I had that sorted out, I set about learning the history Liverpool Football Club. I quickly learned that no club in all of sport has experienced such dizzying highs and heartbreaking lows. The former is captured by the dominance and triumphs of Shankly and Paisley, Dalglish and Rush. The latter, the tragedy and injustice of Heysel and Hillsborough. Liverpool is not just a football club, it's a language, culture and belief system all it's own. I quickly realized that in order to do it justice, I needed to put in some work.
It has taken me nearly six years of watching matches, playing FIFA, learning history and waking up at ungodly hours to watch matches at my local pub, but I finally feel I've earned the right to call myself a true Red. As I excitedly watch the popularity of club football take off in America I can't help but look back on that afternoon in May, 2007. What if I hadn't skipped class that day? What if I had dismissed the game out of hand as being for "sissy Europeans"? What if Man U had defeated Milan in the Semifinals and I had succumbed to the siren song of being a Manc? Thankfully, those will always remain what ifs because I am Liverpool Football Club supporter and I will never walk alone.