On an average Saturday over the months to come, I will watch Liverpool FC whilst in constant contact with friends based in the most disparate areas of the globe. Now, I'm a lucky man, in that, funds allowing, I can get to Anfield a few times a season. However, in the absence of that glorious, yet simple pleasure, the remote wit and digitally-enabled comradeship of my fellow Reds is a wonderful consolation.
I was born to stand on The Kop. Not sit, mind -- stand. As a result, domestic viewing of Liverpool matches is now almost comical. In a room with two alluringly comfortable sofas, I pace, hop, throw myself to the floor in despair, stand defiantly in defensive walls of my own fabrication and mercilessly kick ethereal opponents. Last season, I was moved to elbow Imaginary Ryan Shawcross several times. He was out of order, to be fair.
I realise that these sound like the unhinged actions of a lunatic but I make no apologies for them. My own daughter, herself sadly drifted temporarily from the cause, is wary of entering the room during the game, lest she witness my deranged deportment. She is a teenager burdened by enough embarrassment issues, without seeing her father -- normally so suave and urbane, remember! -- reduced to a caterwauling mess of neurotic motility.
In order to have a sense of the atmosphere, my television' s volume, like a phaser on Star Trek, is set to stun. The unfortunate side-effect of being able to hear the songs sung in the stadium, is that I also have the inane warbling of the commentary teams seared onto my aural memory. When they include the morosely cynical stylings of ex Red, Mark Lawrenson, then for the safety of others I had best stay in for the evening, as his particular brand of miserabilism renders me murderous. Niall Quinn's vacuity has a similar effect.
During breaks in play, I consult my Twitter feed, empowered by this simple miracle to have some kind of shared experience outside of the sound and pictures emanating from the screen in the corner. When, for example, Tony Hibbert falls over whilst charging down the line, it is preferable to be in the stadium to savour the unbridled mirth with mates on The Kop. However, in the absence of that increasingly expensive treat, it is enjoyable to exchange Hahahahahahahahahahaha!!! and LOOOOLLLL at Hibbo!!! messages with good folk who share your hopes and fears on a match day.
Supporting Liverpool Football Club can, of course, be done in a solo fashion. To be fair, my devotion is too overwhelming and all-encompassing to share all the time, lest I reveal myself as the incredibly one-dimensional man I truly am. I spend hours in lip-service to cultural delights such as literature and film, and yet all the while I will be living with thoughts about high-pressing attackers and injuries to our central midfielders. It is a comfort, then, to unburden oneself of such anxieties in colloquy with others in The Fellowship of the Reds.
Shared experience is what football fandom is all about, after all. It is what drives folk to join internet communities, subscribe to expensive television packages and strain family relations and finances on treasured trips to the footballing centre of their world. Liverpool Football Club has recently had some stark reminders that the notion of an LFC Family is not just some cynical corporate hokum. The scale and passion of the support for the club on their Southern hemisphere pre-season tour was enough to impress even the most jaded cynics. The club is loved.
Only last weekend, in Dublin, a packed Aviva Stadium witnessed the final pre-season game of Liverpool's campaign. The city was awash with red -- jerseys, scarves, banners and even the now de rigeur pyro all attesting to the passion for LFC in my country. Encouragingly, the majority were youngsters, indoctrinated by fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers -- a new generation of Reds, one who did not grow up when the club was the pre-eminent footballing force on the continent, as I did. They are all the more admirable for that.
Like most families, there is bickering and sometimes the discord is so dramatic it seems as though the community will be rent asunder. The aforementioned Twitter, when used correctly is a marvel. It is also home to the worst kind of mouth-breathing bigots, mysogynists, malcontents and moronic racists. Sadly, they claim to stand under the same banner as the decent majority and that can cause anyone to grow disillusioned, even to the point of questioning their desire to remain within the family.
Within the narrow confines of the players and staff of the club, this family theme is continued. Despite much, often justified criticism, Brendan Rodgers is growing into the role of firm patriarch, with the likes of Daniel Agger, Lucas Leiva and, of course, Steven Gerrard providing an avuncular presence to the youngsters of the squad. It is tempting, if a little unfair, to see Ian Ayre as the terminally uncool uncle who is tolerated on account of occasionally bringing nice presents. In Luis Suarez, we even have our very own brebis galeuse, because let's face it, what family doesn't have a black sheep?
Hard-bitten misanthropes will snort in derision at the notion of a Liverpool FC Family, and I'm normally inclined towards a bit of that kind of cynicism myself, but recent years have changed my perception of what it is to be a fan of Liverpool Football Club. I've met and conversed with tremendous people who've challenged my old-school way of thinking about being a supporter. Umbrella terms are tricky at the best of times, but a family is as good a way as any of describing the group of men and women, united in their love of the club, that I am proud to call friends.