What is it about salt and pepper hair? Texture is certainly a part of it, as is the undeniable versatility of the meld. As at home glazing under ruthless summer rays as it is shielding itself from a howling metropolitan wind. The real magic, however, seems to be in the natural refinement of the look. You earn salt and pepper. It's not as simple as walking into your local fade shop and asking for a From Dusk Til Dawn era George Clooney. John W. Henry didn't buy his coiffure, he earned it over time. What he bought was Liverpool Football Club. So, has he earned it?
To arrive at the purveyance of his current domain, John W. Henry flipped financial markets into billions into media assets into Red Sox into Reds. He arrived at our door just as the knives were drawn, gut punches were landing, and bankruptcy was much more likely than a 19th title. He wiped our books clean, and replaced a wretched uncle with a once and future King. Early on there was the haphazard splashing of cash, but even at the worst of the financial misspending, he landed us a #7 as worthy of the shirt as any player before him.
Rest your sidepart on this one for a minute: Luis Suarez's entire Liverpool story rises and falls in the mere dawn of FSG's Liverpool. And not too long after Suarez arrived, he gambled on bringing us a Brenny - a sticking point for some, perhaps, but a gamble that left us as close to that 19th as Liverpool have come. Throughout all this time, Henry has steadily worked towards a stadium reconstruction that - like a fine salt and pepper hairstyle - aims to preserve the most cherished of the old while meeting the demands of the new. Even from the most critical of perspectives, it has been an eminently positive ownership tenure for Henry's FSG.
As we sit way too close to our televisions every week, and mix our drinks with every inch of Red lain before us, it can be hard to stand back and let things breathe. Three at the back?! Sterling at striker?! Gerrard at DM?! Dejan?! It's in the job description. Fans get to bitch and moan moment to moment. The whole reason this spectacle exists in the first place is to quench our insatiable thirst for beautiful entertainment. This, however, is not John W. Henry's job. In fact, day to day emotional micromanagement is the direct opposite of what any classy owner does.
It's interesting to consider the initial misgivings many had with the prospect of Henry as an owner when it is now so clear that his respect for boundaries, responsibilities, and proper perspective have driven Liverpool forward. It matters not whether Henry eats a full English breakfast in the morning. It matters not whether he is able to elucidate the intricacies of Brendan Rodgers' freshly molded 3-6-1 vis a vis the counter attacking diamond from last year. What matters is that from his position on high and often across the pond, the man has created a secure enough working environment for the Northern Irish tinkerer to feel comfortable daring mighty things even at the risk failure. This is a special trait for a Bossman in modern professional sports, and it is one that fits with the tradition of Liverpool Football Club.
This steady as we go ownership style is not for everyone; not for every club. Every culture has its quirks, and every rabid fan base its specific set of demands. Roman Abramovich fires Brendan Rodgers at least twice during the Antrim native's three year spell as manager, and nary a Blue bats an eye. That cutthroat ethos has brought Chelsea results, silver, plaudits - you name it. For Liverpool, though, that would not register as being enough. The ends do not always justify the means.
As each season passes without number 19, the struggle molds and defines the culture of Liverpool every bit as much as the first 18 successes did. It's that bittersweet reality that fuels our organic right to demand things be done a certain way, and for certain reasons - only a few of which have to do with silver. The anti-plastic. Sown by Shanks and the Liverpudlian working classes of the 20th century. This club will never be without its beating heart. That history - successes and failures - will infuse any lucrative 21st century rewards reaped in this new era.
Even when salt and pepper is at its most dazzling, there seems to be a transient aura attached to it. Past experiences melding with present realities opening up to future possibilities. Does this not fall in step with where Liverpool find themselves institutionally in 2015? Always the first to point to 18 times, to clamor for past greatness as a measuring stick for the present, and always blowing on a hopeful ember that the future is what will burn the brightest.
Transfer committees, net spends, marketing strategies, financial fair-play regulations, contract renewals, revenue models, tactical modifications, player progression, academy re-alignments, community involvement, performance metrics, training regimens, joint global ventures - there are many more qualified people writing many more interesting things about each and every one of these components. Many of them on these very threads. Every one of these balls must be juggled in rhythm by Henry and his team. Somehow the complexity of the proposition doesn't have the same disquieting effect as it had when FSG first walked through the door.
We feel right about settling into a prospective salt and pepper era at Liverpool. A steady, patient hand steers this grand old ship into a storming ocean, and we are come now with tomorrow for yesterday. 29 points and climbing - let's get it.