Things are quiet right now. Well, about as quiet as they can get with a toddler playing with that most obvious and intensely intriguing of toy combinations: Mega Bloks and measuring cups. It is a bit of a toddler symphony if the symphony was limited to percussion and staccato vocals. Still, it’s a pretty awesome scene and I wouldn't trade it for the world.
Yes, it’s quiet-ish and it is an amazing thing because for the next 48 hours, Liverpool are guaranteed to be top of the table. It’s quiet because even with a poor result against Newcastle, Liverpool are assured of staying top. It’s quiet because the first time in my experience as a fan of this club, the stakes are low.
This is a gift.
Sports in my house have always been at the fore. My father was a sportsman, having been a semi-pro basketball player and boxer in Philippines before taking a full-time job as an aircraft mechanic to support his mother and four siblings. His love of sport was immediately passed on to us. And when we immigrated to America, he seemed to understand, keenly, that sports as cultural currency was valuable.
I remember sitting in his lap watching the Dodgers play, soaking up all I could of the rules and gameplay from my Dad. He also taught me how American Football worked, and autumn Sundays during elementary school were often segmented into professional wrestling in the morning for us kids, Mass in the afternoon for the family, and the local game - before the Rams and Raiders left, anyway - for my father. Though, it should be noted that our house belonged to the San Francisco 49ers, half, I think, due to their success during the Joe Montana-era and also owing to the fact that my youngest brother was born in that great city in 1986 wile on holiday.
Of course, basketball was probably the American sport we knew best because, well, the relationship between Filipinos and hoops is pretty well documented. And lucky for us, my father picked up a job in Los Angeles, right smack dab in the middle of the Showtime-era.
Because of that, Lakers basketball has always been the prominent sporting obsession in my house. We live and die by the Purple and Gold. The tension in my home - on my block - was palpable in 2001 during the comeback against the Trail Blazers. And the elation in my home - on my block - was comparable to an eruption as whole houses were lifted off their foundations when the Lakers walked away with Game 6 in the 2002 Conference Finals against their rivals. I’d never felt anything quite like this intense and deeply invested love I had for the Lakers.
Until I met Liverpool FC.
The moments that stand out for me in the past 8 years of fandom are pretty compressed into the three major eras I’ve seen: 1) the Hodgepocalypse; 2) Post Hodgepocalypse (everything in this period is adorned in leather and metal spikes and, oddly, Anfield was temporarily an oasis surrounded by desert); and 3) The Klopp Effect.
The unifying thread between the first two sections was the familiar, dizzying combination of excitement and dread that follows a big match-up. Even with expectations being low coming out of that terrible stretch in 2010, there was always the feeling that came with the hope that our guys were better than they’d showed and then the crushing disappointment when those hopes were dashed.
I remember this feeling from rooting for those early 90’s Lakers. It was that fallow period between Showtime and the Kobe-Shaq duo. It wasn’t that we had bad players, it was that they weren’t really as good as the rest of the league. Which, whatever, maybe that means bad to you but I will never besmirch the names of Nick Van Exel or Eddie Jones. Much like I still have a soft spot for Raul Miereles.
It was dire and even when we improved under Rodgers and came to expect wins against certain sides, I could never rid myself of that anxiety. Part of why my memories of this era’s highs - that United match in 2013; the unbeaten streak during that same season - are so effusive is that the pure relief from not being let down have amplified those joys. The peaks stand higher because I’d seen some incredibly low valleys.
The lack of those valleys over the last 2.5 seasons is the biggest change from the two previous eras of Liverpool history. There’s a solid confidence in the clichéd belief that, on any given day, any team get beat the other. Because, really, Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool squad has taken the time to truly show their quality against teams across Europe.
They’ve taken on Paris St. Germain, AS Roma, Napoli, and Manchester City. Names belonging on the shortlist of Europe’s best. They’ve come out on the positive side more times than not against teams in the Premier League.
And even when they fail, there seems to be an honesty in the losses. Less of an angst as the matches move on because, more often than not, those moments represent blips on a constant progress forward. A march from near ruination that came with that close brush with administration to being whispered in the same breath at the top of most pundits’ lists of the leading class in English Football.
A confidence well-earned and now, well-expected.
This isn’t, of course, a coronation. We are well aware of history and, especially, that of Liverpool. But this is to say that this already feels quite different from the most recent fleeting dalliance with the top of the league. In comparison to that magic season under Brendan Rodgers, there is a sense that these results will stick. Sure, the path to the title might require a season that’s as near to perfect as they come, but if there was ever a Liverpool side since 2010 that might have the quality to answer that bell, it is this one.
And that is perhaps the greatest gift in this last quiet moment before the swirl of fixtures - 3 in 8 days, starting with Newcastle on Boxing Day. That we are fans of a squad that is finally deserving of what long-time fans have always told me about the golden legacy Liverpool Football Club.
There’s a lot of football yet to be played and, I’m sure, much more drama to come. But here, in my home, my toddler has fallen asleep for her nap. And I’m ready to use this time to dream, myself. Dreams of a grand celebration in 5 months time. Dreams well-earned by a squad worth building your dreams upon.