This isn’t Everything’s the Worst, it’s only a tribute. Because sometimes it’s ok to celebrate without giving any weight to the nagging thought that it could all come crashing down. Because there are times worth celebrating as the joy inside of you is bending the hinges on the space you’ve created to contain it. Because what if today, a scant 72 hours removed from the thrilling conclusion at the Etihad that sealed LFC’s progression to the semi-finals of the Champions League for the first time since 2008, while everyone tells you to act like you’ve been here before, you can’t as this entire experience is new?
Coming to love Liverpool Football Club in the Summer of 2010 seemed like a fine enough choice. Fernando Torres - the player I’d adopted as my favorite since Zidane hung up his boots - was a Red. And though the 2009-2010 campaign was a bit fraught, things still looked as though the team would at least be competitive.
But then Rafa Benitez resigned. And Roy Hodgson was brought on as his replacement. And Javier Mascherano refused to play in an effort to facilitate a move. And Hodgson’s replacements included the likes of Christian Poulsen and Joe Cole. And then we realized that the reason why the replacements were so poor and it was Hodgson the club had settled on was because the club’s owners were broke. And then we were playing matches under the specter of administration. The Next Leeds. A Fallen Giant. A fandom I’d given myself completely over to looked a shambolic decision.
If you were forged in the fires of this desperation, that suffocating shadow, any speck of light would give you reason to pump a fist. The brief spark of life as King Kenny won a trophy. The comet of Rodgers’ 2013-2014 Cardiac Kids: Merseyside Edition. The star wattage of a healthy Sturridge, the imperious performances of a pre-injury Lucas, the Captain working his legs to the very last ounce of energy. And all of these stars orbiting the incandescent and voracious sun of Luis Suarez.
We danced - perhaps in secret - over these tiny victories because they were victories we couldn’t even imagine. We danced at the setting of that false dawn because even the slightest kiss of the sun warmed us. We danced because anything was better than where we’d been and no amount of finger wagging from the Ones Who’d Scene the Glory Days would stop us.
We wouldn’t have to do it in their presence.
And as Jurgen Klopp took charge of a squad with *pieces* but without a full identity, we continued to dance. Our steps, though, a bit less lively and now guarded, but we still danced.
We danced as the club nearly brought home another European triumph. We danced as this Sleeping Giant finally began to show signs of life. We danced as the rest of Europe began to take notice. Klopp on board. Sadio Mane. Then Mo Salah. Virgil Van Dijk. And even though Philippe Coutinho left and our dance turned momentarily into a slow (and at times angry) dirge, there was the palpable sense that we could *afford* to actually absorb the cost of living out the idealistic the terms in only wanting players fully committed to The Liverpool Way. Then, after he left, we danced as our committed charges proved themselves better on balance. And we’ll dance when Naby Keita joins in the summer.
And so, just for the day, we put away the doubts and fears as real as they may look to us. The Boys from Merseyside have etched their name into the semi-finals of the Champions League on the strength of going toe-to-toe with one of Europe’s best in Manchester City, and coming out on the other end the victor. The courageous display we *knew* they had but *feared* they wouldn’t find writ large and bold and bright red over two legs. There is no doubting the quality of this club. There is no doubting we belong in this competition. And now, there is no doubting that our Reds know it, too.
We dance because we know how perilously close we were to really living and breathing and existing in The Worst. And to come that close is to intimately see that the line between Liverpool and Leeds or The Top 6 and the Rest of the League or “us” and “them” is so thin as to essentially be illusory. That but for the grace of God…
We dance because dancing is what you do to honor a moment like this. So, we dance. And for the day, we’ll remember that everything is in fact the best.