There was a time when I believed a life lived out of one’s suitcase was glamourous. A new city every night, with all of the attendant sights and sounds. For a kid that lived in a claustrophobic home - even a metropolis like Los Angeles felt small. The world, though, was out there to be seen.
And why not? My parents had crossed an ocean, leaving behind their respective families, to place their stake in the American Dream(tm). Adventure was in my blood and I planned on living up to my birthright.
But here I was, on November 23rd, 2013, watching Liverpool take on Everton in what would be a thrilling match, alone in my hotel room. All glamour in the idea of constant travel more or less erased.
The match came at the end of my first conference for my old job; being that I worked for a municipality, where funds were always tight, I felt privileged to have gotten the nod to attend. That I’d only recently been promoted to this position made it even better. I’d not been to San Francisco since a child and this opportunity to site-see and get away from home for a few days was tempting.
But that excitement lasted very shortly. You see, I’m very much an introvert and making new friends is super awkward. More, I was engaged (now married to that same woman), and I did not anticipate just how much I’d miss her - a thing I realized with even more clarity last year. Suffice to say, by the time the match rolled around, I was basically done w/ my stay and 100% ready to be home.
The story of that derby is a wild one: Liverpool saw themselves go up 2-1 on the strength of first half goals from Phil Coutinho and Luis Suarez. But then the Ev charged back with two thunderbolts from Romelu Lukaku, with the latter of the goals putting the Toffees ahead with less than 10 minutes left to go before stoppage time.
But then, in the 89th minute, Daniel Sturridge arrived with another important goal in a season already filled with important Daniel Sturridge goals, to salvage a point for the Reds. Muted elation. I danced in the privacy of my hotel room. Fired off some tweets to the friends that kept me company, donned my Liverpool jacket, and headed out into the brisk San Francisco air to spend my last hours in the City before heading home.
Across the street from my hotel was the legendary Ferry Building and I’d spent most mornings there getting a coffee and watching the water before heading into my sessions at conference. This morning, the market was much busier, and as the sunlight fell in slatted patterns across the storefronts and should-to-shoulder mass of people, I found myself in that comforting paradox of being alone in a crowd that comes with big city living.
As I was making my way through the throngs of people, I felt a tap on my shoulder. Turning, I came face-to-chest to a tall gentlemen who looked at me and said, “Hey! Liverpool! I wanted to get that jacket. Looks good! Nice result today, huh?” And, just like that, I’d found my tribe.
I chatted with the gentleman and, I kid you not, before I’d made it back over to the hotel to collect my things and check out, I had at least two other people recognize the Liverbird on my chest and make smalltalk. In this massive city, at a time I felt incredibly alone, it was this fandom - after a thrilling match - that gave me a sense of home and belonging.
And that is the gift of being a Liverpool fan: our brand and family extend across the globe. In a way that is unlike any other, our crest is so well-known that we can march through nearly any nation and still find our people. Home for the Liverpool fan is no longer bound by country codes or fenced off by oceans, but rather exists even in the momentary acknowledgement of two people, never having met, but reveling in the result of a football match played halfway across the world, in the middle of a crowded market. It exists in the space between two fans that know they belong to the greatest family in all of sport: Liverpool Football Club.
I’ve reflected on this fandom a lot of late. And while I certainly have my concerns, I still hold that it is the best group of fans I’ve encountered. More, the community here at The Liverpool Offside are the best of that bunch. Over the 8 or so years of my fandom, I’ve got memories of TLO-ers sending me well wishes on the day of my wedding, helping me find and transition to a new job, send presents to my baby daughter, and even send me shirts under some misguided belief that I don’t own enough of them.
The problematic issues around fandom are myriad, but the beauty of fandom - the beauty of belonging - is deep and satisfying. It is the warmth and security of knowing that no matter how far away from the familiar comforts of home you may stray, you never walk alone.