There’s a well-known episode in the Saved By The Bell oeuvre which features The Zach Attack. Posited as a fever dream and featuring a cameo by legendary radio DJ, the late Casey Kasem, the episode works as a Behind The Music-esque look at a band made up of the main SBTB cast members. Rising from nowhere, cresting in stardom, the eventual falling apart, and road to redemption, it’s a fun episode that works the tropes well and serves as a pretty great example of SBTB’s thesis: that friendship is always worth fighting for.
I thought a lot about the feature song from the episode - aptly named Friends Forever - as I scrolled through the set of social media postings of the Liverpool Football Club locker room after the Reds booked their ticket to the Champions League Final on Wednesday. Scenes of camaraderie, joy, and shitless Dejan dancing. Absolute pure and beautiful jubilation.
#UCLfinal https://t.co/gebKAvIBx7— Liverpool FC (@LFC) May 3, 2018
And, I guess, that’s the part I’ve enjoyed the most out of this year. Yes, there’s been a pronounced improvement in our play. Yes, we’ve managed to finally turn the corner of one of the darkest periods in this club’s storied history. Yes, we can finally dance out in the great wide open again. All of these things are true.
A team that not only enjoys its football, but also deeply seems to care about each other? That’s such a rare gem. Over my past 7 seasons as a supporter, I’ve seen terrible Reds teams and even that comet of a team that enthralled us during the 2013-2014 season. The difference about each team is that the focus on the squad’s unity - and, I suppose, the existential question of the club’s ability to compete for future glories - hinged almost entirely on results. This club, though, seems to be built of something more.
The emerging bro-mance between Mo and Dejan, the clear fondness between Hendo and Lallana, and even the social media savvy of James Milner. The evidence is clear that these lads love each other and it is just so incredibly amazing to see.
That’s not to diminish the importance of results - it’s tough to prove a negative, but a team that’s struggling would likely not be quite as united. But even through rough patches like a January that saw a dip in results as well as the departure of Philippe Coutinho in a rather contentious transfer saga could not derail this squad.
And that’s the point: regardless of what happens on May 26th, this team believes in each other. Jurgen Klopp noted rather famously that he only wants people on his team that are committed to the project. We wondered what that might mean when the proverbial rubber of an integral player like Phil might meet the road of a team looking to poach their services. Jurgen Klopp signed off on the transfer because he believed it to be the right move. The results have proven the gaffer right.
More, it proves wrong the naysayers at the time that Liverpool had somehow turned into a feeder club for the European giants. Looking at the scenes from the locker room on Wednesday, I’d say that the lads in Red believe that the Merseyside Giant has been awoken. And this group of players have announced their commitment to The Liverpool Way - and each other - ever since.
And maybe that’s what makes this season truly feel distinct from others: this group are not only playing fantastic football, they seem to genuinely love doing it at Liverpool and with each other. This project won’t evaporate at the end of the year if we fail to lift the CL trophy or if one member chooses to move on. It’s real and founded and building.
I may be naively optimistic in this, I’ll admit, but I struggle to truly see how this season can be viewed as anything but a rousing success. We look set to lock up back-to-back Top 4 finishes. We’ve strengthened our squad with more reinforcements to come. Our top players remain committed. We’re young.
Sure, championship windows are tight and they often close without warning. As a Dodgers fan, I’m currently living through a bit of anxiety in that. But I also know that this team is currently built to push on. And provided we continue to build on our progress, we can take these unexpected moments of joy to sweeten the unheralded but necessary moments of work as we inch our way back to our perch at the top of word football.
I guess what I’m getting at is that this isn’t a mirage. This isn’t a false dawn. That is in fact the sun. And that is, in fact, our boys from Liverpool standing as the rightful contenders to Europe’s most prized trophy.