The post-mortem on TLO had it right: the latest iteration of the storied Liverpool-Manchester United derby was a whole of of sound and fury signifying nothing. It was a dull affair belied by the intense nerves associated while watching it; I kept glancing at my watch nervously and half-expecting to see it remind me that my heart rate was somehow through the roof despite lying in snug in my bed. Premier League fandom on the West Coast of the United States is a wild thing.
As the clock wound-down and it became clear that the feelings of disappointment and anxiety I’d been fighting - poorly - were going to finally take over, I found myself at a bit of a strange place: frustrated because Liverpool looked disjointed and had their (small) chances and doubly frustrated because such a placid showing happened against this United team. I immediately took to Twitter to vent my frustrations in a series of tweets that basically centered on calling attention to Ole Gunnar Solsjkaer’s resemblance to a particular character in a beloved fantasy series and alienating my Norwegian friends.
In short it was a Sunday.
Today, with a little over 24 hours behind me, I can say that it doesn’t feel much better. Especially when I decided to look at the xG map for the match and my eyes landed on this:
xG map for Manchester United - Liverpool.— Caley Graphics (@Caley_graphics) February 24, 2019
We really all got excited about this game and then *that* happened pic.twitter.com/7vIiUmv2Jf
It was, then, even by the data, a dire match.
Yet the conflict inside of me wasn’t just about how poor the entire experience was. It was this nagging sense that we’d still done enough to at least nick a goal. That there was a lot of movement and work and sweat out on that pitch. That we’d tried and just came up empty against an organized and resolute opposition that offered very little going the other way. We should have come away with more than a point.
A sports trope is often using the game as a metaphor for life. Baseball is America’s Game, for example, because it is basically an individual sport masquerading as a team one, in that one’s individual contribution can easily be felt within the fabric of the whole unit. It also works as a very neat, nearly one-to-one analogy for working on an assembly line.
Soccer, though, feels a lot more fluid and messy. So, of course, it also works for these tropes! You can’t easily excise one person’s contribution to whole effort of the unit, of course. But you also can’t simply pull someone out and easily plug a new person in. It’s complex and perhaps more representative of what it’s like to live in a community than baseball.
But, sometimes, the product on the pitch just simply, is. That no matter how hard you run or how high you jump or how much desire you’ve got, some efforts come to nothing. And maybe that’s ok, too.
A few years ago, I found myself at a very different moment thinking similar things. I’d flamed out while trying my hand at writing for TLO during a trial run. I couldn’t find new ideas and the ideas I did have felt like an awkward fit. Things weren’t quite lining up. Anxiety took over and then I retreated back into my shell.
It took a lot of work and time and kind words from people to get me back to writing. And perhaps the thing that stood out the most was a refrain I heard from both Chuck and Audun during this period: write because you love to write. Meaning: you do what you’re made to do because you love doing it. Because it’s a part of you. Don’t do it searching for perfection or accolades or titles. That way leads to madness.
As I stared at the results on the screen, seeing a lot of work come to nothing, I felt a moment of that same hollowness from years ago. But I had the wisdom of kind words and supportive people to remind me that, yeah, sometimes things don’t always end the way wish.
It’s not a salve but it isn’t meant to be. The truth is that, much like the words carried in another reflection on the match here at TLO, the fluke-y nature of everything that happened in that match reveals little. The Plan A looks sketchy in hindsight but also yielded a pretty tremendous opportunity inside of the first minute. Robert Firmino’s injury changed the dynamic, but we already knew he’s a unique and irreplaceable member of the team. I’m not sure that there’s anything to truly be gleaned except that we have more work to do.
So, here we are, 11 matches left. Still owners of our own destiny. Nothing left to do now, but to get out there, do what we were made to do, and to let the results land where they may.