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Everything’s The Best: Moving Forward Together

Still reeling from the result on Wednesday, AJ reached out to fellow TLO writer Mark Kastner to help make sense of this moment, the future, life, and in an effort to not walk alone. Here are their notes to each other.

Barcelona v Liverpool - UEFA Champions League Semi Final: First Leg Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images


Hey, man! How are things? Why did I just ask that...I know how they are: really sucky, huh? I don’t know. It’s Thursday so I’ve had a little over 24 hours to process everything and, honestly, I don’t know what to make of it. 3-nil. What looks like the last real chance at a major trophy seems to have evaporated. And all of that in a season wherein the best composed Liverpool squad to ever appear in my time as a supporter will likely walk away with no accolades to show for it.

I made a joke online yesterday that I think I’m finally truly understanding the underlying heartbreak and disappointment that many longtime fans of Liverpool FC say is endemic to our fandom. And nothing really says it all by what felt like a solid performance being undone by the brilliance of one man and some, arguably, sketchy officiating. Throw in the wild goal line clearances that occurred just seconds apart from in each other and it was clear, to me at least, that whatever mystical force(s) might care about a children’s game played by grown men were clearly invested in not seeing a Liverpool result.

After a match in which a palatable if disappointing result of 2-1 or 3-2 to Barcelona was plausible, returning home to Anfield with nothing show for the effort feels a bit like a microcosm for the rest of the season. And here we are, stuck trying to make sense of this moment while wrapped in ennui.

Mark, friend, brother in the trenches, help me. Help me make sense of all of this. Or, you know, just help me shout invectives into the void. Cause I’m really having a hard time finding a silver lining in this moment.

On Monday afternoon I went to the hospital with chest pains. I was thinking that would be the worst thing to happen to me this week...And, welp. Messi happened. It was seriously soul crushing and I don’t necessarily have anything positive to say. I know we played like the better team. I know Liverpool looked good. I know all the things.

I also know the scoreboard says 3-0 after the first leg. I also know that no team has ever come back from 3-0 in a Champions League semi-final. I know all the things.

Now might be the time to bring up Istanbul and all that, but 24 hours later I just can’t. It hurts too much. Virgil van Dijk hasn’t given up hope, and I’m not sure I have either, but part of being a fan—part of being a fan of Liverpool is knowing all the thing and hoping recklessly anyways.

I don’t have the answers, but I just know that I can see Liverpool with a 2-0 lead at halftime on Tuesday. I know you can see it to. I can also see Messi doing what Messi does again, and I know you can too. That’s kind of the thing here.

I’ll leave you with this....Optimism doesn’t take any more or less effort than being pessimistic and being pessimistic doesn’t make you more or less right when the inevitable happens. Up the Reds.

First, I’m glad to know that things are ok with you, health-wise! At least, that’s what I can surmise from the fact that the worst thing was watching LFC get Messi-d. Or, well, that was pretty bad so maybe it’s both? Either way, I’m glad you’re ok!

Hope. That’s a tricky word, Mark. Tricky. Emily Dickinson said that hope was a thing with feathers. I tend to be a bit more on the dour side of things, so I ended up thinking that hope is sometimes like a heavy yoke. So, that probably tells you how I might be processing the call to hope and to believe.

But there’s something rather stubborn about this team, isn’t there? One that reminds us not to count them out. And I’m not talking about all of the historic moments - I wasn’t around for Istanbul and I missed the halcyon days of Steven Gerrard: Comeback King. No, I mean that there’s a quiet confidence in this group. One that does not merely look at a match up with giants like Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Bayern Munich, with gratitude at simply having been invited.

This group knows they belong and maybe that’s where I gain that small foot-hold to believe again. Because most days, most matches, Jurgen and the boys come through, don’t they? Most days, most matches, this group of Reds deliver. And all days, all matches, they bring their full heart and leave it all out on the pitch.

I don’t know, maybe it’s too simple or perhaps not expecting enough of a championship-caliber squad, but I don’t necessarily look at the trophy cabinet as the measure of the quality of a particular group. I feel like if the team go out and give us their all for a full 90 minutes, then I’m willing to accept the results as they come. And this team has consistently shown an ability to deliver that work rate and desire.

Which, I guess, circles us back to Wednesday: the team did just about everything right and the ball literally didn’t bounce our way on a few occasions. That was the ball game.

I guess that’s what I’m hanging my hat on to in terms of positivity looking forward. That and the fact that our squad is incredibly young and locked down for quite some time yet. We can only get better, right? The future feels wide open, no?

That’s the thing that I really struggle with. The here and now juxtaposition with the future. If the same genie that comes from the future to tell me we’re up 2-0 at halftime on Tuesday also tells me that Liverpool win 3 of the next 5 PL trophies, but we don’t nip City this year, I’d absolutely believe them. It’s not hard to imagine how glorious the future is.

But maybe that’s why the pain of the present hurts so much, because we can taste it? I’m not sure.

Don’t get me wrong, I was absolutely devastated after 2013-14. But mostly because I knew that team was a one off only type situation. This team is completely different and is here to stay.

Couldn’t have put it any better, Mark. Wow. I feel...loads better! Who’da thunk that reaching out to another Red, given our club motto, would’ve helped, eh?

Anyway, yes, I think there’s a way to honor the sucky and devastating feeling of losing a match that likely sees us out of the running for any major trophies. At least, sees us out of the running in all reasonable likelihood. I mean, we don’t glorify and speak of Istanbul in such hushed tones if it was a regular occurrence.

Right now, Liverpool need a miracle to stay afloat and that’s fine. Because I feel like if any group in over the past 9 years of my time as a Liverpool fan can pull a rabbit out of their hat, it’s this one.

A team composed of that rare mix of skill and heart. Yeah, it’s a long shot. Sure, it’ll likely end in disappointment. But my money is on Liverpool. Up the glorious and mighty Reds.

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