It’s been one heck of a week, Reds. I mean, in case you didn’t know, we won it for the sixth time. Ol’ Big Ears. Housed at Merseyside. And like Alisson, I don’t think any of us wants to let it go.
I think a lot about the early days of time as a fan. I frequented this blog back when it was still using Disqus and wild Trev words prowled the digital pages like a lion on the Serengeti. It was the era of sea creature posts and hacking Joe Coles prowling the Anfield pitch like a tree sloth taking a nap. It was bleak.
And no matter how far away from that time I get, it causes every good moment since then to shine brighter. Because Liverpool were inches away from being the next Leeds, maybe, until FSG swooped in. And things suddenly changed.
The night and day dichotomy is overused but it feels so apt now that, apologies, but I am going to use it. The team now stands in such stark contrast to the one that was mired near the bottom of the table when FSG purchased the club. The 7 to 10 point drop that loomed with actually hitting administration looked a death knell. And even without it, people wondered how long it would take for the club to fully climb out of the hole it had been dropped into by its terrible owners.
With FSG coming in promising to right the ship, then, I always believed the reclamation would take some time. The wait would be long, but it would be worth it.
That knowledge, though, did not make the climb back any less painful, though. The player that brought me to the club, Fernando Torres, left almost immediately after my becoming a fan. The club looked a shambles. We were rudderless.
So the threat of the drop when contrasted with the the brightness of standing on the mountaintop is like night and day. And soaking in the sun is all I want to do for as long as possible. We deserve this as fans of a club who went through a bumpy period and still stuck around. We deserve time to be happy.
Unfortunately, my brain doesn’t work like that. Which is fine because life doesn’t either, I guess. I’m drafting this piece with a big, unspoken thought that’s tied itself up in my throat. It’s a knot consisting of love and admiration and shaped like a fashionable center forward who could score goals in bunches and dance with reckless abandonment. It’s a knot tied to saying goodbye.
I don’t have the appropriate words to piece together all of the things that I want to say about Daniel Sturridge. And, in many ways, that makes me feel like a failure. I mean, it’s not my main job, but I do make a small bit of scratch on my ability, as rudimentary as it is, to knit words together into something cogent.
Not being able to do so for the person whose stay at the club has meant the most to me personally over my time as a fan, then, feels like a plot point in a Greek Tragedy. A cruel joke that’s taken whatever bargains and half-measures I’ve made to make this small hope of mine work, only to take it away at a time I wished I had it most.
Grief, I’m learning sometimes works this way. It robs us of our breath at the time we’d love to lift our voice most. It replaces it with the shame that we should or could have but didn’t. And that’s simply not true.
It shouldn’t be a surprise here but I’m not typically at a loss for words. I am an introvert by nature, yes, but around my friends and family, and given something that I care about, I almost always have thoughts. And I generally share them.
Two months ago, I was asked to represent my mother’s branch of the family in eulogizing my Lolo - my grandfather. It’s an honor. And given that I was the oldest of my siblings, it also made the most sense: I had the most real memories of being with him considering we immigrated away from the Philippines and his physical presence when I was just 5. I had the most to work with. I’m a communicator. I could and should have been able to do it.
I proceeded to stumble through words as I talked about the ways my Lolo always treated us like we were his despite being an ocean away. And when we finally were reunited, more than a decade later, how he basked in our presence like it was some honor for us, youths just out of their adolescence, to be near.
It wasn’t the pristine tribute that I hoped, but I supposed it got the job done.
Daniel Sturridge’s leaving, in a very different way, and in stakes that are obviously much lower, has filled me with the same anxiety and stuttering. I think I spent more time on the final piece of this essay - an addendum that did not involve writing - because I was too afraid that I wouldn’t find that perfect combination of words to honor this man.
How to talk about the way I believed in him even when others doubted? How I’d come to enjoy his style of play and found him profoundly humble and hardworking during his time at Bolton? How enamored I was with how quickly he opened his account upon joining? How I loved the goals, sure, but how I fell for the way he loved the club and always threw an arm around a teammate who needed advice and help?
And maybe it’s not my job to do so. A tribute is coming for Studge. A good one. But this is just a personal note of gratitude to a striker who helped move my fandom from deep to one that is an undeniable love.
Daniel, you couldn’t know this but I never get up early. I am not a morning person. But I got up for you and the Reds in September of 2013. I had almost overslept and nearly left my friend hanging. We drove, bleary eyed, 20 or so miles to the closest supporters bar, in Pasadena, CA. You scored the only goal on that day.
I had never seen a derby match like this. I’d never experienced a sporting event quite like this. Closest is when the Lakers were good in the late 90’s and my whole block tuned in to watch Shaq and Kobe. But nothing like this. Nothing with a team that was an ocean away.
I came back home completely changed. You went on to carry this team while its other star striker was once more unavailable. You did this and did it skillfully.
I want to thank you for that. For being such a delightful servant of the club. For reminding me that athletes can be more than just what’s seen on the pitch. They can honor the club and its fans by taking the time to dance with a young supporter. They can quietly work on their own game despite not getting the playing time you wish. They can mentor young players on the side.
Our club was undoubtedly made better by your presence, Daniel. And my fandom is not what it has become without you. You will be greatly missed and my only wish is that we could have sent you off with your own song.
We failed to do you that small kindness and maybe, like me, it was because the fans were too tongue-tied by your actions to figure out the words. That’s the kind rendering of events, anyway, and I don’t want to spend any time on the less kind, if more accurate, version in this. No, we failed in bringing you that, but I hope you’ll accept a playlist of songs, instead, that says more accurately the deep affection I have for you.
It was such a gift to see you at the front of the bus during the victory parade. Hoisting the trophy, soaking in the cheers from the crowd. You deserved at least that and certainly more.
That smile you had looking at all of the supporters is how I’ll choose to remember you. Thank you, Daniel, for serving this club with distinction. Dance off into the sunset, Champion of Europe, Prince of Merseyside.