The thing about me and hope is that we have a rather wonky relationship. I can’t help but fall for options that trend towards being hopeful in any given situation. And, well, that often means that I end up in a state of disappointment.
That cycle, which often had me asking if I was Charlie Brown and Hope was Lucy, is a thing I find myself in from time to time. Age and mindfulness and learning to accept both my nature and the fact that life generally breaks in ways that go beyond my own control, have all helped. Hope and I are on much better terms because of it.
And Lord knows that if it weren’t for hope, or my proclivity towards it, that I could not have survived the absolute quagmire that was the result of Liverpool hitching their wagons to Roy Hodgson. How else could I continue to support a team that looked set to be mired in mid-table obscurity for at least the next few years in the best of circumstances and, potentially, relegated there forever in the worst? How could one hold one in such difficult times?
Liverpool are coming off a week in which they saw a positive, if ineffective, performance was blown up. A midweek trip to Napoli left Liverpool with a loss and a two goal deficit in the goal difference column after the first round of group stage matches.
Liverpool likely deserved more from the match and, at the very least, could have walked away with a draw that would have felt deserved from either set of supporters. It was an open affair that was, especially for neutrals, a truly entertaining match between two very good sides.
That Liverpool didn’t walk away with at least a share of the spoils is a bit disappointing. But it’s also not necessarily a shocker. Football, unlike most other sports, is able to express as metaphor the way that merit or talent or even hard work isn’t always going to yield a result.
It’s not so much that, as in American sports, you might lose despite being the best on a given day, a narrative often used to bolster a love for the underdog. But rather that even when you do enough work to eek out something - anything - it can be undone by things beyond your own control.
It’s tough to look at any of Liverpool’s recent product and affix “disappointment” as a descriptor. I mean, there’ve certainly been results that tip to it - like Napoli - but the general return for Liverpool has been what we must necessarily consider an unabashed success.
It doesn’t make, though, the rare moment of failure less disappointing. And I think it’s that bit that has really struck me. That I was reminded that this team is not perfect. That life simply does not work out exactly as you plan.
That I would need to reach for a little bit of hope.
With a visit to Stamford Bridge and a clash with Frank Lampard’s Chelsea looming, I’m reminded of how that old feeling of hope used to be laced with an anxiety that things won’t work out well. I don’t get that sense now. Not because I expect us to win every week, but because I expect this group to always turn up and show out. That they will put in a shift worthy of the badge on the front and the support of a global legion of fans absolutely committed to the progress and success of this club.
My hope feels more resolute, less flimsy, because it is tied to a group that isn’t yanking it around. It is on solid footing and that’s a good thing.
Because there’s a lot of reason to be cynical and skeptical and pessimistic about the world around us, at present. And, at this moment, I am grateful for a club that has given me license to cheer for it and its players with limited reservation or pause. To feel that my support isn’t to an evil corporation, a set of racists/bigots, or to a group that will just trash that support.
I am grateful to have a squad like this to root for, then, after a match like Napoli. Where turning the page to the next tilt doesn’t feel like escapism as much as the natural order of things. As an opportunity to get back to the good work. A chance to once more be the writers of our own destiny.