What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Of fester like a sore –
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over –
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
Langston Hughes’ poem Harlem feels particularly apt these days, Reds: twenty-seven years is a long time, and given the State of the World right now—the naked, unadulterated greed and animus dictating much of the its current public discourse, where those that frame the discussion have no time for politics in sport—it is hard to remember the joy attendant to watching 11 people attempt to kick a ball between three sticks more than 11 other people attempting to do the very same thing.
The stakes have been raised this season. We are in the Champions League again, helmed by a manager that has proven he can tame Europe’s best. He is a manager that knows who he wants and delineates a whirling dervish style of football, keeping with the historical ethos of the club; it is a philosophy that accentuates hard work, quick thinking, and sacrifice of the self for the good of all. To finish the season outside the top four and fall back out of the Champions League—a grand competition many fans feel is the birthright of Liverpool Football Club—would be a disaster for “the project,” but not something I fear with Jürgen Klopp at the helm.
A heaviness has blanketed much of the world recently, and while it may be naïve, this author is a true believer in the notion that the only way to cope with something deadly serious is to try to treat it a little lightly, at least sometimes. The nexus between football, politics, and a requisite escape from the doldrums of everyday life is well documented and one not worth rehashing here, but there is something to be said for 90 minutes that allows one to subsume their individuality to a collective consciousness, one that allows the possibility of a connection with others across the globe.
I have known many of you for almost a decade now, having first met in this forum during the ownership of Hicks and Gillette—a dark time in the club’s history best remembered only as a warning. Yet for the first time, it feels like we may have finally dragged ourselves out of the abyss, a long-slumbering titan ready to wreak havoc upon those for whom Liverpool, erstwhile European Giant, are a distant memory. Unfortunately, it seems as though our former owners now run our governments; charlatans willing to peddle any lie so long as it means they can extract more from those that will bear the heaviest burden when the whole enterprise goes belly-up.
But just like moons and like suns, with the certainty of tides, still, we rise. And if you believe in this club, the politics of its city, the meaning of you’ll never walk alone, well, this season feels like a reward for that faith and a timely reminder that the State of the World will get better so long as we continue to work together. Some fans pay lip-service to this ethos engaging in horrific abuse of other fans, the players, the owner and his wife, ignoring Bill Shankly’s own request that “I would like to be remembered as a man who was selfless, who strove and worried so that others could share the glory.” Jürgen Klopp, who only days ago said he “would be nothing without [his players],” gets it.
While other teams court superstars hell bent on becoming the world’s biggest brand, Klopp continues to build a terrifyingly fluid, hydra-headed beast anchored by intelligent movement and positioning; where for any given goal, Roberto Firmino or Daniel Sturridge or Sadio Mané dragging a defender out of position may be just as beautiful as the finish: an homage to collective action and its power to vanquish those that would glorify a few individuals at the expense of the many.
For the first time in ages, it feels like that long-festering dream is within reach. And while this season may end shy of the title, there is one thing of which I am certain: it’s going to be a fucking glorious ride, one that begins with four games in 11 days, and maybe a season that will inspire some young Reds out there to dig into the history of Liverpool, its football club, and the animating impulse of Shankly.
T minus five hours, and I can’t wait to share it with you.