This is a bit of a personal and contemplative post. I’ll completely understand if you bounce before completing this sentence. Of course, I hope you stick around.
Through circumstances that are even too far afield for this post, I was forced to sit down and think about the values of being a supporter of Liverpool Football Club. Values past and present. From Shankly’s famous views on socialism, to the lyrics of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” (and the values therein), to Jurgen Klopp’s current crop of “mentality monsters.”
There has always been something rebellious, even transgressive, about being a Liverpool fan. There is a sense that the club, and its fans, will fight regardless of the odds. They will fight for justice, even when out of power and with the odds stacked against them. The city and club are continually forced to overcome political and media pressures, and yet somehow persevere through all of it.
These values, and this “fighting spirit,” are of course ideals. Ideals, in the best cases, are something to aspire to. In the worst cases, they can weigh us down, making us feel so far from what is “right” that it is no longer worth trying. The search for perfection can drive us on toward greatness. It can also be the enemy of progress.
In particular, I’ve thought about this fighting spirit, and Jurgen Klopp’s latest never-say-die crop of “mentality monsters.”
I try to put myself in their shoes. I try to imagine coming back from a devastating, injury-laden Champions League final loss, only to win it the next year. I try to imagine playing one of the best seasons ever, only to come second best. And then coming back and playing even better the season immediately thereafter. Even on a smaller scale, I think about trailing 1-0 away to Aston Villa with 87 minutes played, and somehow digging deep to keep going by scoring not just one, but two goals.
I try to put myself in their shoes. Into their minds. I cannot. That level of mental fortitude is, frankly, beyond me.
And I’m not alone. Every year, across many leagues worldwide, a team comes second and that’s the closest they get to a championship for a long time. We saw it in our own precipitous drop-offs after 2008/09 and 2013/14. We are seeing it now with Tottenham’s dire form in stark contrast to Liverpool from last year. This is not a dig at Spurs. Nor at our previous also-ran campaigns. This is a comment about human nature. About the let down after coming so close to achieving your dreams, only to stumble at the last hurdle.
It’s hard to get up and go again.
Life is usually not as clear cut as sports. There is generally no shiny thing to aspire to after each year. There are no records of wins, losses, and draws to compare. Years that are objectively better than the last can somehow feel subjectively worse.
I think a lot about Klopp’s mentality monsters. They are at times both inspirational and depressingly out of reach.
In particular, I think about these Reds during my job search. As of yesterday, I’ve already had as many job interviews in 2020 as I did in 2019 and 2018. Combined. Objectively better. I should be feeling great. Subjectively—because of the new pressures of being a parent, past failures weighing heavily on my mind, and how much I want this job—it feels worse.
The fear of failure is strong. What if I can’t get this one over the line? What if I can’t get the next one over the line, either? What if I can’t pick myself up and go again? Would a Klopp hug help, and how would I go about getting one?
I don’t feel like I could possibly lose a Champions League final and come back they way they did the last two years. But then again, I don’t have to. Whereas they do not get to pick and choose when their next game or season starts, I get to choose when I’m ready to go again. I can use them for inspiration when I’m ready—and when I need to!—and stand back in stunned, bewildered admiration when I’m not.
We’re witnessing something truly special at Liverpool right now. It is awe-inspiring and inspirational. I might not be a mentality monster myself, but I can take a lesson from them, and hopefully find my own success eventually. I hope you can too.