Bear with me as I talk about soccer for a little bit. I swear there is a point to all of this.
I started following the Liverpool soccer club around five years ago. My brother and a friend from work were both supporters, and I was drawn by the history of the club and the passion of the fans. The fans belt out the song “You’ll Never Walk Alone” before each home match, a stirring sight to watch and hear. With more Premier League games available on television, each season I was drawn further and further into the sport.
I quickly found some easy similarities between Liverpool and the Red Sox. Liverpool calls Anfield home, an aging stadium full of tradition much like Fenway Park, but passed by buildings with more modern amenities. They also haven’t won the Premier League title since the 1989-90 season, a drought of over twenty years. Finally, while their team success has declined since their heyday in the 70’s and 80’s, their biggest rival Manchester United has evolved into one of the world’s biggest sports brands. From a bigger rival city close to Liverpool, it’s not much of a stretch to compare Manchester United to the Yankees.
The wonder of watching sports these days is that I can watch almost every Liverpool match from the comfort of my home. I’m a one man Liverpool Nation, hanging on every pass and shot. If I want to reach out to other fans, I check Twitter or the many websites devoted to the team (Liverpool Offside and Oh You Beauty are the best I have found).
When Fenway Sports Group bought Liverpool in late 2010, this seemed like the perfect situation to me. My two favorite teams were now owned by the same ownership group, a group that had revived the Red Sox. I knew that FSG would invest money in the club, and I knew that if they decided to renovate Anfield,they would do a great job.
Instead of the success I had hoped for, since the purchase both Liverpool and the Red Sox have struggled. Fans on both sides of the Atlantic are frustrated by what they perceive to be inattention from the ownership group. The irony is that for both teams, it has not been a lack of resources invested but resources invested on the wrong players.
For every John Lackey and Carl Crawford signing for the Red Sox, Liverpool have matched them with overpriced signings of their own.
So why am I writing about soccer on a baseball website? It’s because watching Liverpool has given me greater perspective and more enjoyment of the Red Sox.
It’s given me a deeper appreciation for what has been one of the greatest eras of Red Sox baseball. The last ten years have brought two World Series titles, six playoff appearances, a restored and reinvigorated Fenway Park, and an ownership group willing to spend money on the team.
If I had been offered that in 2003 with the knowledge that I would also have to suffer the heartbreak and disappointments of Aaron Bleepin’ Boone, the end of 2011, and the 2012 season, it’s a tradeoff the 2003 version of me would have taken in a heartbeat.
With Liverpool I have to worry that the current club will never make it back to the top and win a league title. I am in no shape to last 86 more years. For the Red Sox, that has already been done. The Sox have more World Series rings this century than the Yankees, which warms my heart during the cold winter months.
Following soccer also fills the gap between the end of the regular season and Spring Training in baseball. The Premier League season runs from fall to spring, so if there is no news from the Hot Stove season I can watch Liverpool instead.
So watching Liverpool has brought me to this Red Sox season with fresh optimism. With a new manager and new players, they will fight to climb out of the basement and back into contention. I will be watching on the edge of my seat.