I had finally had enough. After passionately following the 2002 and 2006 World Cups, I had to keep that emotion going and get behind a soccer team that doesn’t compete every four years. I had no idea how much research, planning, and soul-searching that process entailed. After (shoddily) researching many teams in many different leagues in many different–and stridently refusing to follow MLS in the United States–I finally settled on England and the Premiership. There were a great deal of players from the World Cup that season that played at Chelsea and Man United, really enjoyed their way of playing, and they seemed to be good in a few video games I had, so why not throw my allegiance there? They seem to be on TV a lot (as much as the Premiership is on TV), have great players, and seem to win. Then my friend Nate came to my rescue and saved my soul by introducing me to the ways of LiverpoolFC, and the Legend that is Jamie Carragher.
Nate would tell me of stories of Carra’s toughness, his heart, and his general bat-shit craziness on the pitch. I heard about him having a coin thrown at him at a match against Arsenal when he promptly absorbed the hit, looked down, picked it up, and winged that sucker back in the direction from which it came. He was thrown out of the match and I don’t think I’ve seen a man more indignant. In order to seal victory in an incredibly important match, he tore his groin in a match, and then tore it again while making a potentially game-saving tackle. After their victory, he could barely stand on his own during the cup presentation and celebration, gripping to the risers for dear life. Even more impressive, he grew up as a fan of the cross-city rivals, the always bitter Everton, and still gave himself completely to the Reds (much to his friends’ chagrin).
At the time of the video above, Jamie and LiverpoolFC are on the cusp of being the best soccer club in all of Europe, facing Italian side AC Milan in the UEFA Champions League Final. Liverpool had no reason to be there, finishing 5th in their league and, based on rules, were excluded from contending in next season’s Champions League tournament, a European-based tournament to determine the best club team in Europe. Their run to the finals was like a string of miracles, knocking off bigger (and better) clubs one after another until they came to this moment. Considering how the team played in league all year, rumors spread that another local lad (and captain of the club), Steven Gerrard, was about to move on. Carra was mentioned among those on the way out.
So here is just a normal “pre-big-match” interview we are all too accustomed with. “Blah blah blah, great group of guys, blah blah blah, teamwork, hard work, dedication, blah blah blah….” So I’m shown this video and told to watch it about five times to fully understand what he’s saying. I’ve now screened it about forty times and still don’t know half of what’s going on. But at 2:15, he comes in crystal clear. The interviewer from Sky Sports asks a fairly routine question about Carra’s future.
Interviewer: You’re 26, 27 prime of your career, and you could possibly go to a bigger club where there’s a chance of winning more medals–
Carra: –Who’s bigger than Liverpool?
It’s not the answer that made me fall in love with Jamie and the club. It was the complete blank look on his face. It’s like the interviewer asked if it would be cool if his cat drove Carra’s car. Complete bafflement. The interviewer has to back track to try and re-explain the question because he himself cannot understand how Carra could mistake this. Carra’s response, still awash in befuddlement, is “bigger…more money?” He is an athlete we all want to support. He gives his all on the field of play while still understanding his place in the big picture. To understand what this team means to the city and to fans around the world is what we all want to hear from the millionaires who play a game for a career. He is lucky to be in the position he’s in, and even more so to do it for Liverpool; why would he ever leave?
I am now four years into my support of LFC, and I live and die with every kick in a way I don’t do with almost any other sport. The closest is BU Hockey when I attended college there and the New Jersey Devils, and that comes with a half-season ticket package. Somehow this club that is thousands of miles away from me strikes a chord, and one of the reasons is because I need to care a quarter as much as the man who wears the Liverbird on his chest clearly does. Recently he has gotten a bit mouthy because he was not getting as much playing time as he liked, and the fans and locals grumbled about his grumbling, but in the end, no one bleeds Red quite like he does. In turn, no one deserves my support more.
If you like LiverpoolFC, or would like to know more about it, I point you to my friend’s LFC blog Oh, You Beauty. It’s just a fantastic companion to the season and a great place to discuss the club with others. A phenomenal read all around.
Do any of you guys have any sorta connections like this with your high-paid mercenaries playing professional sports? I’d love to hear about’em, especially if they’re in the world of footy. Ridiculous (-ly awesome) youtube videos or .gifs are always appreciated.
And no, this won’t be the last time you hear about LFC, so get used to it.