By James Watkins
We are in unique position here at The Red Letter. We are Reds, as well as Americans. We are displaced Scousers, in a sense, resolute in our commitment to the honor and tradition of Liverpool Football Club.
We have a dual allegiance. It is an allegiance that rests primarily with the club itself, in a history of passion and commitment unrivaled in the modern game. But it is also one defined by our identity as Liverpudlians abroad. We have a responsibility to this network as well, and to offer support and encouragement to our fellow Reds across the country.
“You’ll never walk alone” is an anthem that holds special meaning here. Many of us have never walked the streets of Merseyside, passed through the Shankly Gates or stepped foot in the Kop – and many of us never will – but these four words offer an assurance that each of us belong to something greater than our self. As King Kenny once declared, “No one is bigger than the club.”
My individual story of adoption is not unique, and I’m certain many of you will relate.
I am a die-hard Liverpool FC supporter, currently based in Portland, Oregon. I’ll be the first to admit, I am neither a lifelong fan of Liverpool FC, nor a seasoned veteran of the game. My childhood was mired in the typical chaos of youth sports, where I shuffled between baseball, soccer and basketball. Soccer was always my first commitment, but the overwhelming pressure to train, perform and improve stifled any true passion for the game itself. It wasn’t until I stopped playing organized soccer that I was able to embrace the beauty and fervor of the English Premier League. I’ve never looked back.
After all, Americans have the luxury of pledging allegiance to whichever team happens to find success at that very moment – the “flavor of the week,” if you will. Barcelona, Manchester United, Real Madrid and Chelsea remain the perennial, easy choices. Sometimes, I struggle to articulate why Liverpool earned my support, but it is actually a very simple answer:
I didn’t choose the club, the club chose me.
I was floored by the passion, community and fervor of Anfield; the beautiful interplay between Alonso, Gerrard and Torres; the commitment of players like Jamie Carragher and Dirk Kuyt; and the sheer intimidation of the Kop. This beautiful combination drew me to Liverpool FC in the season of 2008-09. And as they say, “the rest was history.”
Except, in our case, that phrase is a bit more meaningful. It is both a blessing and a curse: Liverpool’s record as the “most successful team in Europe” is used by fans to defend the club’s reputation, and as fodder among rivals to mock its recent failures in the league. I have found myself among a group of supporters desperate to uphold the romantic, idealized notion of commitment that has faded along with the arrival of figures like Abramovich and Sheikh Mansour.
On the West Coast, we rely on virtual communities of supporters like LFC Boston or the Liverpool Offside. We set our alarms for 4:30 a.m., and stumble half-drunk for a Saturday morning clash with the Red Devils. And it means scouring the depths of the Internet for a shady, pirated stream of a meaningless league tie with Wigan.
It is a trying experience, especially with the volatility of recent league campaigns and the abbreviated tenures of Roy Hodgson and King Kenny. And in the absence of public statements from the club this summer, the current level asshattery on Twitter is staggering. We are here to analyze, defend and uphold the club’s reputation as the most decorated club in England. Across the country, we huddle together in pubs, restaurants and living rooms to reinforce that community and move forward as a collective force for the men in Red.
Remember that allegiance, my friends and in doing so, you can rest easy with knowledge that “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”