By Sam Mathius
After a fantastic weekend in The Hamptons, I could only have one complaint on Tuesday: I didn’t run into Diddy or Jay-Z. So I did what anyone would do: I went to my favorite wine shop to buy some Rosé. I figured that would make up for it and it did. In the wake of enjoying said Rosé at a local BYOB Italian eatery in the North End of Boston, I had a slight buzz and a belly full of Basque wine. (Yes, I picked it because the number of Xs in the name invoked Xabi Alonso nostalgia.)
I debated going home or heading back to The Wine Bottega to hang out with some friends. I chose the latter. I have to say, it was a good call.
So there I am with my buddy Marko, and the ever-knowledgeable Ryan who is the only one that works at the shop. Does that stop Marko and me from manning the register? Of course not. After all, it’s fun to pretend like we actually know something about wine. It often makes for a funny scene. People come in and ask us questions and we say, “yeah, we don’t actually work here.” It’s fun for us, probably slightly bewildering for the customers.
Anyway, I glance out the window and catch sight of a couple walking by the ever-busy Hannover Street. “Uh,” I thought, “that guy kind of looks like John Henry.” He turns away. His spouse, however, glances back in our direction. “Uh,” that looks like Linda Pizzuti.” They both turn around: “Marko! Marko! That’s John Henry and Linda Pizzuti!” He didn’t believe me. I can’t blame him, I’m always the boy who cried wolf. I finally get him to turn around and he gasps as if he’s seen a ghost. They start walking back in our direction, looking at the door. And they walk in.
Silence. What do we say? We can’t be idiots. We have to be smooth with this. In walks a family. They asks us a question. “We don’t actually work here,” we say. And out the window goes the chance of us not looking like idiots. Ryan helps them out and they grab a few bottles and check out.
So it’s back to Ryan, John W Henry, Linda Pizzuti, and the two register goons in the tiny shop. It’s important to note that Marko is very useful. Besides making good food and being down to party, he’s great with icebreakers. If anyone can redeem us, he can. After a few minutes go by he pulls a gem out from his Serbian brain, fitting on Nikola Tesla’s birthday.
“Mr. Henry we just want to say we are very much looking forward to the match on the 25th as well as the match in Baltimore on the 28th.”
Well done, Marko. Classy and sophisticated, much better than the dribble that would have come out of my mouth.* Then he mentions that I write for LFC Boston’s blog and one of them enquire about my writing. Oh, god, I have to try and create words now?! I manage to finally mention something about the column I wrote last week, “The Fenwayification of Anfield.” Before I can even finish the title, Linda smiles and says she’s read it. He asks what the name of the blog was and I tell him. He notes it in his phone.
After Mr. Henry takes a quick picture** with Marko and I, they ask Ryan about some good whites for a party they are holding. Brilliantly, they are quick to note they are specifically for partygoers. They prefer reds. That’s too perfect. They agree on a particular bottle and Ryan begins assisting Mr. Henry with choosing a nice red. I thought our little encounter with them was over and I was completely satisfied with that. Then Linda comes up to me: “What do you think about the new mascot, Mighty Red?” Really? Linda Pizzuti is asking my opinion on club related business? I have to admit, that relatively innocent question flattered the heck out of me. Without skipping a beat John pops over to clarify that it’s not exactly a mascot. “He won’t be on the pitch,” he jokes and we all laugh a bit. An equally as innocent remark but one that spoke volumes. They get it. It’s a different sporting culture. An on-field mascot wouldn’t, and hasn’t, been accepted by fans in the English sporting culture for the most part.
“He won’t be like Wally,” she said referring to the loveable Red Sox mascot. It’s something for the kids she says, noting they want to make the club and Anfield more family friendly. Very young kids can often relate better to an iconic character like that than to an athlete. She went on and on, in an incredibly informed manner that made my jaw drop. She knew her stuff and I was very impressed. There I was having an impromptu conversation with the first lady of Liverpool Football Club about Anfield and Mighty Red. It was delightful. Mr. Henry even had to tap her on the shoulder and remind her that they had to catch a dinner reservation.
They check out, chat for another minute or two and head out the door. Then, just as he’s leaving, he leans back into the shop not unlike John Wayne and says, “It looks like we got the striker from Roma.” We were stunned. John Henry just let us in on a bit of transfer news. I asked about the Dempsey rumors and he obliged me with an actual response instead of a stock line like “we’ll see what happens.” I won’t go into detail about what he said but it was a moment that made my day.
The door closes and we wait a few moments just to make sure they are out of sight and ear shot. Then we all look at each other and jump around and make noises not too dissimilar to that of a 12 year-old girl at a Justin Bieber concert.
I’m glad I decided to prolong my Tuesday night a little longer. Diddy and Jay-Z got nothing on John W. Henry and Linda Pizzuti.
*Last time I was this star struck I met Darren Sharper after my hometown New Orleans Saints won the Super Bowl. I knew I was meeting him too and had planned out a cool comment about him signing a new contract and rehabbing his knee. I was going to be so suave. I wasn’t. I tried to say words but couldn’t. I got a picture taken with him then had to take a picture of him and my sister. I was in such a childlike awe I took a terrible picture. My sister isn’t happy about it to this day.
** I’m the incredibly non-photogenic dude on the right.
Follow Sam Mathius on Twitter @theThirdkit