/ 6 October 2010

Liverpool, Dirty Water

Some thoughts on the Randy Moss trade Liverpool agreeing, kind of, to sell itself to NESV and John Henry, owners of my Boston Red Sox:

1. My first thought: “NO!” I love the Sox, and I really enjoy the EPL, and know how much pain clueless American owners have caused to English fans (who can act like brats too, but whatever). I immediately suspected Henry did not know what he was getting into. Of course, that’s idiotic; the man’s billion-dollar-generating job has been to analyze situations and invest when he senses leverage. But I still can’t decide if Henry gets it – really gets how much the fans despise American ownership. My gut (which again, is almost certainly wrong on this one) tells me Henry thinks Scousers are just like “Red Sox Nation” – passionate and crazy, sure, but the kind of fans who will roll over like puppy dogs if you give them a little success and pay some lip service to their “storied history” (which, face it, many Red Sox fans are). I’m not positive, I guess, if he understands that the interweaving of club and community is a different animal than even what he’s familiar with because of the Sox (and being an American sports fan).
2. Building on that, I think Henry watched the Celtic/Sporting match at Fenway, saw the fans, heard “You’ll Never Walk Alone” echoing off the Monster… and something clicked. I think he’s always had an eye on soccer, but that maybe that match did something to make it more serious for him. That experience was fun, but it was pure Disneyland, so again, I hope he’s not going into this with a foundation of wrongly-formed impressions.

3. About those LFC fans – I’m not sure they quite get it yet either. They are getting in NESV a very responsible, well run and respectful owner who will ruthlessly maximize the earning potential of the investment. It just so happened that, for the Red Sox, the public end of that strategy was “play up the club’s history and fan-friendly stadium.” They figured that approach out early, so we didn’t see many other directions, but had they decided that a “fresh start” was the way to go, we might have seen a new stadium, new uniforms, different marketing – what have you. But they will analyze Liverpool and find a public approach to cover them while the math is worked out. It won’t necessarily be the “retro carnival” atmosphere they used to turn around Fenway. Or the “bully your rival to whip up the locals” like Lucchino did with the “Evil Empire” crap. It might be a streamlined approach, more like Arsenal. It might be a modern new stadium (god knows how they can afford it, but if Henry feels it’s strategically necessary, that will be the angle they pursue). And if NESV is really good at their jobs, they will find an approach that matches the fans’ expectations and reassures them that things are on the right track. LFC fans don’t know this is coming – this studious, intelligent approach to everything from marketing to real-estate to player acquisition – so right now, they are justifiably unhappy. But perhaps, given a year’s time, they won’t be. Especially if they are on track for promotion.  Oh, snap. 

4. I bet Billy Beane wishes he took the Sox job now – he’d be ready to hand over the reins to some young turk and go be an EPL assistant (and maybe future) GM as is his dream.

5. To me Liverpool is the most like the Red Sox of any English team. Especially now that the Sox don’t have historic failure as part of their legacy. Liverpool is traditionally one of two English titans, and Man United compares so easily to the NYY, it lines up really well. You could make arguments for Arsenal (the way the club is run), Fulham (historic, beloved ground), Tottenham (team history), Newcastle (regional appeal) and a host of other teams, but in the here and now, I think Liverpool is essentially the proper comparison. That’s another thing I think Henry might be getting a kick out of – and thinking he has angles on because of his Red Sox background. I don’t know.  Roush Fenway Racing on the shirts, anyone?

6. If this happens, Liverpool’s Boston presence will be enormous. And that is a very, very cool thing. A little scary maybe to us US fans who like being in the “fútbol” club (I admit to being possessive of soccer fanship in the stupidest way). This could propel soccer to explode in Boston.

7. Which brings me to: the Krafts and the Revolution.  Wasn’t Bob Kraft rumored to be looking into buying Liverpool around when Hicks/Gillett did?  (Googling… yes he was.) I seem to recall him hosting Liverpool officials at a Pats game, and going over there to see a match and coming back really excited about the whole thing.  I’m really wondering if there is some connection to Henry here.  Can you imagine a coalition of Sox/Pats resources being involved somehow? That’s mind-blowing to me. And what does it mean for the Revs, their search for local traction and an urban stadium? There is a ton of stuff to be explored down this road if LFC is suddenly part of the family down the street. Player loans? LFC at Gillette Stadium (ha!)? A new soccer-specific stadium on the Fan Pier or in Brickbottom/Somerville with, say, a ten-year deal guaranteeing LFC friendlies?  Would that help it get built?  Kraft and Henry and definitely friendly, and have a mutual admiration.  Yes, the old joke that the Revolution will not be televised (or if they are, not watched) does still apply around Boston, but Jon Kraft (the younger) seems to actually care about soccer.  What is the Kraft role in all of this?

8. I was at Celtic/Sporting; I would like to hear “You’ll Never Walk Alone” in Fenway again. At a Sox game. That would kick the crap out of “Sweet Caroline”, and I wouldn’t even care that we were carpetbagging.  It’s a great song.  Liverpool can have “Dirty Water” if they want it – fair trade, right?  Hell, what water is dirtier than a “Liver Pool”, anyway? Well maybe Blackpool. Anyway. Bringing some soccer atmosphere to Fenway would be 1000% welcome in my mind.

9. Articles like “Hey, didja know the Beatles were from Liverpool!” and “Who is this base-ball man?”, pitched to local audiences, will hopefully give way to intelligent mainstream discourse once we all get to know each other. 

10.  It’ll always be Brighton for me.  As somebody mentioned the other day, it’ll be fun to play Liverpool in the Championship next year.