I have a confession to make.
I took a risk this past week.
Liverpool played their last home game of the season this past Wednesday, with Chelsea traveling up to Anfield for the end of the season. It was also the game where Liverpool were presented with the Premier League trophy that they’ve, and we’ve, all coveted for 30 years. It was a spectacle in which they took seats out of the Kop end and put a stage in their place and shot fireworks off the roof of the stadium when the trophy was lifted — in an effort to make up for the lack of fans in attendance.
I went back to the bar to watch the game and the trophy presentation on Wednesday.
We took every precaution to protect ourselves and those we came into contact with in taking that risk. We wore our masks, we changed our clothes after spending our time with people, we used hand sanitizer frequently. Joxer Daly’s, the home of LFCLA, had implemented outdoor seating, bringing tables and umbrellas out to the parking lot and spacing them 6 feet apart. There were two televisions set up under the shade, and streams set to the game. We wouldn’t have gone otherwise.
It was so nice. It was so nice to see people in person, even covered with masks. It was so nice to sit outside with our shandies and talk about the team, about what we’ve achieved, and the things we’ve lost. It was so nice to catch up and be with people again, even as things had changed so drastically.
That felt so important, so restorative, to see and spend actual time with people that I care about. With our community. Even as we all carefully tried to keep our distances, but still celebrate this amazing achievement our team had accomplished. To know that we are all still here, so far, because we’ve all done our best to be as safe as possible.
It felt like a good and as safe of a risk as we could take.
This restart of the season has been weird enough, knowing that we’re not allowed to gather in large groups and that our bars are struggling to remain open in the meantime. I hadn’t been to the bar since March, trying to keep my trips to places restricted to the ones that I need to be at. Client’s homes, grocery store, maybe a Starbucks drive through or a curbside pick up take out situation.
But being able to watch that trophy lift with people who understand what the waiting was like, what the season was like, that had gone through the ups and downs of everything with my boyfriend and I seemed like a risk worth taking.
I wrote a little bit about how hollow everything feels without the presence of fans at the games a while ago, and even though we’d taken so many precautions and everything seemed so different, that restorative feeling came from doing something that we know and love.
Leaning into those changes and protecting ourselves, made it a risk worth taking.
It’s probably easy for other people to kind of discount the actions of fans, because so much of the fan culture is seen as comical or over the top. One of my very favorite movies, Fever Pitch, is probably the touchstone for that perception of fan culture — in both versions it follows an overzealous fan (Colin Firth as an Arsenal fan and Jimmy Fallon as a Red Sox fan) and the tolls that it can take on their relationships around them. They’re both framed as men unable to be shift their priorities from their boyhood loves to those more “adult” passions like romantic relationships and their careers, etc. That passion is seen as childish, embarrassing.
One of the things that the Jimmy Fallon version of the movie portrayed a bit better than the Colin Firth version was the focus on community. Jimmy Fallon’s character Ben had his “summer family” that he spends his season with — the people whose season tickets were seats around his own. Because of that passion, of that “childish” obsession with the team, he would spend nearly every night with them March through September. They knew everything about each other, and it was ultimately the fact that he was willing to sacrifice them for Drew Barrymore’s Lindsay at the end of the movie that convinced her that he was someone she wanted to be with. It’s a great feel-good romantic comedy.
That community — our community, my community — was worth the risk of going to the bar on Wednesday. It was worth saving every other opportunity I had come across to spend time outside of my own quarantine bubble, to celebrate those historic 96 points and that Premier League trophy and Jordan Henderson finally putting his detractors to bed for good.
Because they understood. They are my autumn to spring family. They have been through massive losses and historic wins, through draws that have felt like both wins and losses, and through trophies or missed opportunities. Through new signings and legends saying goodbye. New babies and marriages and family losses.
As cheesy as it may have become, we really are a Liverpool family.
This is my community, and there has to be a way eventually to remain in contact, to see faces and hear voices, in a safe way. And that will be Zoom sessions, sure, and FaceTime calls. Texts and videos and Facebook calls. It may also mean the occasional risk for a big day.
Our communities are so important to our wellbeing. We need our people, as humans are inherently social creatures. We need our villages, our nations, to hold us as we go through these difficult moments. Families, bloodlines and chosen, are so important to keeping us sane.
Does this mean I’m going to go to the bar as often as possible, as often as we used to? Absolutely not. There’s no way, unfortunately, to make that as safe as possible. The highest priority is making sure that I am here and healthy for when this virus is under control, and we can go inside our bar, for when we can hug with abandon and celebrate by singing at the top of our lungs — without a mask.
That is the best thing I can do for my community, to keep them safe, and to keep them sane. So for now, it’s the Zoom calls and the FaceTimes, and the chats and the videos and the texts. It’s to keeping our community together, whatever means necessary, that doesn’t mean going to the bar.
So we’re all there when things are okay again.