My husband, Alex, is off to London today with his father to watch the FA Cup Final: Chelsea vs. Liverpool. Alex has tried for years to turn me into a ranting and raving Liverpool football fan. I’m coming around. The songs, the chants, the British announcers, the beer at 6am local time…it all adds up to a festive atmosphere that is not hard to like. Yes, there is a lot of running, but I’m starting to buy the argument that the unbelievable goals peppered in are worth the wait.
I have, however, noticed some peculiarities about English football. Namely:
The season. The English football season is a web of games that ultimately leads to…I’m not sure. There are regular season games and cup games. (At least, that’s how I understand it–when Alex tries to explain it to me, my eyes wax over like they do when he tries to explain the 2008 financial crisis. That’s not entirely true–I understand the financial crisis.) The Cup Final that Alex is attending is apparently the Super Bowl of English Football, except Liverpool got there not by defeating teams in its own division (so-so record), but by defeating teams in a tournament.
The schedule. Last-minute changes to the team schedule are common. This makes planning difficult, especially since we are across the puddle, as they say. Apparently, the changes have something to do with the aforementioned tournaments, but I’m sure if the suits in the offices put their heads together, they can come up with a better solution.
The songs. Don’t get me wrong. I love that there are songs. What’s not to like about belting out tunes with strangers with whom you share a love for the team. What I find peculiar is that so many of the songs are sung to patriotic American tunes–tunes that are several decades, if not centuries, old. “When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again,” for instance. What is it about the American Civil War that inspires English football fans?
There’s also the “Liverpool” chant to Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever” (try to keep up): “Liiivveerr..pool, Liverpool, Liverpool….Liverpool, Liverpool, Liverpoo-ul…Liverpool, Liverpool, Liverpoo-ul…Liverpoo–ul, LIVERPOOL!”
And let’s not forget the team anthem, the song that brings grown men to tears: “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” It’s a Rodgers and Hammerstein number from the musical Carousel. Because nothing says, “Bring it, Chelsea,” like a show tune.
But turn on any Liverpool game, and you’ll see thousands of strangers linking arms and swaying softly as they sing. Doesn’t exactly encourage fanatic bursts of enthusiasm, but maybe that’s the point. Football fans are a little crazy to begin with.
The game is Saturday morning, 11:15am Chicago time. Come On You Reds!