The Potters' Fieldposted Friday, 28 December 2012 on The Clean Sheet
On Boxing Day, Liverpool traveled to Britannia Stadium to face one of the Premiere League's most formidable defenses, Stoke City. Given that I've just finished watching Being: Liverpool, the documentary mini-series about Liverpool Football Club as Brendan Rodgers takes over as the new manager, I thought that my sympathies might lie with Liverpool. But the heart is a funny, fickle thing, I found myself pulling for Stoke.
What happened? Why should I be routing for Stoke? I'd just subjected myself to a six week course in brainwashing in the form of Being: Liverpool. Was it my habit of routing for the underdog?
I'll have to go back to the second week of the Premiere League season when Stoke City hosted Arsenal. I met Franz at the Blind Pig and he loaned me an Arsenal jersey so that I'd fit in. But I felt like a traitor wearing that jersey because the only player on the pitch that day I cared anything about was Geoff Cameron, Stoke City's new defensive player just acquired from the Houston Dynamo. Cameron is an American and from the MLS. I wanted him to do well. If memory serves me correctly, that was Cameron's debut match with Stoke, and he acquitted himself well, winning the praise of the home crowd. (Yes, it was Cameron's Stoke debut, 26 August 2012.)
The Boxing Day match between Liverpool and Stoke began with a foul at the edge of the box and a penalty kick. Luis Suarez took a ball on the right and was dribbling in toward goal, but Ryan Shawcross grabbed ahold of Suarez's jersey and couldn't let go before the Reds' striker flopped theatrically (needlessly?) in the box. Steven Gerrard converted the PK and Liverpool took an early lead at the Potteries.
I didn't like it. Yes, it was a foul. Shawcross shouldn't have been holding onto Suarez's jersey, but still, the way Suarez dived, doing his best fish impression, left me cold. So when Jon Walters put one into the net for Stoke, I (involuntarily) cheered and did a fist pump. "Now we have a game!" I was surprised by my reaction. I hadn't planned that. Cheering for the Stoke goal was completely spontaneous. I looked at Eliot, who was watching the match with me, and said, "I thought I'd be routing for Liverpool."
You might say that I was routing for Stoke because they ended up winning the match, 3-1. But when Walter's kicked in that first goal, I had no idea what the outcome would be. In fact, I expected Liverpool to answer with their own beautiful goals. Just before Christmas they drubbed Fulham 4-nil, so I knew they had the quality necessary to breakthrough a tight defense. But the quality wasn't with Liverpool on Boxing Day.
Does this make me a Stoke fan? I don't know. Franz was probably right when he said I respected the game too much to be a true fan, at least of Arsenal or Liverpool. A true fan would admire the theatrics of Luis Suarez just as long as it got Liverpool the win. Maybe I just can't accept Luis Suarez. Ever since his blatant handball in the 2010 World Cup which led to the elimination of Ghana from the competition, I've not been able to respect the Uruguayan.
Being: Cosmos. Currently, I'm preparing myself to be a fan of the new New York Cosmos who will begin modern league play in the new NASL in the fall of 2014. My preparations include reading and essential historical viewing. I'm reading Once in a Lifetime: The Incredible Story of the New York Cosmos by Gavin Newsham. And last night, I watched (on YouTube) four half-hour documentary-style highlight shows covering the 1977, 78, 79, and 1980 seasons. In all but 1979, the Cosmos won the Soccer Bowl, an incredible run. Poking around on YouTube afterward, I found a wealth of streaming video for the historically-minded Cosmos fan, including complete matches.
As an exercise (to help me catch up on my Cosmos knowledge, all proper fans should know the history of their club), I've been compiling a Cosmos timeline, beginning in February 1971 when the club was formed, all the way up to today. And perhaps I'll keep it up-to-date as a resource for the future.
What I'm trying to do with this (historical) reading and viewing is bridge a gap between the past and the present. And I'm discovering that the same club names, the ones I'm familiar with from the MLS and modern NASL, are the ones that were around back in the 70s: Portland Timbers, Seattle Sounders, Vancouver Whitecaps, Tampa Bay Rowdies, San Jose Earthquakes, and the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. When the Cosmos begin play next year they will be facing new incarnations of the Rowdies and Strikers. And if they one day ascend to the MLS will face more familiar names.
At first, I was skeptical that the present day Cosmos could lay claim to a champion's heritage just by purchasing a logo, but I am beginning to think that what's more important in establishing real continuity and a link with the past is the fans. That's what I learned from watching Being: Liverpool. The club owners are only the trustees of something much bigger, much deeper. Being Liverpool FC is independent of the ownership group, independent of the players and managers who come and go. Being Liverpool is about the generations of fans who put on their red and occupy the Kop. Owners come and go, but the fans endure over generations.
The Cosmos might have begun as a speculative business venture by Warner Communications in the early 70s, but the logo, the colors, the club took up residence in the hearts of millions. The flame has been kept alive during a thirty year period of dormancy by folks like you and me, just normal guys and gals who remember, and who will stand proudly in the stands of Shuart Stadium next year in our Green, Gold, and Blue. The Cosmos are not something that a corporation does, they are us and we have no gaps.