Life After Love

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Article by David Rice – @davidjrice83

Somehow, some way, if I need to be somewhere important, I am bound to have the worst working Uber driver turn up to mine to give me a ride. It is the one thing I can bank on, every single time.

So when Nancy showed up to give me a ride to the bar we were throwing our OLSC’s watch party, it seemed inevitable that she wasn’t going to be the smooth transportation I was hoping for. Sure enough, our linguistic differences complicated what should have been a simple process and suddenly, my stress level was boiling. My wife tried to keep me calm, but her efforts were for naught.

We’d spent weeks helping coordinate this watch party, an event that turned out to be the biggest in our club’s 11-year history. And doing so was the perfect mechanism to help me through the anxiety of awaiting this final. The crippling anticipation was overridden by small activities. Build a playlist, paint a new banner, finalize some details with the bar, promote, promote, promote. It wasn’t rocket science, it was just the right amount of busy work I needed to fill my time and allay any thoughts about failure or what that looks like.

But in the back seat of Nancy’s car, none of that exists anymore. I just need to get there, I just need to start to execute the plan for the day, the activities that see me through the final hours until the Reds are back on a pitch and playing for club football’s biggest prize. And so, as Nancy can’t figure how to accept the ride, I start to melt down. My anxiety builds, we try to fix this malfunction that has occurred. I’m one second away from hopping out of the car and sprinting at Usain Bolt speeds for the remaining six miles to the event.

In the end, I don’t blame Nancy. She could have driven 130 mph in a straight shot from our door in to the dining room of this location and I would have found some way to complain about the process of how that happened, how long it took. Such was my tension, my excitement. There was no way to get me there fast enough.

Things are done, plans are executed and the energy built. Kickoff comes following a full throated YNWA. The occasion feels proper; the aim is achieved on our end. Now on to the important bit, the Reds doing their part.

To call what I was doing drinking is a disservice to the way normal human beings consume liquids. I was guzzling ale like a 1970s Lincoln Continental burns through a gallon of fuel. In hindsight, it was a bit grotesque and didn’t help my sweat situation which was already at Vietnam levels.

I was confident going into the match, but then, you know, that notion in the back of your mind creeps in. What if. What if we don’t win? How will this team recover? How will we recover?

There are few moments in life where an anxiety about something, especially something you’ve been thinking about for weeks, months, years, is switched off in an instant. So it was a weird feeling when Mohammed Salah fired home from the penalty spot so early in the match. It was just one goal, but suddenly the road to victory and that sixth European Cup was free of haze.



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From there I remember bits, but not the way I usually would. Trent nearly scores a belter. We look disciplined and ready to suffocate the game, like we’re out to ask one question of Tottenham. Do you dare? Can you do?

Halftime comes and goes and the bathroom sounds like a concourse at Anfield. My voice goes out the window with its passing.

The minutes are slow, but the excitement is creeping in. I last saw us win something major at a time I failed to fully understand the magnitude of such an occasion. I was new to the European game in 2005. I was heartbroken by Athens, but not to the extent that I would be now, or that I was last year. The depths of my love for Liverpool hadn’t sunk deep enough into the core just yet.

By contrast, when the final whistle blew in Kiev, I drank until I came apart at the seams. Somewhere, there’s a picture floating around among friends of me passed out over the arm of a deckchair on a pub patio. It is a pathetic sight. I mourned that loss vomiting over toilets and on curb sides for the next day. I barely made it to work the next week.

The only solace in it all was the quick return. Mid July and the team was back in training, back to work on a new campaign. Jurgen was amazing in his outlook and the club incredible in how it handled the summer tour. And just like that, pain is buried and you start to fall in love with them all over again.

For nine months they take you on an emotional journey. A journey that feels like it can only have one just ending.

So as James Milner sends a shot wide, as Alisson makes two saves in the blink of an eye, I’m emotionally doubling down and doubling up on pints as a coping mechanism. Either this ends in elation or I christen a new combination of deckchairs and curb sides.

When the corner is taken, I am upset because in general, I hate out swingers. Virgil swings and misses, the ball bounces and bounces and finally lands to Origi. People have spent the day laughing at my t-shirt, a tribute to the meme of the year in my view: “Football is Nothing Without Origi.” And there he is, possibly Liverpool’s most interesting player of the season, slotting home the goal that sends us in to delirium. Cloud nine had never been an actual location until that moment and as the celebration rages, I’m suddenly broken.

I lose all control. This is not an exaggeration; I am out of body. I can’t stop crying, I can’t stop watching myself cry and wonder what the others must think. Are they crying too? I can’t see their faces through the tears, but I hope so.

It’s pure relief and joy, but it must look like grief and anguish. My wife is there, she lets me ugly cry on her for a second. I am a mess of sweaty hugs for everyone I see. The final whistle goes, we never stop singing. My voice is not a voice, it’s just a guttural utterance spewing out of a red-faced man drenched in sweat and tears.

I’m not entirely sure what happens next in terms of a timeline. I go looking for everyone I have ever enjoyed a moment of Liverpool Football Club with. I find them, I hug them. We, all of us, sing anything, everything whether it has to do with the club or not. We are the Champions, Dancing in the Dark, Come on Eileen, the DJ is just having fun watching us now and we’re having fun entertaining him.

The pictures from the moments that follow show the elation of the scene, but they don’t show the relief. It’s a relief I’ve not felt before. It’s as if your lover has been in danger and suddenly, after helplessly watching them navigate that peril from a distance, you realise that they are going to be okay. That they are safe and happy and so you too can be happy. You can enjoy a little slice of life together and know that everything little thing is gonna be all right.

I can only imagine what that parade will have felt like. Watching it on YouTube from afar, I felt like crying again, but I had no tears left. The Reds have drained me throughout a season that left us all with very little in the tank. The outpouring of adoration and love for this side was exactly what they deserved, but more importantly, what they earned. I have no idea what to do on the Monday morning after our dreams came true, and I suspect you don’t either.

It’s a short summer by most standards, but it will feel like ages for us. All I can say is, enjoy it. Hug the people closest to you, soak up the sun. Time to recharge is needed. An opportunity to fall in love with this team all over again will come again soon, but for now, we’ll just have to figure out how to live a life after love.

Article by David Rice – @davidjrice83

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