On a whim, I decided to take the bus into Cambridge to take in the match at The Phoenix Landing. LFC Boston meets there, and even for a Monday afternoon kickoff, the bar was standing-room only. A few dozen red-clad Liverpool supporters had skipped work or had the luck to be unemployed so that they could watch the game with a crowd.
By now, you surely know what happened. Liverpool, probably needing a win to keep pace with Manchester City in the title race, jumped out to a 3-0 lead. Well, no, not jumped. It was 1-0 at half-time, and Liverpool were struggling to create chances before two goals early in the second half. It eventually felt like Liverpool would go on perhaps to make a dent in City’s goal differential advantage. The Phoenix Landing was boisterous; supporters were singing Depeche Mode and “When the Reds Go Marching in.”
And then, it all disappeared within 10 minutes. Damien Delaney hit a shot that deflected and lucked its way into the top corner, and substitute Dwight Gayle scored twice for the home side to tie the match. You’ll see a lot, if you haven’t already, about how “defense wins titles” and how Liverpool’s back line is “truck nuts on a Lexus.” I won’t add to that. The point is this: I have never seen a more devastated group of people in my life.
Stunned doesn’t describe the atmosphere in that bar today. The Liverpool fans, when Gayle’s second went in, and when the final whistle blew, were silent. They lacked even the energy to curse the fates or their refs or the players or Brendan Rodgers. If not for the Selhurst Park atmosphere (and what an atmosphere!) being piped in through the speakers, there would have been no noise. Luis Suarez was seen crying, and I was surprised not to see fans doing the same.
Why do we do this? What else do we do that so often brings about this sort of abject despair? It doesn’t make any sense.
I of course am not a Liverpool fan. But I have been in a bar with my fellow Spurs supporters for tough losses, and often found myself asking the same questions. I’m not sure I have a great answer. Certainly not today. Not, when just an hour ago, I exited a room full of ghosts.