November 13, 2004.
While this might have been just another date in many of your lives, I will remember this day as a monumental occasion. It wasn't due to me waking up on a foreign shore for the first time. It wasn't because I was going to my first Liverpool game against Crystal Palace. It wasn't even due to Milan Baros's hat-trick! No, ladies and gentlemen, it was far more than any of that; I learned a life lesson that day.
Though a "typical" American in being apathetic towards soccer, I - twelve at the time - found myself taken aback upon entering Anfield. There were supporters, yelling belligerent and impudent things that I didn't understand. People were moving in swarms, like the flow of a river. And despite the energy among the supporters being evident, it was unrequited on my part. I disliked soccer, only going to the match because my father wanted to go. My two English relatives, Lancastrians named Mark and Carl, were passionate Reds; I was not. I figured that I'd just have to make it through these few hours the best I could.
A few minutes later, having attempted to take in an atmosphere seemingly filled with anarchy, we made our way to Block MW of the Main Stand. It took a little longer before I found Seat 23 in Row 15. 'How can there be so many seats in this place?' I wondered. After all, I thought Fenway Park was big!
My father, sporting his Liverpool shirt that Mark had lent him, leaned over to me, saying "I think this might be the stadium where they sing that song that's in "Fearless." Confused by what he was saying (some things never change!), I asked for a further explanation. He explained that "Fearless," a song by Pink Floyd, is littered with excerpts of a group of British soccer fans singing a song. 'Cool, dad!' I thought, sarcastically. 'Let's just get this over with.'
Following a moment of silence to remember "some dead guy" —who I later found out was former Red Emlyn Hughes—I found that I was partially interested in my surroundings. 'Maybe this won't be so bad,' I thought. Suddenly, I could hear music coming from the stereo system. Though I was used to such things being utilized before baseball games, this was different. Everyone halted their chatter. "What's going on?" I asked, unaware of what was occurring.
"This is the song!" my dad said, having been told by my uncle that "this song" was indeed the one included in "Fearless." He explained that these fans invariably sing this before every home match as a tradition, kind of like when Red Sox fans sing "Sweet Caroline" in the middle of the eighth inning at Fenway. I chose to sit back and listen to my surroundings, as I was in no mood to sing the words of this new song.
Though I could sense a gradual build in the volume and passion in the song, I wasn't prepared for the proverbial explosion that was about to happen. 'Why would people sing this?' I wondered, having heard seemingly boring lyrics like "Walk on through the wind, walk on through the rain!" However, when the ever-building chorus reached the line "Though your dreams be tossed, and blo-o-o-own!", it seemed that the song had reached its climax, encompassing virtually everyone in the stadium. I felt a need to join.
I picked up a copy of the lyrics lying on the ground, quickly reading up to "With hope, in your heart." Though I'll admit I did have the desire to conform - a feeling I don't often have - I think I also felt inspired. I was amazed that 45,000 people of all different ages, races and backgrounds could bond together due to one song. We reached the final line, peaking our volume as we sang "YOU'LL NE-VER WALK, A-LONE!" Though the major singing was over, the song was microcosmically reverberated at various points throughout the match. I may not have sung along later, but I was impressed by the passion of the supporters. I turned to my father, saying "These people are really something special." He nodded in agreement, well aware of the uniqueness of the atmosphere. To top it off, the Red shirt that Mark had lent me was now mine to keep. And though I've outgrown that particular kit, it goes without saying that I have bought three more since then!
After the match—which we won 3-2 over the Londoners—I reflected back on my experience. It may have been two more years before I began to follow football in earnest, but on November 13, 2004 I realized Liverpool Football Club's uniqueness in its ability to bring people of different shapes, sizes and colors together. We may not have much in common beyond the club we support, but we realize that even a detail like that is reason enough to call us family. That's what we are: a family. And that's why we never walk alone.
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