Online watch party on NBC

Liverpool fans on a video conference watch event on NBC.

What’s a Football Fan Now? by Jeff Cutler

If a fan needs other fans to exist, what are we in an age of pandemic? Who’s to say what’s the right way to be a fan these days? And how will we explain to future generations that there was a time that people gathered for matches? Will we be able to properly convey how important that was?

Regardless…. We did it. Yay!

30 years, best team ever, huggity Klopp…and so much more magic. All taken out from under us as if we were Jack Grealish in a light breeze. Worse than that, even talking to a fellow Scouser about the Championship and 2019-2020 EPL is mostly happening via Zoom meetings.

split screen of soccer and commentators
Robbie and Kyle greet NBCSN watchers – see the author in the bottom right

For an audience of fanatics, Liverpool’s fanbase is better than any other. We’re compassionate and logical and good-looking. But even that’s not enough. The pure magic of football, if you’re not on the pitch, is in the comaraderie. The back slapping, fist pumping, high fiving that happens in a pub or living room or she shed or man cave. We all NEED to share the excitement with someone.

And when we can’t, we are lesser for it. Our joy swallowed by a sound-deadening world. Our smiles obstructed by N95 masks. Our eyes wet from allergies, mask exhalation and the fact we won the feckin’ league.

How did you celebrate the Chelsea…I mean our win? The capturing of the trophy. What did you do? Who did you talk to? I was kinda alone at home with two cats and my wife. She was working during the match and I was loosely watching a match thread and thinking about July 2.

July 2 was supposed to be the real celebration. We’d beat City and in doing so vault to the stage. So we did it without that win…as I write this, it’s still three days away…and I had mixed emotions.

First and foremost, #YNWA and Liverpool fans feel wins and losses more than other clubs’ supporters. We are Liverpool. That doesn’t mean we can’t be lonely. Here’s my mini tale of woe with a lesson to not take yourself too seriously…and to smile easily and feel deeply.

Picture a new football fan. Spoiler, it’s me. I’ve got 18-25 months of pro football watching under my belt. You can see my story here if you need more. Suffice it to say I was fully encased in the Liverpool mode of being. I ate, drank and shouted the team virtues all day long.

I was at the pub for matches. Standing outside in the cold for hours, waiting for the doors to open so I could get to ‘my’ seat. I scheduled surgery in the late fall to take advantage of the football 24-hours a day during the holidays as I recovered. I even made it to a match at the pub in March…just before the lockdown.

But our group had a plan for that. We’d start doing virtual watch parties. People would get on Zoom or other platform and talk about the upcoming or recent match. We’d get closer and we’d be able to talk about any Liverpool topics. Being a fan online is a little less exciting than being with people at the pub, but it was still fandom.

Online watch party on NBC
Liverpool fans on a video conference watch event on NBC

That experiment lasted about 15 days. Football was coming back and some friends and I did a Zoom call/podcast-style discussion. I got to interview people smarter than me (which is the case about 100% of the time) and I learned about strategies for sides to get rolling again. We talked about how Liverpool’s schedule was going to be fun to examine because we were so close to the title.

Then because we showed so much passion, and one of our members in that LFC club knows people, a whole bunch of us got on national television during the Sunday match. It was a #MYPLSummer Watch Party and it was fantastic.

In fact, the only drawback to that moment of fame was that all of us had to be ready to be on camera whilst we were keeping one eye on the match. It was amazing to think the folks producing our mini ‘hollywood squares’ snippet were in the same building with Rebecca Lowe. It was almost like she was there with us!

Then reality hit. We had to wait for City to lose…and they didn’t. Additional Zoom events were held, but it didn’t capture and deliver the magic. Conversations online were energetic, but there was nothing relevant we could explore until City played again. And they did. And they lost!

AND WE WON THE LEAGUE!

And we celebrated alone, together. The Zoom event we had after City lost was the last one we’ve scheduled. There was such a demand globally on Internet and video conferencing platforms that the sound and experience were chaos. Interestingly, that’s what it’s like in the pub on match day, too.

Sign leaning on a MINI Cooper Convertible
Jeff’s MINI Cooper Convertible with a JC’s Ice Cream Sign leaning on it

I took some solace in the similarities, then signed off and went for a drive in the car alone. To listen to the football broadcast on satellite radio, and cry tears of joy because my team won the league. Our team won the league.

If we can’t be together anytime soon because of disease or politics or technology, we’ve still got our champions and seven more glorious matches this season. Starting with an honour guard at City in a few days.

Congrats.

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