03 June 2010

On Americans and Liverpool FC

We don't choose where we're born. We do choose which clubs we support.

Tom Hicks and George Gillett, just by being born in America, have made it that much harder for Americans to follow a club they love. I've written before that I'm embarrassed to be from the same country as them. I continue to fear that Scousers (or Brits or Europeans) won't take me seriously because of my nationality, despite the fact I know there a fair few readers from across the pond.

This was brought into further focus thanks to today's protests. Sadly, I wasn't surprised to see American flags burned (it is a protest, after all), and I'm not surprised to see a vast number of American fans feeling angry and alienated by the action.

I truly hope that Liverpudlians don't put an entire country in the same basket as the cancers. They don't speak for us, and we're as angry at them as we can be. I understand it's much more personal for you; it's your city and your culture. That leads into the aforementioned feelings of 'it's not mine, it's yours' that linger in my paranoid mind when writing. But Americans can love this club too.

I also hope that American fans will realize that today's actions, as distasteful as they are to some, were taken because of the coincidence of where the owners were born. Were Hicks and Gillett from Country X (I feel bad assigning them to another nation) instead, Country X's flag probably would have been ablaze in front of the Shankly Gates. I only say 'probably' because I also worry about America's image as the world's bully, even if it's unfair at times. But symbolism is important, and flag burning is one hell of a symbol. It's why our own Supreme Court continues to classify the act as speech.

I recognize that one's politics – something I'm dreadfully loath to discuss with anyone, let alone on a soccer blog – also play into how each American perceives this. Personally – and I know it's stupid to alienate 50% of you but here goes anyway – I'm not that bothered. I'm almost inured to it, whether it's happening on our shores or that of some country we've infuriated.

But I also know many are massively offended by the act, and I don't begrudge them. I just want to add a word of caution before throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Sanity on all sides please, and I'm well aware that sounds strange coming from someone who's been insane since yesterday afternoon.

Please. The last thing we need right now is division amongst honest-to-goodness supporters. Everyone needs to be focused on removing Hicks and Gillett, and it's not because of their nationality.


JasonB said...

There's no excuse. It was a shameful display and I'm embarrassed to be a Liverpool fan after seeing it.

Our dislike of Hicks and Gillette doesn't make it ok. It's out of bounds and it's out of line.

nate said...

It's not an excuse, and I should have been more firm on that front. Flag burning alienates, enrages some Americans. It's seen as the gravest insult by a good deal, even if I don't take it that way.

All I'm asking is that understand where those Liverpudlians involved were coming from. They may not understand how offensive it is to a nation as a whole, but they know full well it makes an immediate connection to Gillett and Hicks and voices their anger.

That it might make some stop being Liverpool fans – which I'm not accusing you off, Jason – makes me immensely sad, as does the fact this discord takes away from the spotlight on the owners.

drew said...

Well that was something.

Big, big turnout, clearly police were not prepared for that many people. I didn't actually see the flag burning, but as with anything like that the cameras were looking for the worst behaved fans they could find so I'm not surprised they found it. Could've sworn a couple of the reporters were trying to incite fistfights.

Honestly the appointment of Kenny is the only thing I can see keeping this from a death spiral. "Built by Shanks, broken by Yanks" one banner had it. So true.

steven. said...

i find it highly unlikely that any large majority of Liverpool fans hold any animosity towards the owners based solely on the fact that they're American ..

if they were from Tanzania, they would be burning the Tanzanian flag .. angry people do stupid, thoughtless things .. seeing your national flag burned is bound to incite some unpleasant (and that's putting it lightly) feelings .. in this case, i wouldn't take too much offence ..

<3 Canada

McrRed said...

It's really important that people on the other side of the pond understand how little the national flag means to scousers. whether its american, english or any other.

not trying to excuse it...

...just trying to set a context.

nate said...


I'm far less worried about Liverpudlians hating the owners because they're American and more worried about them hating Americans because of the owners.

But yeah, agree re:paragraph #2.

McrRed makes an excellent point as well.

vinnie said...

will kenny pick up the dirty laundry leftover from tom & gil?

is there anything vocal/explicit fans from around the world can do? more particularly from australia. i'm so sick of the owners and something has to be done.

JasonB said...

That's the the thing, it's not simply that it's an American flag. If they were burning a Tanzanian flag I'd be disgusted by that. It's bigoted and hateful no matter what the flag being burned is.

And it's counterproductive. The story no longer is about the message, it's about the abhorrent way the message was conveyed. What's worse, it gives more ammo to those who would paint us as a bunch of bigoted, angry hoodlums.

I'm not going to stop being a fan, in fact I don't think I could even if I wanted to. Liverpool is in me and there's nothing I can do about that now... But I am ashamed of the way some of our supporters acted. I sympathize with their end goal... but I just detest the way they went about it.

Frankly, I'm glad the owners are only American. I'm horrified to think of what types of things would be done if they were Arabic, African, Asian or some other ethnicity.

McrRed said...

nice one vinnie,

for constructive ideas you could keep an eye on the rawk site...there's a thread or two on precisely that topic.

nate said...

Completely valid response, Jason.

Thank you for taking the time to talk about this rationally, and with well-thought out explanations, even if we disagree in parts.

Yet another reason why I love running this blog. And I needed a reminder of that today.

Mike Georger said...

Doesn't bother me in the least, though I would like to see a Union Jack in flames as well considering the argument can be made that Moores and Parry are even more guilty here.

As for people labeling them as hooligans because of this, well they don't have any idea of the context of what the Americans did in relation to the proud history of the club. I'm sure some really smug soccer bloggers will use it as a chance to slam our fans, but fuck them. They know the fans have every right to be that angry.

But for the people who DON'T know that: fuck them too if they aren't willing to learn. We've got enough problems to worry about right now without letting people ignorant with the situation get us down.

Anonymous said...

Don't really care much about flags and other dramatic distractions.

You have 2 owners who have systematically destroyed a proud and successful cup and you are whinging about a symbolic piece of cloth. Get it together.

Let's all work together to get some changes made at the club. I've not been a big Rafa backer but I never thought he would be ousted at such a crucial time. We have no stability whatsoever now and I can see things spiral really quickly towards rock bottom.

Join SOS. First step in righting some wrongs.


CSD said...

I have to disagree with my buddy steven. People in England know what flag burning means to us in the states. They know that is a sensitive button to push and they decided to push it.

If the owners had been black, you might be seeing racist comments, just because that's a button to push. It's a way of fighting back through speech and all supporters really have in their arsenal are their voices.

I used to get annoyed at even the mention of the word "yank," but honestly, I'm getting used to it. There's always going to be animosity between our two countries whether it's involved in football or something else and unfortunately that anger is based on government actions perpetrated by the elected few. And if not that, then it could be based on our own independence. I know I'm not the only one hoping that the US beats England in their first game, but that should be more of a friendly rivalry than actually holding a grudge.

I would like the people of England to open themselves up to the idea that our government of a few hundred elected idiots does not accurately embody a country of 300 million. I'm sure the same is true for the UK.

With that being said, I'm not going to stop supporting the club because of the actions of a few knuckleheads. In fact, it's that same passion shown by supporters of this club that originally attracted my interest. No matter who owns the club, I still hope to attend a match at Anfield and would be up for buying any fellow supporter a pint afterwards.

Noel said...

Reading all this, I have to say I'm somewhat torn. I fully understand, intellectually, where those who were either offended or just think it a daft thing to do are coming from.

It's stupid, it's offensive, it serves no functional purpose. It can't actually achieve anything. It doesn't save the club, and it doesn't bring Rafa or anybody else back to try to save the club on our behalf.

At the same time, intellectually, I recognize that many Americans put a great deal of significance in symbolism, and symbols of national pride, that those from elsewhere can never understand in the visceral manner that many people born and raised in the US seem to.

On the other hand I feel a kind of impotent rage focused on two horrible, despicable owners, and I know there is likely nothing I can do that will change the fact that they control the club. There is likely nothing I can do to get them out the door any sooner. And I feel angry about that, and look for a symbol, a way to raise my middle finger that they might see.

That is where such actions come from, and if either one of the current owners were Canadian I rather suspect that I would be out in the streets ready to burn the maple leaf through sheer frustrated anger. And if I was in Liverpool yesterday evening I might well have found myself caught up in trying to light a flag on fire in an attempt to register my displeasure with the current owners.

I don't suppose that makes it right, but some of those getting upset have to try to understand where it comes from, and they have to understand it as the anger directed at a symbol of two odious individuals rather than a country as a whole.

Matt said...

As an American, I could never condone the burning of my flag. And it does hurt that Liverpool fans would do that, and as some of you have said, some of the Liverpudlians knew how provocative burning the flag would be.

But I feel no anger at the action (which I will tell you is a first for me). I understand the frustration with the owners. I also realize that its not really anti-Americanism so much as anti-two-Americans-who-screwed-over-Liverpool, and I understand that.

What really bothers me is rafa leaving, especially now. I've always liked rafa, but whether you liked him or not, I don't think this was a good time to lose a manager. With the World Cup looming, fans outraged with the owners, and finally the manager leaving (not to mention the rumors of Stevie leaving, which I don't put much stock in but is worrisome all the same,) Liverpool is as fragmented as I've ever seen it. And I don't think I'm the only one to see the fragmentation.

After this season, perhaps change is what Liverpool needed. I guess we'll find out; I just wish rafa's departure wasn't (isn't) overshadowed.

I, for one, will remember rafa well, and when I think of rafa, I will picture him sitting cross-legged during the penalty shootout of the 2007 Champions League semi-final vs Chelsea. Classic.

Anonymous said...

Couldn`t give a monkeys re flag burning generations of liverpool fans have and do adore the great club it`s deep in the soul of all of us. Flag burning is making a statement to the owners is a statement of anger and a controlled one at that when you look at teh reality of it! The American element is unfortunate however sure there will be plenty more statements still to come from the fans as they are the real investors in the club not the puppets who are capitalist con merchants who with no sense of loyalty or empathy towards the success of the club. Fully behind all supporters of LFC and we all need to seriously consider best route to get these muppets out sooner rather than later, hostility and chats when they are in the ground should be loud and clear!

TimC said...

Hi Nate, I've been a long time reader and fan of your blog but this is the first time I have felt compelled to make a comment.

I wanted to reiterate (because many have made comments here along these same lines) that it would be massively unfair for the many, many Liverpool supporters in the UK for us to apply the actions of a handful of idiots to the entire fan base. People here do have a right to be massively offended and outraged but let's not direct our anger towards the many good fans on Merseyside who are probably as appalled as we are here in the states. Just as it would be incorrect for those supporters to assume that US-based supporters are cut from the same cloth as Hicks and Gillette, we would also be incorrect to assume that the Merseyside fan base is composed entirely of those flag-burning lunatics.

Keep up the good work, Nate, and I look forward to continuing reading and commenting over these coming seasons.


Marlon said...

All I can say is that I hope Nate has happier things to write about soon.

nate said...

Me too.

Although to be fair, I think my best match reviews are the ones where I'm furious. Anger often makes me a better writer.

But still, me too.

McrRed said...

it's really important that we're not manipulated here - and i think that's what's happening.

at an impromptu march there were approximately 500 people.

most were protesting about hicks & gillett, many were protesting about rafa being ousted.

the news crews only spoke to a couple of lfc supporters with non-liverpool accents. these supporters happened to be glad that rafa was gone. then they focused their coverage on a couple of fans burning a flag.

this made an impression, as they intended and ended up with lfc fans and supporters falling out with each other.

i would say that's a job well done!

we have different cultural references. that's inevitable, and that we need to work at avoiding misunderstandings due to these references is also understandable. but let's not wage civil war when together we can work to rid our club of these two buffoons.

peace & love

keith.cygan said...

Zonal Marking has a somewhat different take on Rafa's departure:


I think they downplayed the value of certainty in such a tough time for the club (i.e. the hopefully impending sale), but at the same time results are all that matter, and 7th place simply is not an acceptable finish.

Also -- I wanted to say, Nate, that your writing is very much appreciated, and that I hope you have some time to do wrap-ups of various World Cup games (can't wait for USA vs England). The World Cup will be a nice respite from having to think about Liverpool's current situation.

nate said...

Thanks, Keith (and TimC, who I should have thanked earlier). And I intend to fully utilize the World Cup as a distraction, as you said. England, US, Spain, and whatever else strikes my fancy. Gonna be hard to approach the England/US game given my tendencies though.

nate said...

Oh, and as much as I love ZM's site, I've a sneaking suspicion he doesn't have much time for Liverpool. He is quite good about not displaying who he does root for, though.