The Real Reds
If you do not like sport, please avert your eyes…
In The Rugby Blanket I wrote about the ending of a ‘quarter of a century’ long curse. But that’s not exactly right. It was in fact twenty four years between All Black World Cup wins. And to expand on the pedantry further the All Blacks were still holders during the first half of 1991. So you could say it was a twenty year wait which softens the statistic just a little. Any long wait in terms of sporting triumph feels like an eternity and I can think of two examples which stand out most for me.
- The Boston Red Sox – From the time Babe Ruth left the Red Sox following the 1918 win until 2004, the famous Baseball team went without a World Series victory. That was 86 years. Now all teams have their highs and lows during a long stretch like that. They had at least American League Championships in that time but the very pinnacle of baseball could not be attained by the hapless Sox until a certain owner, John W Henry, came along. Henry and Fenway Sports Group helped build the side that eventually ended all those years of hurt and Fenway Park became a bit of a fortress once more. But what must have those fans have thought after such a long wait? Were there any Red Sox fans left alive from the time of Babe Ruth to even enjoy that moment? If there was it must have been tough on the old ‘ticker’.
- County Mayo (Gaelic Football) – This county has a long history of Gaelic Football pedigree. Wherever you go in Ireland, each county has its preferred Gaelic Game (Football or Hurling). In the ‘heather county’ football is king. Mayo has a long standing rivalry with Galway and it’s usually between the two of them to battle out the Connacht Championship. At this time Mayo have 45 Connacht Senior Championships but they have not won the All-Ireland Championship for 63 years. As a man who loves his sporting superstitions such as ‘The Curse of the Bambino’, this next one is a classic. It is said that when Mayo won the All-Ireland in 1951 the team held a victory parade through Foxford as many in the county turned out to greet them. Meanwhile a funeral procession was due to cross the path of the parade. Legend has it that the team bus went before the hearse and raised the ire of the local priest in question. He put a curse on them saying they would never win the All-Ireland again as long as the players from that ’51 team lived. He was likely a Galway supporter if I was to guess. They haven’t won it since and there is only a handful of the ’51 team left.
I guess I’m writing this post in some sort of anticipation. You see, in the sport of football(soccer) it’s been 24 years since Liverpool last won the league. I’m not by any means saying they will win it this time round but I can dare to dream. If they can beat Manchester City this weekend then they will go a long way to making it a real possibility. I grew up following ‘The Reds’ and would watch Match of the Day on Sunday mornings when the likes of Rush, Beardsley, Dalglish and Barnes were big names in the English game. Back then there was a glut of trophies for the club and perhaps winning had become a habit. Dynasties don’t last forever though as Manchester United can now attest and a European ban through the late eighties/early nineties had Liverpool struggling to attract the same quality of player.
1989/1990 was the last time Liverpool won the league. There was a sense that a rebuilding was occurring a decade later when under Gerard Houllier along with a young Steven Gerrard coming through the ranks, they looked to be building the habit again. It was that last step however, that separates those in the top six from those on the very top. They didn’t quite have it. Five years later when Liverpool won the European cup for the fifth time, fans also thought the tide had turned. With signings such as Torres and Alonso there looked to be world class footballers attracted to the club again. But while they showed promise at European level, Manager Rafa Benitez struggled to get to grips with the nuances of the English game and again they trailed in the wake of others.
This season something seems different but it’s too soon to shout it from the rooftops. If they can beat a Manchester City and a Chelsea side that will be smack dab in the middle of two European semi finals then maybe, just maybe, the ‘real reds’ will prevail. There are still some coincidences to take note of though. It’s been 24 years since they won the league which is the same time between All Black Cup wins. They are owned by Fenway Sports Group and led by John W Henry, the same man who owned the Red Sox when they broke their curse. You can see the stars may be aligning however there is a footnote. If the Red’s win the league and they do have a parade…for god’s sake stop the bus!