On Sunday night, the first episode of "Being: Liverpool" airs on FOX Soccer, a Clive Owen-narrated series that will introduce America to Liverpool Football Club. The club's transition from storied Premier League franchise to transatlantic reality show has been advertised with overly dramatic promos that seem to promise "Hard Knocks" without the helmets, and the thickest accents since "This is Honey Boo Boo."
But unlike its HBO counterpart, "Being: Liverpool" unfolds during the season, which means that viewers can watch the Reds lose their opener to West Brom, then learn that manager Brendan Rodgers has a dog named Lola.
In the premiere, Rodgers meets Boston Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine, mentioning that he saw the Sox lose at Fenway Park (which narrows it down to, like, 42 different games) and Valentine immediately swears hard enough that his entire lower jaw is covered with a blurred circle. It's a staged scene designed for LOLZ, like "OMG LOOK HOW DIFFERENT 'MERICA IS FROM BRITLAND!" but their entire encounter might as well be a spinoff called "Real World: Fenway Sports Group."
The Reds and the Red Sox are fighting for the ventricles of FSG owner John W. Henry's heart, and they both desperately need his full attention. Both teams are making the wrong kind of history, the kind that requires repeated use of the phrase "the worst season since." The Red Sox are 64-79 — last place in the AL East — and are on pace to have the worst season since 1992. (If they won all of their remaining games, it would still be their lowest win total for a decade).
In May, Liverpool finished their worst Premier League season since 1993-94; this year, they're winless through their first three matches and off to the worst start since Ringo Starr joined some local band called The Beatles.
With the controversies and challenges of owning two struggling teams in two sports that are two passport stamps apart, Henry is stretched thinner than Dustin Pedroia's hair follicles. In three weeks, Boston's season will be dragged behind the barn and Old Yeller-ed out of existence, which might give him more time to focus on Liverpool. In my mind, that's what he needs to do.
And then FSG will put the Red Sox up for sale.
I know there's a greater chance that Valentine will be mismanaging Boston's lineup again next year than there is of FSG listing the Sox on, like Rich People Craigslist, but that could be the best solution for both teams. Boston and Liverpool are on opposite ends of serious overhauls: Liverpool changed managers and emptied the front office during their brief offseason and — if anyone paid attention to what I whispered when I blew out my birthday candles — Boston will do the same. Valentine will go back to keeping Stamford, Conn. safe, Larry Lucchino can be released into the wild and the team will finally, completely be placed in the capable hands of rookie GM Ben Cherington.
Both teams say they're refocusing on player development and overall rebuilding and some of their recent decisions have reflected that. Liverpool resisted the urge to load up on expensive players (or, um, any players) at the transfer deadline and are — at least temporarily — saving $128,852 per week by shoving overpriced, underachieving Andy Carroll (think Carl Crawford with a ponytail) to London club West Ham. Last month Boston dumped a quarter-billion dollars in payroll and lost 6-foot-5-inches of bad attitude when they emptied their lineup card into Los Angeles' dugout.
That's a good start, but rebuilding takes more than a single season as supporters of both teams are about to find out. And, when you have an owner like Henry who wants to be involved in the day-to-day activities, the current situation doesn't work, not when Liverpool's day is half-over by the time Boston's starts.
Henry bought Liverpool two years ago, saving it from bankruptcy at the hands of its previous American owners who spent like white girls on a LuluLemon binge. Since then, he's faced Stateside criticism that he's too focused on the Reds, accused of everything from being cheap with Boston to fund his football club to spelling humor with a 'u' (I'm just guessing about that last part.) The truth is, he's not spending enough time there.
Liverpool is the kind of long-term project that needs his full attention, and not just through intermittent appearances at Anfield or 800-word emails where he admits that he's still not sure what he's doing. That's largely how Henry has placated his twinterests over the past few weeks: by writing letters. He sent several paragraphs to the Boston press to defend what he's doing with the Sox (namely not firing Valentine), then a month later, writing an "open letter" to Liverpool supporters, trying to justify what he isn't doing there.
"Our ambitions do not lie in cementing a mid-table place with expensive, short-term quick fixes that will only contribute for a couple of years," he wrote to Reds fans. "We will invest to succeed. But we will not mortgage the future with risky spending."
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
Despite a lengthy flirtation with American-born, then-Fulham based Clint Dempsey, Henry chose not to sign him. The difference between what he was willing to pay and what Tottenham eventually offered was $3.2 million — or a net $1.6 million if he factored in the money West Ham pays to rent Carroll. Regardless, it seemed like a lack of communication between Rodgers and Henry led to what could become a serious deficiency in their "strike force," as Henry put it, and one that might've been handled differently if Henry had been more involved. Instead, from now until mid-May, every prayer launched skyward from the L4 postcode will end with "And don't let our one striker, Luis Suarez, ever get hurt. Amen."
What's done is done but the Kop — the LFC faithful — can't help but feel slighted when they read those quotes from Henry where he admits that baseball "is a 365-day-a-year sport for [the management team.]" So enjoy Leap Year, LFC! "Our commitment to winning is unabated," he wrote, because apparently people use words like that.
But who, exactly, is winning right now? It's not either team. It's not either of their equally passionate fan bases who are both jealous and suspicious of the other, like step-kids forced to share the backseat of a car: "DAD! HE'S ON MY SIDE AND YOU LOVE HIM MORE AND HE'S WHY WE CAN'T HAVE NICE THINGS LIKE A NEW STADIUM OR DANIEL STURRIDGE!"
Henry should focus on one team and he needs to do it soon, before "Being: Liverpool" is followed by Being: Forgotten, Being: An Afterthought or Being: Relegated.
HBT: Robinson Cano homered twice while David Phelps had the longest outing of his career as the Yankees topped the Blue Jays 7-2 this afternoon at Yankee Stadium.
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