A Masshole Goes Among The Thugs
IN OCTOBER, Red Sox owner John Henry bought the Liverpool soccer team — or football club, for all the Anglophiles and other, more general wieners out there — and I started fretting. It didn’t even take sports talk radio to get me worked up. Henry, I dreaded, was going to shortchange the Sox while he was off kicking balls and sucking halftime oranges with the English. Less than two months later, though, the Red Sox traded for Adrian Gonzalez, with plans to pay the star slugger more than $20 million per season for years to come. Mere days after that, the team signed all-star outfielder Carl Crawford — a player we didn’t even need — to a seven-year, $142 million deal. At that point, I stopped worrying. In fact, I felt sort of good. Really good, actually. And I was still feeling that way a few weeks later when my plane touched down in England.
[sidebar]Henry, his partner Tom Werner, and their Fenway Sports Group associates had landed Liverpool on the cheap, paying just $476 million — or roughly the cost of Gonzalez, Crawford, and a few pitchers — to swipe the team from its previous, cash-strapped owners. Sure, the purchase might have concerned me at first, but I’d since come to understand that Liverpool FC is one of the most storied franchises in the world’s most popular soccer league. It looked like Henry had found us an unpolished gem. Liverpool could be yet another money-pumping outpost of Red Sox Nation, to be safely tucked away somewhere with that NASCAR team of ours.
Henry has said over and over that he intends to keep the two clubs’ finances separate, that what he spends on one will have no bearing on what he does with the other. But it was getting hard to miss the fact that all of his business ventures had lately been designed to serve the Red Sox mothership.
And according to the Wall Street Journal, the followers of our new soccer team hadn’t missed it. The paper had just run a story with the headline “Boston’s Baseball Spending Spree Causes Pulses to Race in an Unlikely Place: Liverpool.” One fan summed up the feelings of the city this way: “It’s all very well spending all that money on a shortstop or whatever, but we haven’t had a decent left-back for 12 years.”
Wait — did these people not understand the proper order of things? Recently valued at $1.5 billion, the Sox are worth three times what Fenway Sports Group paid for Liverpool. And it is called Fenway Sports Group. What were these Brits thinking? I’d come to England to find out just what the hell
was going on over here.
I stepped off the plane and headed for immigration, where a (surprisingly cute) agent took my passport and instructed me to remove my Red Sox cap. Satisfied that my face matched my picture, she said, “You can put your hat back on,” paused a beat to look at my brow, and then added skeptically, “if you want.” Lovely. I jammed the cap back on my head. Red Sox Nation bows to no one. Colonial Liverpool, ho!