A Masshole Goes Among The Thugs
Despite this bad run, though, fans have remained maniacally loyal. The team’s theme song, after all, is “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” It was originally a Rodgers and Hammerstein tune, later covered by Liverpool’s Gerry and the Pacemakers; Scousers speak of it in reverential tones and sing along to it before every home game. So of all the evils Hicks and Gillett inflicted on Liverpudlians, probably none was worse than leaving them feeling deserted. Last year enraged supporters protested by the thousands. They even formed a human blockade outside the stadium — and this is true — preventing the owners from getting into a game. Hicks and Gillett sold only when they had no other choice — when they were unable to make the payments on a debt calculated by some as $460 million.
So when Henry bought the club and wiped out the debt, he represented a savior of sorts. But, like Hicks and Gillett before him, he is an American. And then there’s the fact that Henry, by his own admission, knows very little about soccer. And when you consider that an influential fan group called the Spirit of Shankly (sort of like what the Sons of Sam Horn are to the Red Sox, but politically militant instead of nerdy) held a rally on Liverpool’s main square last July 4 to declare independence — from America — you had to wonder about the kind of welcome Henry was in for.
Then again, Henry is used to this sort of thing. When he beat out a couple of local suitors and managed to buy the Sox in 2002, outraged fans fumed that the pale, soft-spoken carpetbagger with a Florida Marlins pedigree was planning to milk the team for cash and go cheap on players. He became known on talk radio as Casper, and not because he was friendly.
So it came as quite a surprise that here in the Albert, even Ian didn’t have any ill will for Henry. Whatever the Wall Street Journal may have found, the guys I met said they were impressed by their new owner’s modesty and that they were willing to be patient with him. According to a fan I met later, it was very encouraging that Henry’s wife, Linda, had promised to learn all the Liverpool songs.
Really, the closest anyone came to being judgmental was when Rod, the bar’s assistant manager, stopped me and asked, “Is Boston magazine a gay magazine?” I considered the question for a moment. Carefully, I replied, “No.” Rod immediately pointed a finger at Ian. “Then he can’t be in it!” Uproarious laughter followed. (I chuckled nervously.)
On my way out, I mentioned to Peter the bartender that I was surprised by how patient everybody was. Henry had owned the team for three months already, fired a coach, hired a coach, and brought in, effectively, a general manager. It seemed like it was high time for judgments. Go talk to Spirit of Shankly, the protest organizers, Peter instructed me. “They will be very opinionated.”