A Masshole Goes Among The Thugs
The charms of Anfield’s intimacy, however, present a problem for Henry, Werner, and Fenway Sports Group. Luxury boxes are scarce, and there’s no space for a Jumbotron. In fact, there’s just one small scoreboard in the whole stadium, and all it shows are the score and the game clock — no stats, no pictures, no space for big ads. Whether to renovate Anfield or replace it has become a matter of tense debate in Liverpool. Hicks and Gillett promised to build a new, modern stadium when they bought the club, but never came close. Henry and Werner have so far said precious little about the Anfield situation, other than that they’re assessing their options. Again, Liverpudlians have somehow managed to keep calm. That may be because antiquated stadiums are yet another challenge with which Henry has successful experience. The exact same questions swirled around Fenway when he bought the Sox, and he and his team have managed quite nicely on that front.
According to Done, fans have grown smitten with Henry’s prudence — especially after the recklessness of Hicks and Gillett. “We talk about this thing called the Liverpool Way,” he said, walking out of the stadium. “The idea is that we’re quite modest in talking about business affairs.” Talk softly, in other words, and carry a bloody big stick. Henry’s got the talking part down; now everybody’s waiting on the rest.
JUST HOW GOOD an impression has John Henry made? That afternoon, I took the train north to a suburb called Crosby to see Marine FC, a local semipro soccer team. A couple hundred people were there, and standing along the sideline in the second half, I fell into conversation with an older gentleman named Steve Wozniak (alas, not the one who cofounded Apple). Wearing a black jacket and a newsboy cap, Wozniak insisted that in his semipro playing days, his team once won something like 63 out of 64 games. It was because all the players were so tight, so unified, he explained. The problem with Liverpool’s current squad? Too many foreigners who couldn’t speak English. “Two from Spain, two from Italy, two from wherever,” he said, shaking his head. “You’ve got to be a unit.” So what did my xenophobic friend think of the team’s new American owners? “I am with them,” he said. “They’ll treat it as a business rather than a toy.” Even the guy who doesn’t like foreigners likes John Henry. (Marine beat visiting Ossett Town 4–3, by the way.)
ONLY TWO THINGS really matter in Liverpool: football and music. So that evening, in the name of cultural survey, I headed over to the White Star pub, a former Beatles hangout. Inside, I got to talking soccer with a local named Ken, who had all the same things to say about Henry as everybody else: patience, honesty, underpromise but overdeliver, blah blah blah. I was just starting to drift off when he mentioned that he and a couple of his coworkers were planning to see a Beatles cover band down the street that night. Did I want to come?