By Danielle Warren
I FINALLY had the chance to watch “Being: Liverpool” the other night, two days after its premiere on Fox Soccer Channel. The first word that came to my mind while watching was ‘enthralled.’ I was glued to the TV. I had a smile across my face from ear to ear, laughing and joking with my boyfriend while we watched over dinner.
From start to finish, I was captivated. A million questions and comments running through my head.
I wondered how the guys couldn’t be more used to doing yoga. All professional athletes should be extremely familiar with practices such as yoga and pilates. But beyond the logical, I just enjoyed their enjoyment at the session, even if it was them not taking it seriously. But after all, football is a game and games are meant to be fun.
I loved seeing Steven Gerrard at home with his family. I love that he is surrounded by women, his wife and three daughters, and that he finds that feminine energy a welcome oasis away from Melwood and being surrounded by 35 men (or should we say man-boys?).
I really enjoyed listening to Brendan Rodgers, something I enjoy more and more every time I get to hear him speak. I was fascinated listening to his press conference on The Anfield Wrap podcast recently. He has such an eloquence when he speaks, you just feel compelled to listen and smile. His unusual brogue was stuck in my head for days after.
I enjoyed the obligatory training montages. It was an honor getting to watch the players train up close and personal in Boston during their summer tour and I couldn’t think of anything more exciting than getting to see what the players actually do.
This is the reason I savored every moment of “Being: Liverpool,” feeling an hour (with commercial breaks) was just too short. I can’t wait for the next episode to air.
As you might have noticed, especially if you read Roy Henderson’s piece that I am providing the counter argument to, this is not an opinion shared by everyone. And that’s fine. Nothing will ever appeal to everyone, no matter how wonderful.
But the reason this appeals to myself as well as so many others in the US is that we are so used to this kind of documentary. Behind-the-scenes sports shows done with class and sophistication. Never once when the show was announced did I believe it would make Liverpool or anyone there look bad. And so far, even though there are still five episodes left, it hasn’t. And I can already tell you, it never well. The PR machine at Liverpool may be many things, but Tom Werner et al. would never allow something to go out that made the club look bad. Silly, contrived maybe. But never negative.
I completely disagree with Roy’s assessment that Brendan Rodgers looks like an ‘arse.’ I loved how he came across so comfortable and at ease. I enjoyed seeing him in his home life and how that balances with his love of football. I don’t believe seeing people from a different point of view is necessarily a bad thing, and I really liked getting to see him and the players from another angle, an angle I never got to see before.
I have always been fascinated with behind-the-scenes looks of anything that I love. It’s fascinating getting to see how things work, how they are made, and how the people that make them do it and what they are actually like.
But this is just my opinion and I am only one person. So let me tell you how this can only be a good thing as far as Liverpool as a whole is concerned.
Tom Werner, the less vocal half of John Henry & Tom Werner, principal owners of Liverpool and FSG, is a TV man. I remember seeing Carsey-Werner on the back of so many TV shows growing up. That 70s Show, Roseanne, 3rd Rock From The Sun, The Cosby Show etc. Whatever your personal opinion of them, they were all hits. The man knows television and what works and what doesn’t.
I have major confidence in Werner to steer the Liverpool documentary show in the right direction, especially because he made sure to put the right people in place to do it. Scott Boggins is the producer and he produced the very successful 24/7 series on HBO, home of one of the other successful sport documentary series’ Hard Knocks.
And this brings me to my main point. These kinds of shows are extremely popular and very much accepted in the United States. “Being: Liverpool” is nothing new to us, and all I was hoping for is that it would stand up to the high standards I am already used to when it comes to this kind of show format. So far, it does.
While it’s all well and good that I am sitting at home enjoying an inside look into my football club, I realize the motive behind creating the show in the first place is to capture the imaginations of new fans, primarily in the US market.
It should come as no surprise to anyone that football is growing in the United States. Considering the new owners are from this part of the world, it only makes sense to help grow their own club along with the growing interest in the sport as a whole.
In terms of marketing, this documentary couldn’t have come at a better time. Liverpool need some positive PR after last season’s debacles, and nascent football fans need a team to support.
After reading this excellent article on ESPN “Soccer’s Big Takeover” by Roger Bennett, it becomes evidently clear to me the potential that football has to be big in the United States. According to Bennett, Rich Luker, the 59-year-old social scientist, “is the brains behind the ESPN Sports Poll, the complex database that recently pronounced soccer as America’s second-most popular sport for those age 12-24, outstripping the NBA, MLB and college football.”
Bennett and Luker continue, “Soccer’s avid fanbase is 10 percent, which does not sound like much until you realize that is 33 million people. ‘Based on the way it is trending, I believe global soccer will soon be four or five times bigger than it is today, and MLS’s fanbase will triple or quadruple.’ For those who do not believe, Luker is keen to underline that change can happen fast. ‘In 1994, MLB was as popular as the NFL. This stuff can shift quickly and right now, soccer is like a rocket ship on the launchpad.’”
33 million people. And that’s just right now. The global appeal and domination of football is progressing and evolving at an exponential rate. Imagine that number doubling and tripling in the next 5-10 years and you start to see why FSG are so keen to tap this particular market. Young kids all over the states are falling in love with football. Why not give them a team to fall in love with?
As football fans go, especially older generations, they don’t always like to hear about marketing, demographics, and statistics. But this is the modern game in a modern world. Moving faster than any of us can even keep up with.
Thankfully, we finally have some people at the club who have the foresight to see the growing potential in this sport and club. As Brad Pitt said in the now oft mentioned Moneyball, “Adapt or die.”
Liverpool is adapting. And while some may not enjoy the way that looks, or have any interest in seeing the team attempting tree poses, I for one am glad Liverpool is at the forefront of this medium to showcase itself.
At the end of the day, there is a major cultural difference in how this documentary is perceived in the US as compared to the UK. And one article professing its obvious positives won’t change that overnight. But I implore fans in the UK to be more open minded to this show and further moves in this direction. It is ‘adapt or die.’ And we are adapting. Surely that can only be a good thing for Liverpool Football Club.
Danielle is on Twitter and you can follow here @daniellewarren