Reds, Arabs and Trolley Dodgers
Everybody loves a loser. As the Roger Kahn quote above states, “You may glory in a team triumphant…but you fall in love with a team in defeat”. Here are three teams I’ve fallen for over the years, each because of how they lost, rather than how they won.
Perhaps a strange choice, you might think, considering how successful Liverpool have been. But, while I can just remember their double-winning season of 1985-86, my first year of truly following football was 1987, when they didn’t win a thing. I remember well Liverpool losing the League Cup Final to Arsenal, despite taking an early lead from Ian Rush – it was the first time the Reds had lost when Rush scored, a record that had lasted seven years. Rush would then join Juventus. By 1988 Liverpool had won the league and could repeat their double success by beating lowly Wimbledon in the FA Cup Final. Of course, they lost in one of the most famous finals of the last 25 years. In 1989 Liverpool would lose the League Championship to Arsenal in the final minute of the final game of the season. Liverpool are by no means “losers” in the strictest sense, but these formative experiences certainly shaped my outlook on sport and made me a Liverpool supporter for life.
The Arabs, supposedly named after a harsh winter lead to sand being poured on the pitch to make it playable, are another love of mine. And it all falls down to one month, May 1987. In that month they lost the UEFA Cup Final 2-1 on aggregate over two legs, losing the Scottish Cup Final inbetween. To have got so far and to come away with nothing was heartbreaking, but their incredible season, including beating Barcelona home and away, led to a lifeline fascination.
From football to baseball, and a team that no longer exists. Last year on a trip to the States I caught an HBO documentary, Brooklyn Dodgers: The Ghosts of Flatbush, about the Brooklyn Dodgers and was hooked. The fact their name came from “Trolley dodgers” when most teams had dynamic, heroic names, was wonderful, as was them being referred to as “Dem Bums”. This team knew how to lose, and I’m sure this was the root of the devotion their fans held, and continue to hold to this day. Between 1941 and 1953 they lost five World Series, all to their arch-rivals the Yankees, the ultimate hurt. In 1951 they collapsed completely from a 13 ½ lead to lose the National League to the New York Giants in a three-game play-off. No wonder they kept proclaiming “Wait ’til next year!”. In 1955 they finally won the World Series, but by 1957 the team was moved to Los Angeles, the greatest defeat.
I would love to hear of more classic losing teams you know, or indeed why you fell in love with your favourite teams. Thanks for reading.
PS I’m entering this in the Pro Blogger Killer Titles competition. Let’s see how I get on…