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Archive for November 6th, 2011

Book Review:  “Everton Strange But Blue” (2010©)
Last Thursday I finished reading: “Everton Strange But Blue“, by Gavin Buckland (2010©).   The book was originally published in 2007, but it is updated yearly.  The author is what is affectionately known in England as a “stathead”.  That is, someone who loves (and does) keep track of the arcane knowledge of something – in this case, Everton Football Club, otherwise known as “the Blues”.  Fans of the team are also known as “Blues”.
First, a little background information.  Everton is one the oldest football (aka: soccer) clubs in England.  It is one of the two best clubs on Merseyside (aka: Liverpool), the other one being the Everton Reserves.  (Just kidding.  It’s and old joke, but it still works…)  The other, of course, being the Liverpool Football Club, otherwise known as “the Reds”.  (Manchester United fans might dispute this as their club is also know as the “Reds” and they are only a stones throw up the Mersey River.)
Anyway, getting back to the book, this was a going away present from a friend (a Blue) at the end of our trip to visit Hil’s family during this last summer.  Everyone knows I’m a avid reader, so I’m easy to get presents for.  Anyway (again), this book is a collection of short stories about interesting and unusual statistical facts about Everton F.C.  The book is well written with obvious enthusiasm by someone who clearly loves both the Blues and statistics.  There in lies my problems with the book.  “Footie” in England is not essentially a sporting event.  It is intertwined with the culture in a way that is not fully approachable for an outsider (like me) to appreciate.  The U.K. is a small enough country that you can actually attend many of the away games by car and until recently (the last 15-20 years) was reasonably enough priced that the average person could attend many home games.  The closest social / sporting equivalent in the U.S. would be the American football SuperBowl.  Even this isn’t the same, because it’s held on neutral ground, it’s only one game a year, and tickets are virtually unobtainable for the average person.  But we do hold SuperBowl parties which create the social / cultural equivalence (somewhat).
My point being, (you knew I’d get around to it eventually) while the book is full of wonderful trivia, which I normally love, I don’t have the lifelong fan experience to appreciate much of the nuances of trivial subtleties the author covers.  For example, games with four goalie changes, or games which are lost by multiple own-goals.  They are interesting occurrences, but I have not shared in the emotional depression of such a loss and so mean less to me (except as historical footnotes).  I remember being shocked by the murder of a South American player because he has scored an own goal in a World Cup match and his country was eliminated from the tournament.  The player was machine-gunned down at a restaurant after returning home.  Now THAT is a fan taking your sport a bit TOO seriously.
The second problem I had with the book – which is why it took me so long to complete – was there was no discernible theme.  By this I mean, there were no clear sections, “Here’s a few of our worst losses”; “Here’s a few of our greatest wins”; or even, the most simple – chronological – highs and lows from the earliest days to the present.  Having said this, I should say the 50 stories are chronological, it’s just that the stories don’t seem interesting that way.  Two or three goalie stories may be separated by 30 or 40 years, so by the time you get to the second or third story, I had lost track of the first.  This happened to me repeatedly while picking the book up and putting it down and I never got the feeling that reading the book straight through would have altered the perception.
The best thing about the book was (and is) the language.  “Scouse” is the local dialect of British English spoken on Merseyside.  For Brits, it’s an inflection or slurring or dropping of syllables and words.  For me, Scouse is poetry and imagery and humor.  It’s an imprecise description which means nothing and yet says everything.  One example: “the center-half finished the match courageously.”  What the heck does that mean?  Who was he (no name), what did he do (not stated), and most importantly what was courageous about it (undefined).  It says nothing, but it leaves it to your imagination to fill in the blanks.  In some ways, this is the greatest of storytelling.
In conclusion, I would highly recommend this to someone interested in enjoying the flavor of Scouse storytelling or to anyone who is a hardcore Blue stathead.  I would moderately recommend it to anyone who is a casual stathead or a Blue fan who wants to know more about the history of the club.  I’m not sure many others would find the book anything else but “quirky” and nerdy.
And by the way, thanks to my friend Dave, who gave me the book and who is one of those great Scouse storytellers, himself.  Over the years and during this latest trip, I’ve spent many hours enjoying Dave and my brother-in-law Robbie (another Blue) trading stories over a pint.  It’s a shame he doesn’t write his own book (or blog) on growing up in Liverpool, following Everton F.C. and working at Ford’s.  Now, that would be book worth reading!
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Universal responsibility is feeling for other people’s suffering just as we feel for our own.  It is the realization that even our enemy is entirely motivated by the quest for happiness.  We must recognize that all human beings want the same thing we want.
  —  The XIV Dalai Lama
[A noble sentiment, but what if our enemy’s happiness can only be achieved by our destruction or subjugation?  What if they don’t want the same things we want (assuming we want peaceful coexistence)?  —  KMAB]
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