For those obsessed with Premier League soccer, following your favorite team is a true collective experience, where it is easy to feel as one with thousands of others. It is also an individual one, in which the emotions you feel are your emotions, the experiences you feel are your experiences, and nobody else can perfectly understand.
Over the course of the 2019–20 season, two longtime Liverpool FC followers wrote to each other about those emotions and experiences. American writer Michael MacCambridge, living in Austin, Texas, is a devoted Liverpool follower. Five thousand miles away, his friend Neil Atkinson, Liverpool resident and a longtime season ticket holder, is the host of the popular podcast The Anfield Wrap.
Each week throughout the historic season, Atkinson and MacCambridge exchanged letters, contemplating Liverpool’s progress, comparing and contrasting their different perspectives on the club and the sport, meditating on the manner in which their shared obsession for Liverpool works its way into nearly every corner of their personal lives, and discussing the differences between how the game is consumed in the United States and the United Kingdom and the role modern media plays in shaping our views of sport.
Their collaboration was both timely and serendipitous, as Liverpool marched toward its first ever Premier League title and its first league title in thirty years, with a charismatic manager and the most entertaining team in the sport. In March, of course, the soccer story was overtaken by the larger story of the COVID-19 pandemic wreaking havoc throughout the world, including sports events. In the course of their correspondence, Red Letters provides a real-time account of the pandemic that threatened the very existence of the season that Liverpool followers had been waiting more than a generation to experience.
Red Letters provides a different way to examine the culture of a worldwide sport and development of a soccer season—game by game, in real time, with hopes and expectations tested and altered as the season progresses to Liverpool’s Premier League championship, with insight from two avid supporters.