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Rossi: Finding a fix by siding with Everton

| Sunday, Aug. 17, 2014, 9:33 p.m.
Everton players form a wall to block a free kick during the English Premier League soccer match between Leicester City and Everton at King Power Stadium, in Leicester, England, Saturday, Aug 16, 2014. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)

Sports reporters have it hard. Really. The luckiest ones get to cover the teams they grew up watching only to usually end up hating those same teams. It's never personal, just the way it works. The more you see the less there is to like and soon you stop liking everything.

That's a problem, and it was mine as a sports reporter.

English soccer made sports fun again. Never saw that happening. So glad that it did. Now, a little part of me is like everybody else when it comes to sports.

It required restraint last week not to purchase the alternate “kit” (uniform) worn this season by Everton. The kit includes a white jersey and purple shorts. Last season, Everton's alternate kit resembled Sweden's national team. Now it looks like something donned by Northwestern volleyball.

It should be shelved, but only because of what happened on Saturday.

Poor box defense prevented Everton from opening its English Premier League “fixture” (schedule) by taking three points at Leicester City. The true blue “side” (team) had a 2-1 lead until four minutes from “time” (game's end). The “result” (finish) was a “draw” (tie). Everton settled for only a point. Champions League berths belong not to sides that fail to hold leads against opponents coming out of relegation.

OK, that last paragraph probably lost many of you. “Football” (soccer) has its own language.

The English Premier League, or EPL, is the NFL of the rest of the world. It is the envy of all.

Everton is hardly envied by anybody. It is one of two EPL sides in Liverpool. The other is… Liverpool.

Even the Beatles took second billing to this rivalry.

A colleague is a Liverpool “supporter” (fan). His response five years ago to my choosing Everton isn't suitable for print. We speak almost daily save for two weeks each EPL season. The Merseyside derby has divided families. It divides us. One derby day Everton will win at Anfield, and I'll have something to say other than, “Well, we have Paul McCartney!”

Irrational thoughts. Talking of a team as “we.” Fun.

Some soccer supporters presume to have picked their sides. This is a lie they allow themselves to believe. Your side picks you. Your side fits you, actually.

Everton found me. It's a perfect fit, too.

The dearest of friends, Matt Sampogna, made the recommendation. He sensed something was missing. He realized the sports reporter he knew best had shown no interest in watching sports on the last free weekend before the Penguins opened training camp. He understood that we were happy to drink beer for breakfast, and that only one sport made that socially acceptable.

“Everton would be a good side for you,” he said.

He had reasons, and within a few years of supporting Everton those reasons became frustratingly obvious.

Over the past five seasons, Everton has won just enough to never lose big. It hasn't won the EPL, qualified for the Champions League or been relegated to a lower division. That's probably how things will continue. It's basically how things have been for three decades. Still, Everton has a great history, plays well at its “pitch” (home) and usually sees its best players “sold” (dealt) to richer sides.

Essentially, Everton is the Pirates.

Matt soon will be married. Things will change. Except he'll still support Manchester United, and he knows deep down that's just as lame as cheering for the Yankees.

Maybe none of this matters to Pittsburghers raised on American football, baseball and hockey. It matters to this Pittsburgher — deeply, necessarily and absolutely.

Imagine a job writing about sports in a sports town and not caring at all about sports. It's hard, creates a heartbreaking distance socially, and it doesn't make sense to anybody.

Except that was the only sense I could make for how to maintain objectivity when assigned to cover the Steelers in a Super Bowl, the Penguins in a Stanley Cup Final and an All-Star Game at PNC Park.

An audience of sports fans needs, though doesn't always want, reporters that prize objectivity above all else. However, the distance to disconnection is short, and the danger for any reporter is losing perspective.

Everybody needs somebody to love. So, Everton now means everything from August through May, and that's more than all right.

For me, it's been necessary.

Sports reporters needn't completely forget we're writing about games. Sorry, make that “matches.”

Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @RobRossi_Trib.

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