Americans can be prissy about European football. “You mean soccer?,” we say, condescendingly. “The game where the players run around for an hour, sometimes dramatically throwing themselves to the ground, and nothing much else happens?”
And Europeans — and frankly the rest of the world — roll their eyes and go back to almost starting rival-team riots. Because even if one believes the players are a little soft by American football standards, the fans certainly aren’t.
One Southeast London fan of MillWall FC proved as much when he confronted the London Bridge terrorists, gripping knives as they were, fresh from mowing people down in a van.
“I took a few steps towards them and said, ‘F*** you, I’m Millwall’. So they started attacking me,” said 47-year-old Roy Larner, who was out enjoying a pint with friends when the terrorists set upon Borough Market. He was stabbed and slashed at enough that he landed in intensive care.
— Darren John Chandler (@DarrenOfAlbany) June 6, 2017
“I was on my own against all three of them, that’s why I got hurt so much,” Larner told British tabloid The Sun. “It was just me, trying to grab them with my bare hands and hold on. I was swinging. I got stabbed and sliced eight times. They got me in my head, chest and both hands. There was blood everywhere.”
It’s a bit of a departure from how Americans see the English lately. The UK has been rightly criticized for inviting terrorism into their neighborhoods through an incredibly lax immigration policy and for disarming its citizenry.
As Ben Domenech of The Federalist pointed out following the attack in London, the knee-jerk tendency toward political correctness has become a dangerous — indeed, deadly — liability in the West.
— Dan McLaughlin (@baseballcrank) June 5, 2017
Which is why the story of the Lion on the bridge is a much needed jolt of adrenaline to the heart. Because Larner confronted those men (I like to think a little in his cups) with not a weapon but his fists and his bloody English resolve. It’s a small thing. But it’s enormous in what it represents: hope.
Larner is recovering now, and a crowdfunding page established after the social media world heard of his bridge exploits has already raised almost £10,000. And he has a new nickname: The Lion of London Bridge. Millwall FC’s mascot is a lion, so the name is appropriate. But it’s also evocative of something else, something older and finer that perhaps the young English men and women of today should be reminded of. Larner’s lion has an ideological sire in the great English King Richard the Lionheart, famous for his exploits in the 3rd Crusade against Saladin. Apparently the Lionheart lives on.