When I turned thirty I had what can only be described as the early onset of a post-quarter-life-midlife-crisis. I was consumed by the desire to do something kerr-ay-zee, so I took myself down to the local tattoo parlour on the eve of the 2008/9 season and booked myself in for an hour or so of self-inflicted skin-scratching, pricking, searing pain. On my right shoulder now resides a cockerel balanced on top of a football. It’s there forever. Forever, ever? Forever. And I hate it and love it in equal measure. It’s there now as a permanent reminder with its ink-stained durability, of the despairing futility that being a supporter of a football club brings. It’s a nihilistic pursuit, with little if any reward. Because like Spurs, I cannot ever erase it. It’s part of me now, for better or for worse.
What a fool I must have been to even subtitle a Dispatch in December Why Spurs Will Win The Premier League. Why didn’t anyone stop me? It was inevitable that a capitulation would happen but like a doe-eyed teenaged girl with an idiotic notion that Justin Bieber is only singing for her, I truly believed that this was the year that Spurs finally went and won the damned thing.
Wherever Spurs finish in the league, this season, like no other I remember, will forever be recalled with the melancholic sigh of what could have been. We were ten points clear of Arsenal at one stage. Breathing down the Manchester clubs’ necks after Benoit Assou-Ekotto’s thunderbolt against Everton in January. I even had the foolhardy temerity to tell my best friend (a Man United fan) that I would have to call an untimely end to his stag weekend (which I am currently on), because I would have to get down to White Hart Lane to participate in the celebrations. He’s finding all this highly amusing.
Since that fateful day in February when Fabio quit and Harry was acquitted, I’ve sat back and watched in horror as Spurs’ season shrivelled up with the terrifying rapidity of a dastardly Nazi in Raiders of the Lost Ark. The home defeat to Norwich was embarrassing in its toothlessness, the horrorshow that was the North London derby was humiliating but it was the ease with which Chelsea nonchalantly brushed Spurs aside in the FA Cup semi-final that brought on one of the most despairing maladies that I have ever experienced in my years supporting Spurs. It just proved that life doesn’t always reward the good guys. If life was fair, why then has John Terry ended his season lifting the Cup? It could be even worse next week. I’ve wanted this season to end for a long time now, unable to bear watching Spurs limp across the finishing line; a shadow of the team they were in December.
I do realise I’m having a little whine but Spurs really let their fans down this season. Which begs the question why do we keep coming back for more when we know how the song goes? Like David Bowie says, we’ve “heard it ten times or more”. Does a football club genuinely possess character traits that are as immutable as DNA strands? Are Spurs forever doomed to be “flakey”, to use Gary Neville’s description of them?
As an entity, Tottenham Hotspur Football Club is not a physically breathing organic being. So why, does it continue to make the same mistakes, provide its fans with the same pain, every season? It’s the same as when people get emotional about sending a car they’ve had for twenty years to the scrapyard. Or when fictional characters such as Holden Caulfield or Elizabeth Bennett are talked about by their admirers as if they had inhabited the world at some point in history. Why are these notions and institutions afforded such human qualities?
We support football clubs because they are a projection of ourselves. They embody both our hopes and fears and when they fall short of our high expectations we can’t help but feel saddened by this. Our teams remind us that we are fallible, imperfect, inconsistent and farcical; often all these traits simultaneously. But just because I have this perception of Spurs, it does not necessarily mean that another fellow fan sees Spurs through the same prism of resignation. Football clubs mean different things to different people.
In many respects, it’s much like a marriage. My wife is hands-down the most eloquent, intelligent, creative person I have ever known. I on the other hand, am lazy. I don’t like doing the housework. I have a phobia of picking up telephones. And I have yet to pass my driving test. Of course, she has her own flaws but that’s not my point. The point is that she has always believed in the best of me and although I may not always meet those expectations, she supports me in everything I do. Just like why we keep going back to our clubs in the hope that one day, they may just get it right. Just ask those long-suffering Manchester City fans watching their team on the brink of greatness or the Blackburn supporters who’ll renew their season tickets regardless of the farce that is Venky’s ownership of the club.
I could have chosen any club to support and any person to marry. But I didn’t. And I don’t regret either, despite the trials and tribulations that we inevitably will experience. Because when it’s good, those moments are more than exquisite. And they’re addictive.
The day after I got the tattoo done, Spurs went to the Stadium of Light and lost to Sunderland. That should have served as fair warning. Just as the lasagne episode of 2006 should have. Or any other heartbreaking failure Spurs have served up as the years have passed. The thing is though, when you love something so much, you know there’s always that beautiful Kodak moment just around the corner. And there’s always next season, right? Just don’t EVER let me write another Dispatch on it. I’m sure Mrs T will keep me grounded on that front.
Further reading: I Heart Manchester United: A Confession
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