As we all know, football is not the most popular sport in the U.S. At best, it might squeak in at number five (behind American football, baseball, basketball, and hockey. I might even slot it down at #6 behind golf). I’ve lived all over the country, and even though I have not lived there in 15 years, I still call Kansas City home. I consider myself a fiercely loyal individual. As a result, I am a loyal supporter of the Kansas City Royals baseball team and the Kansas City Chiefs (American) football team. Although they each have a history of past successes, they are both amongst the worst teams in American sports today. But they are my teams and I support them regardless. I find other Spurs supporters to be equally as loyal.
You will find several examples of other loyal supporters throughout this country who counter my next point, but not many people have a sense of geographic loyalty to the teams where they were raised and often follow whoever is hot at the time. These are spineless “bandwagon jumpers” and I will give you one simple examples to illustrate this point. My own brother, who was raise under the same roof as me until we were 18 and 19 respectively, is the biggest “fair weather” fan in the world. Because Kansas City did not have a professional basketball team when we grew up there, my brother first supported the Los Angeles Lakers because of Magic Johnson. He continued support them until the emergence of Michael Jordan. In the early 90’s he changed his allegiances to the Chicago Bulls because they began to build towards dominance. Now, I believe he supports the Miami Heat because of Lebron James. You may say, “well that’s just your brother” and true, he is spineless when it comes to sports, but I could fill several pages to demonstrate my point.
Sports in the U.S. do not have the history of British sports teams. Also, we are spread across a larger land mass and more sporting organizations like the National Football League, Major League Baseball, and the National Basketball Association, just to name a few. Nearly every major city in England has a football team of some sort and most of those clubs date back to the 1800’s. With families moving across this large nation for employment, family and other various reasons, they often do not reside in the same city or even state of their upbringing. As a result, they frequently have no history or pull toward the local sports teams. With no ties to the local organizations, they time and again end up following whichever team they think has a better playing style, higher winning percentage, or even a popular player. All too often, they become spineless fans of the best team in the league or sport.
For American football fans, and I call them fans for a reason, the spinelessness continues and they only follow the top teams. With very few exceptions, if you ask an American which football team they support, you will get the same answer every time: Man Utd, Chelsea, Liverpool or Woolwich and I even recently heard a City fan. For the exception of the brilliant young man who introduced me to Spurs (or someone from N17), in over 16 years of Spurs loyalty, I never met another American Spurs supporter. They are out there, but I haven’t met them, personally. Likewise, I’ve never met a Sunderland, Fulham, Bolton, or Everton fan for that matter. All I ever hear is Man Utd or Liverpool have X number of titles, or Chelsea just won the Champions League, or Woolwich once went undefeated, but you never hear honest reasons why they truly support their club. I even know a few fans who have recently switched from Woolwich to City because of recent success. They never grew a backbone.
Back during my first year in university I took a number of computer classes. In one of these courses I sat next to a young man who every morning would pull up various web pages and would pound the table in frustration or pump his fist in the air depending on what he read. After this went on for a few days I asked him what he was reading and why he would react the way he did. He smiled at me and said, “I follow Tottenham Hotspur Football Club and they’re the most exciting and frustrating club in the world.” I was intrigued by his answer. I never really played “soccer” as a kid, but I had friends who did and I enjoyed watching them play on occasion. I was a basketball and rugby supporter. Those games were high scoring and fast paced, but I wanted to find out more about what got this lad so emotional.
He smiled at me and said, “I follow Tottenham Hotspur Football Club and they’re the most exciting and frustrating club in the world.” I was intrigued by his answer.
I asked who Tottenham Hotspur were and why he liked football. He was so animated when telling me about the club, their history, and the beauties of the game of football. After we talked for a bit, I asked him why he loved Tottenham so much. As it turned out, the lad’s father was employed by a company and they were based in London for a few years. He lived close to White Hart Lane and went to the American High School in North London. He went to games and became friends with mates who were Spurs supporters. He was so consumed by it and fell in love.
After weeks went by of asking questions and conversations on football, he invited me over to his flat to watch a game. I went, assuming I would be bored and would probably leave by halftime to go play basketball at the gym. When I showed up he and his flatmates were wearing Spurs jerseys and had scarves around their necks. He even had a Spurs poster on the wall behind the sofa. He told me they were playing at home to a team called West Ham (which sounded like a sandwich to me) and that they were rivals.
Right from the kickoff he and his flatmates were so keyed up and excited. They were yelling at the TV and were making jokes about the Hammers players blowing more than just bubbles. I did not get it, but they laughed. He started explaining players to me and telling me that he’d bet money that some guy named Teddy was going to score first for Spurs. I didn’t quite get it until he started to explain and show me how the plays would develop. To a football notice it was literally just a bunch a blokes kicking a ball around. Then it clicked. The short precise passes, the breaks down the sideline, the crosses and of course the missed opportunities. I was so wrapped up in the game I didn’t even care the game went into halftime scoreless.
As the second half started I caught myself on the edge of my seat as play would build and the guy named Teddy would shoot. We cheered and yelled, just hoping the Spurs would break the deadlock. Then it happened. Around the 65th minute the Spurs scored and we went crazy. We were jumping on the couch and yelling. For the rest of the match we were cheering for Tottenham to score again, but it never happened. The game ended 1-0 Spurs.
He invited me back to following weekend to watch the Spurs play a team called Sunderland and it because a regular routine. Until we left for the Christmas holiday, I was at his flat every weekend and saw the Spurs go 3-1-2. It was so thrilling watching them play and the devotion my friend had. Tottenham ended up finishing 10th in the final standings. If it had been that enjoyable watching a team finish mid-table, I couldn’t image what it would be like if they were good. My friend showed me what it was like to be a true football fan. To live and die with the club, the supporters, the competition, wins, draws, loses, and the passion. Even the club’s motto spoke to me, “To Dare Is To Do.”
For me, it always came down to the loyalty, pride and passion of the Spurs supporters. The fire in his eyes for the club, and the other supporters, was contagious. I have been a loyal Spurs supporter for 16 years because of the club, never any individual player or manager. I’ve had my favourites through the years, but the club has always been the foundation to my passion. I even made a pilgrimage over to the Spur’s Mecca that is White Hart Lane. I know I do not need to prove my loyalty to you, but it is because of you, the supporters, that I love Tottenham Hotspur Football Club. You make this club what it is and for that, I thank you.