Forgive me for rehashing old news. I need to get this off my chest. When Society of Black Lawyers chairman Peter Herbert called for an end to the use of the word “Yid” by Tottenham supporters, Spurs supporters’ reactions ranged from mild annoyance to outrage. Herbert’s claims particularly frustrated me. This isn’t merely an academic question: for me, being a Yid is intensely personal, and at the root of why I’m Tottenham till I die.
I’m American, and I didn’t discover my passion for football until a few years ago. The beautiful game won me over, and I began looking for an English club to support. I knew I wasn’t interested in any of the traditional powerhouse clubs, as I’ve never had much use for frontrunners. But I did want to support a club I could see with some regularity on American TV, and that I could easily follow from thousands of miles away.
You see, I’m of Jewish ancestry, and Spurs’ fans devotion to reclaiming a word used to promote bigotry and make it a point of pride won my support at once.
After some searching, I found myself increasingly drawn to Spurs. There were a number of reasons: they were a storied club, with a proud tradition. They played a swashbuckling, attacking style of football. They were named after a famed Shakespeare character and skeptic (“But will they come when you do call for them?”). But what truly won me over, initially and irreversibly, was the Yid Army.
You see, I’m of Jewish ancestry, and Spurs’ fans devotion to reclaiming a word used to promote bigotry and make it a point of pride won my support at once. That gentile fans would stand against anti-Semitism was lovely, as meaningful to me as learning about ‘61, a Micky Hazard tale or a Gareth Bale assault down the flanks.
Indeed, it meant more to me than any of that (though possibly not more than a victory over Arsenal). Understand that in America, European football has an ugly reputation for racism and bigotry. I’m not saying this is an earned reputation, mind you (Lazio chants aside), but every American who pays even a bit of attention to football has heard horror stories. While I’m not saying most or even many Europeans are bigots (and America has more than our share), it was reassuring to find unambiguous evidence of a club’s supporters standing up against such ugliness. In the Yid Army, I found a direct refutation of the ugliest aspects of humanity. Tottenham’s support had reclaimed the word and made it their own.
And that’s what Yid means to me, whenever I hear or see it in the context of Spurs. It isn’t just a name, and it certainly isn’t hate speech. It’s a show of unity and solidarity. It’s a community standing up for its own. It’s what first made me love Tottenham.
It isn’t just a name, and it certainly isn’t hate speech. It’s a show of unity and solidarity.
So forgive me if I’m not interested in having someone try to take that away from me. I take such efforts personally, and I can only say: We’re Tottenham Hotspur. We’ll sing what we want.