Kane is one of our own, but what happens if you don't feel, or don't fit the stereotype of what it is to be one of us? From across the pond Aaron Wolfe looks at what it is like watching a local boy come good on a global scale.
When I was ten-years-old I’d spend my summer afternoons in the backyard playing what I called “imagination games.” Sometimes I’d be a police officer catching bad guys, other times a miner on some futuristic planet (I read too much science-fiction). But most commonly I’d be a professional baseball player.
I’d never be a star — maybe because of some latent class consciousness, or maybe an early sign of low self-esteem — but instead I’d be a journeyman pitcher in the twilight of his career making good by striking out whoever was the star of the week. I’d stay out there for hours, my sweatpants tucked into my socks, a baseball cap on my head, playing the part as best as I could.
Sometimes a friend would come over and we’d walk down to the schoolyard. And if we could avoid being tortured by a guy called “Pubic Tim” (he carried a switchblade and had a terrible mustache that looked like a barely pubescent crotch) then we’d play stickball.
For the uninitiated, stickball is a sort of rudimentary baseball in which you throw a ball at a friend holding a broomstick who then tries to hit it. We never kept score, we didn’t really care. All we cared about was pretending that we were professional baseball players. Throw a good enough strike, or hit the ball hard enough (maybe even into Gloria’s yard!) and, no matter how old I was, I’d believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was about to be plucked from obscurity to play for my hometown team — The New York Yankees.
“We” being fans of sport that are living and breathing human beings. In other words, we dreamt of being Harry Kane.
I think it’s a pretty universal feeling be it with Baseball, Football, Cricket, or professional Wife Tossing. We all fantasized we could join our favorite team. “We” being fans of sport that are living and breathing human beings. In other words, we dreamt of being Harry Kane.
And yet, to be honest, the first time I heard “He’s One of Our Own” flow from the faithful at White Hart Lane I didn’t quite get it. In part this is a function of living 5,000 miles away, having never set foot in England let alone North London. But also it helps that I’m a Polish-Russian-American Jew without an ounce of Anglo-Saxon blood in me. Oh and then there’s the fact that I was raised with a healthy distrust of tribalism, orthodoxy, and even fan-allegiance.
“What does ‘one of our own’ mean?” I ask myself. I mean, every time the improbable Harry Kane scores a goal I want to crawl out of my skin, climb to a mountain top and scream “THANK GOD FOR TOTTENHAM, THANK GOD FOR HARRY KANE!” But at the same time, I can’t possibly believe that Kane is “one of us” when I constantly believe that I don’t even belong.
On a Tottenham-specific forum (to remain unnamed) a great debate has often raged about the difference between so-called “plastic” fans and “real” supporters. “You can’t call yourself a supporter if you don’t go to matches!” They shout. “Don’t tell me Soldado has a lovely first touch, or Lamela’s haircut makes him look like a 55-year-old lesbian from Utah! You can’t have an opinion if you don’t see them play live!”
I watch games from my apartment in Brooklyn. My two-year-old son marches around the living room while I sing “Oh When the Spurs…” I’ve made him sob on more than one occasion because Eriksen has just scored a late winner and I’ve almost dislocated my shoulder from pumping my fist so hard.
But am I one of you?
A few months ago I joined an expat Spurs supporter now living in South Carolina at a bar in Manhattan’s Chelsea to watch a game played in Liverpool. The geography of the whole thing was mind bending, especially when you factor in that he is an Iraqi-Brit and I’m a Polish-Russian-Jew. When Harry Kane scored in the 26th minute we jumped up and down, we embraced, we screamed until we were hoarse and then we sang “He’s one of our own, he’s one of our own!” But I did it with the tiniest of shame. Deep down in my heart I felt I was play acting. This expat from South Carolina had the right to sing. He’d been born and bred Tottenham. I was a fraud.
I can’t possibly believe that Kane is “one of us” when I constantly believe that I don’t even belong.
This discomfort only deepens when you take into consideration the recent spate of terribly right-wing anti-immigration sentiment in the news and on the various forums I visit. That plus a healthy amount of hearing about “that lazy African wage thief” and it doesn’t take much to make me feel genuinely uncomfortable that we have players from Argentina, France, Algeria, and Belgium playing out of their skin and yet we sing “one of our own” about Harry Kane. As if to say that the others don’t belong. The others are just for hire. But English pride is reserved for English players.
This past Friday I booted up my computer, set the IP spoofer to “United Kingdom” and loaded the ITV player to watch England play Lithuania. To be honest based on the pre WWII geography of the Soviet Union I probably had more rights rooting for the Lithuanians than I did the Three Lions. And full disclosure: I hated watching Rooney and Welbeck score. I simply don’t understand the draw of International Football and so all I see is players that I hate scoring and celebrating. On a cellular level my body says: it is wrong to feel joy for a Wayne Rooney goal.
But then Harry Kane took off his bib and pulled on his shirt. And suddenly I leaned in. I fired off a series of Facebook messages on a Spurs forum. I turned up the volume.
And when he scored after only 80 seconds on the pitch a tear welled up in my eye. Twitter came alive, Facebook notifications went through the roof. And I felt something that was undeniable: one of our own had just scored for England.
It’s not just that he grew up supporting Spurs. And it’s not just that he’s from North London. It’s something much larger than that. Harry Kane unlike any player I’ve ever watched, looks like he’s thrilled to be there. He looks like he’s filled out a form in the back of a kids magazine that says “tell us in fifty words or less why you want to play football when you grow up.” He’s won his place for a day in the starting lineup and, lookout, turns out the kid can actually play!
He looks like he’s filled out a form in the back of a kids magazine that says “tell us in fifty words or less why you want to play football when you grow up.”
If Hollywood knew anything about anything they’d be in the middle of a deathmatch to buy the rights to remake “Bend it like Beckham” but this time make it a dumb kid from the suburbs. Call it “Kurl it like Kane.” That one’s for free, Hollywood.
As the England game wound down I finally understood what that song meant. Harry Kane is all of us. He’s living a fantasy that is so universal that all of Wembley could have sung it and they would be telling the truth.
I don’t know if I’ll ever truly feel like “one of us.” That’s a deficiency of mine I’ve had for as long as I’ve been alive and in truth has very little to do with football or Tottenham or nationality or whatever. But I will always be a dreamer. I will always be a romantic.
Harry Kane has given me and so many a little fuel for our fire. And when five years from now he’s got his newly dyed hair tucked into a pink cap, wandering petulantly around London waiting to be sold to some newly rich club in the soon to be formed Coca-Cola League of Eastern Uzbekistan, it will still be true: he’s one of our own, he’s one of our own. Harry Kane. He’s one of our own.