Come On You Spurs

Tottenham HotspurThere are moments in a father’s life when everything superfluous falls away. At these moments, there is only you, the child, and a spiritual connection that defies rational explanation. It’s a form of pointed meditation, really. A transcendent experience.

These moments often involve sports.

And so it is that another season of English Premier League football is nearly upon us. On Sunday, at 8:30 a.m. EDT, Tottenham Hotspur will kick off against newly promoted London club Crystal Palace.

Why does this matter? Because I chose to allow it to matter in 2009. Here’s a detailed explanation of what happened, but if you’d rather not read it, here’s the short version: I went to London and caught Spurs Fever, which I not-so-inadvertently passed on to my sons.

There are two videos I’d like to share as the season approaches. The first is of Tottenham supporters at Fulham’s Craven Cottage singing one of the club’s songs, “Oh, When the Spurs Go Marching In.” They spin it with a distinctive, chill-inducing, slow-clap version before breaking into highly spirited verse with fast clapping and back-and-forth chanting. Love it.

Nice, right? I’m fired up already. Now, here’s one of my then 4-year-old son performing the same song in the back seat of our car a few years ago. This is the “moment” I mentioned earlier, and I get to re-live it every time I watch the video. Here you go:

Come on you Spurs.

These Aren’t the Spurs You’re Looking For. Move Along.

Jay knows not one, but two Tottenham Hotspur fight songs by heart. He actually learned them two years ago, back when my sickness was still new and I was extraordinarily contagious.

Sickness? Yeah.

Spurs Fever.

How did this happen? Long story short: NOT because of Bill Simmons.

Long story slightly longer:

In October 2009, I traveled to London to cover the Buccaneers-Patriots game at Wembley Stadium for CBSsports.com. It was the final road trip of my sportswriting career, although I didn’t know it at the time. The (American) football game took place on the same day as one of the games of the year in the English Premier League, Liverpool-Manchester United. I had heard of both teams, of course, but the way England simply shut down during the match made me think it was something kind of huge and momentous, like a GOP presidential debate.

But no. It was just a normal weekend in the EPL. A meeting of two of the historical Big Four, sure, but only the 10th game of a 38-game season for both teams. Early days, indeed.

When the gates open before an NFL game in the U.S., the early arrivers abandon their tailgate spots and stream into the stadium. In places like Green Bay, fans just can’t wait to get to their seats and soak it all in.

On that day at Wembley, the gates opened and … nothing. A few Bucs and Patriots filtered out onto the field, and the pregame performers rehearsed in front of 90,000 empty red seats. Where was everybody?

Those not jammed into Anfield on Merseyside (two words I never would have been able to write with conviction three years ago) were parked in front of screens watching Liverpool beat the Red Devils, 2-0, thanks to goals by Fernando Torres (remember when that used to happen?) and late substitute David Ngog. Upstairs at Wembley, the gathered members of the media were crammed into the dining area, all agog at Ngog’s late clincher.

I watched, too. And when that match was done, the curious Brits who had shelled out their hard-earned pounds to watch what would be a Patriots romp against the Bucs began to flow into Wembley.

Clearly, they had their priorities straight.

So, that’s where it started. I was infected with Spurs Fever that very day, although it would take a few weeks to fully manifest itself. I guess you could say I was THFC positive. It didn’t develop into the full-blown Fever until I sat down and began my research.

You see, I wanted a team. After being exposed to such collective passion on such a grand scale, I needed to feel it.

I chose Tottenham Hotspur Football Club because:

  • I didn’t want one of the American bandwagon teams, so that ruled out Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool.
  • I wanted a team from London, so that gave me Fulham, West Ham United, Arsenal and Tottenham (Queens Park Rangers had not yet progressed to the Premier League).
  • I wanted a team with a chance to win something, so that ruled out Fulham and West Ham.
  • I did not want a team that stood for all things evil and rank in the world, so that ruled out Arsenal.

That left Tottenham Hotspur, founded in 1882. The more I learned about the Lilywhites, the more I liked.

They win. They lose. But they do both with style. (Today’s North London Derby embarrassment notwithstanding. I don’t want to talk about it.)

I even liked their Latin motto: Audere est facere, which translates loosely, “To dare is to do.”

(A quick aside here. I grew up a fan of the University of North Carolina men’s basketball team. That came naturally growing up in Eastern North Carolina, as a subconscious rebellion against my nuclear family – N.C. State fans, all – and as a conscious tribute to point guard Phil Ford, whose days in Chapel Hill coincided with the start of my very unsuccessful youth career as a ball-handling, dishing point guard. I used to love all things UNC, as a quick glance at my casual wardrobe will attest. By the time I discovered Tottenham Hotspur, I think I had outgrown my childhood favorite – but not the need to embrace a team. So, Tottenham came into my life when I was most vulnerable to the disease.)

Now? Jay knows who Gareth Bale is, but he has never heard of Michael Jordan or Albert Pujols. He knows who plays at White Hart Lane, but Fenway Park might as well be a Disney attraction.

In other words, he’s got it, too. I suppose I should feel guilty about infecting him with Spurs Fever. But I can’t. It’s pretty cool to hear him sing, “Commme onnn you Spur-urrrrrrrrrs!” and “Oh, when the Spurrrrrrrrrrrrrrrs … Go marching innnnnnnnnnnn!

Oh, who am I kidding? Jay doesn’t have a disease. It’s social programming with mind control (aka the Force). It’s good to be the Dad. COYS.