the feast of insecurities

My friends over at the brand new Sixth Day Soccer are mostly Arsenal fans, and they wrote a detailed look into one of their supporters’ favorite annual traditions. As a Tottenham supporter, I felt the need to script my own reply after some banter-inspired prodding on Facebook. 

As a longtime Spurs fan, I’ve been conditioned to expecting the close of the season to be a bit uncomfortable.

Most of the time it’s depressing feelings that swell up due to the finality of Spurs again failing to meet our foolishly high expectations. And even when they do seem capable of actually reaching those lofty goals, a gut-wrenching fall from grace always seems to await just before the finish line. It’s tough not to be a realist in those situations, especially after seeing things play out following a similar pattern for majority of the last 20 years.

Luckily, I’ve always been an optimist, too. As such, I actively search out the bright spots in the dark clouds of each season’s close. Last year, it was Eriksen looking a capable creator. This season, it’s been Kane. And so long as I manage to plant those seeds of positivity during the gloomy stretch, it will normally yields hope for the following season in the early weeks of summer.

Unfortunately, Spurs’ easily-overlooked habit of under performing isn’t the only thing that makes the end of each season so aggravating for Tottenham supporters.

If there’s one thing that I truly loathe more than any other aspect of the end of each season, it’s “Saint Totteringham’s Day”.

Not familiar with the faux-holiday? It’s been celebrated by Arsenal fans at the end of each of the last nineteen seasons on the day when it becomes mathematically impossible for Spurs to finish above the Gunners in the table. Some years have seen that happen as early as March, others have filtered down to the last day. But no matter when it occurs, rest assured if you know Arsenal fans that know you’re a Spurs fan, you’re going to hear about it.

From a rivalry standpoint, my opinion on this matter is no less biased than an Arsenal fan’s would be. It’s obviously annoying to have your biggest rivals repetitively rubbing salt in your wounds. And if you protest to its celebration, you’ll be labeled “just another Spud who can’t handle the banter”.

But removing my support as much as I can from the equation, if I’m being totally honest, Saint Totteringham’s Day always seemed… well, kind of pathetic.

Sour grapes Spurs fan, reaction? Perhaps. But think about it for a minute. For a club with their resources, especially compared against Spurs’, Arsenal should finish above Spurs year in and year out.

Seeing a club celebrating marginal point differences unfurled by a significantly larger wage bill and far heftier transfer outlays seems a bit immature at best, and snobbish at worst. Over the last three seasons, the Gunners have spent on average £59.5 million more a season on wages than Tottenham. And as for net transfer spending over the same period, Arsenal have dropped a solid £111 million in net transfer fees. Spurs? They’re running a surplus of just over £2 million. And we’re not even accounting for the soon-to-be 18 straight years of Champions League money that Arsenal have raked in, too.

When you consider those numbers, that makes celebrating Saint Totterginham’s Day akin to Wall Street Banker leaning out his window and shouting “Hooray, I have more money than you!” at the middle class peons that he works alongside. I don’t much like it when people do that, and the same goes or entire swaths of fans.

But perhaps even more sad is Arsenal fans’ insistence of sticking with the tradition.

Sure, it’s always fun to have bragging rights against your rivals. I get wanting to rub it in someone’s face for a while. But doing it every season, year after year? If it’s so easy for Arsenal to do, should it really be that big of a deal any longer?

If you’re defining your yearly success by how you finish against one specific club every season — even if it is your biggest rival — that just reeks of insecurities. It’s a classic defense mechanism: I’m not happy with myself, so I’ll highlight how others are worse than me to feel better about myself. I guess finishing above Tottenham the last 20 years is something, but it’s not exactly winning titles and lifting trophies, now is it? Though maybe I shouldn’t put words in the mouth of Arsène “Fourth Place is Like a Trophy” Wenger…

And as far as I’m aware, you don’t see other clubs doing things like this either. Do Everton or Liverpool  fans celebrate a named day whenever they finish above their rivals? The Old Firm? Boca and River? Real Madrid or Barcelona? I mean I’m sure they’re happy when those days occur, but it’s not something they’re selling t-shirts for.

For me at least, I don’t look at the table after every weekend and say to myself, “I wonder where Spurs are in the table compared to Arsenal.” Sure I notice it, but it’s not the first place my eyes wander. I have an idea of where I would like to see Spurs finish in the table each season, and I watch to see if they’re on the necessary trajectory like a hawk.

But then again, Spurs’ financial situation probably dictates my expectations in that sense, and I know not every other Tottenham fan looks at things through the same lenses I do.

And that mention of money brings me back around to my original questions: why so fervently celebrate the achievement of the bare minimum that’s expected of your team?

Is it that you’re disappointed the Gunners aren’t routinely bringing home the hardware for you? (Though a second straight FA Cup might change that perception.) Have you all grown bored with the honor of gracing the Champions League and the millions that come with that? Is there frustration that things seem to have stagnated — and maybe even regressed — since the early successes of Wenger’s career at Arsenal? Is it the shame of having to count Piers Morgan’s among you?

There’s obviously something upsetting you, otherwise, why would you need to put someone else’s failure for two straight decades?

Now before you shout that I’m a hypocrite because some Spurs fans’ naively used “mind the gap” a few years ago — which, I might add, I was not one of — or because “you would do the same if you were in Arsenal’s shoes”, you try taking a beating from the same stick for 20 years and then try to not beat back your long-term tormentors once you get your hands on it. And since we’ve not finished above the Gooners in so long, there’s no guarantee that we’d actually behave in the same immature fashion. (We will.)

I know this article will just inspire more of your lot to ram Saint Totteringham’s Day down my throat in a few days’ time, and I’ll take my lumps like I always do. But deep down, you and I both know that it’s your own insecurities that you’re really celebrating. So enjoy the “feast” kids, I’m sure not-quite-glory tastes so delicious.

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3 Comments

  1. So just to start, my banter is aimed at the club not in particular its supporters. I recognize that they aren’t so different from myself and at least they aren’t Chelsea or City fans. I pointed out that particular blogger because his post was so lofty and proven so incorrect by time.
    In response to the argument that we just outspend poor Tottenham, I would say that’s disingenuous. We are not an oil backed club that has had its coffers artificially inflated by oil money. 20 years ago Spurs and Arsenal were remarkably similar. Both clubs had had success and barren spells. If Arsenal had more trophies, it was because they were mostly earned in our golden era of the 30s. The players and manager that had won two titles in the previous ten years were old or gone. Same city, same size stadium, and same revenue.
    Jurgen Klinsmann, a world cup winner (although a bit divey), was one of the first European stars to land in England after the European ban. Bergkamp came a year later. The difference, for me, was Arsene Wenger. When he became Arsenal’s manager he revolutionized tactics, training & nutrition, and brought in many young, continental footballers blah, blah, blah. Spurs could have even had Wenger. I seem to remember some story he went to WHL in ’94 to watch Klinsmann, who he’d worked with at Monaco. We started to win things. We usually spent less, but similar, money than them doing so.
    Another big change happened when we moved to our new stadium in ’06 (the first big dip in the chart, http://www.tips-for-excel.com/data-visuals/tableau-public/premier-league-spend-by-season/ ) which is a challenge that Spurs will experience soon enough. Arsenal had to start selling its best players each year and buying new young talent to finance the stadium debt. While Spurs have sold Modric, Bale, Carrick, & Berbatov, we’ve sold Henry, Vieira, Toure, RVP, Fabregas, Adebayor, and Nasri to just name the good ones.
    Our financial decisions and on field performance are what led to our success. Spurs are not a plucky Swansea that climbed out of league 1 but a Premier League institution and everything we have done was accomplishable by Spurs. To call us fat-cats when the margins between us are not that big, especially longer term, is not correct. Again our money was earned, not donated.
    I think you’re right though, 20 years is a little boring but its not like we have a proper ball. And you guys enjoy beating us on the occasion that you do (like this year). We do point out St T’s Day. Often when one isn’t winning trophies, derby victories are all one is left with. “Mind the gap” was what brought St Totteringham’s Day to the forefront for me so I could argue, at least for me, you guys started it. As far as insecurity goes, sports fans are the most insecure people ever, all of them. That’s why we play the game. To prove who is better. My “artificial” connection to team X is better than your connection to team Y thus I am a better person. It’s silly but that’s how it is.
    Again, it’s about clubs. I respect Spurs fans. I like them. I’ll drop some banter but I hope you return it.

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  2. I like a nit of good-natured ribbing between fans. As a fan of a team which continually underachieves, you have to be able to laugh at the situation and yourself, or it gets too serious.

    I like the St. Totteringham thing because it’s silly. It’s those silly little things that make it more fun for me, personally.

    Like

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