In my limited experience writing about Tottenham Hotspur for Bleacher Report, I've received a mix bag of reactions regarding my love for the North London club.
"Spurs in Seattle?" one editor exclaimed when I first started writing. "That's dedication man!"
The disbelief is understandable, I suppose, given that I currently reside an entire ocean and the width of a continent away from White Hart Lane. Still, it's not as though EPL is an uncommon obsession in Seattle.
Last weekend, I had an awkward experience. I call it "near-death," but my wife tends to scoff at me when I refer to it in such a way.
It was her birthday weekend, and we celebrated by enjoying the rare Seattle sunshine with a walk along the waterfront. It was opening day for Premier League football, and although I was banned from watching ("It's my birthday! No football!"), I still could not help but wear my full Spurs attire to commemorate the occasion.
As we made our way along the winding trail, we turned a blind corner to find the most unanticipated situation imaginable awaiting us a few hundred feet away.
There, standing in a group along the water, were three Arsenal fans just as appropriately dressed for opening day as I was. And there I was in my Spurs gear, knowing full well that it was too late to turn back.
It was not long before I was spotted as one of them quickly glanced around his surroundings and immediately fixed his gaze directly upon me. As my wife and I approached, he stared me down, shaking his head in utter disbelief.
"What nerve you have," said his glare. "To wear that jersey anywhere near me."
When I reached the group, I knew I had to strike first.
My presence was announced to the rest of the them as I attempted to pass and coughed the word "posers" to my new rivals. The rest of them turned and saw me, and though I had every intention of moving on, I stopped to enjoy the looks of utter horror.
Again, it was I who broke the silence.
"So, what was the final against Newcastle? Still nil-nil? I only watched up until halftime."
"Yeah, it was nil-nil," one of them answered.
"Too bad," I said comfortingly. "Still, better than blowing a four-nil lead, yeah?" And then I laughed a bit too loudly for my own good.
"You better keep walking," one of them told me.
And I did. No use getting myself in too much trouble on my wife's birthday, and three against one are never favorable odds.
So, we moved on, and I chuckled about the encounter for most of the rest of the day.
"What were the odds of that?" my wife wondered. It was, to say the least, remarkably strange to run into three fans of the rival side on the day I wore my Spurs gear.
Still, as strange as it was for me, it was surely even more of a bizarre encounter for them.
Premier League fans in America can typically be divided into two categories: Arsenal/Liverpool/United fans, and not Arsenal/Liverpool/United fans. You'll see these three jerseys wandering around American cities on a semi-regular basis, along with the occasional Chelsea kit, but there's not usually much room for variation. Anything else feels and appears wildly out of place.
I thrive on being out of place.
But, the truth is that the American Spurs fan is far from a dying breed.
True fans (in my opinion) should spend more time disappointed than celebrating. This is why non-NYC based Yankees fans are so thoroughly loathed in America and why New England Patriots fans outside of the Northeast are laughed at.When so many of us face the difficulty and annual disappointment of our favored teams, how dare they take the easy way out?
Nonetheless, there's nothing like a couple seasons of success to win over some new recruits. And that limited success as of late is doing Tottenham wonders in gaining fans overseas.
While I once felt as though I were out of place; that I was expressing some tiny amount of individuality in my willingness to wear my 1981 FA Cup Final sweatshirt in public, I'm suddenly a member of community—one that's always on the lookout for other Spurs fans; one that breaks down the barriers of typical Seattle complacency and unwillingness to talk to our neighbors or strangers on the sidewalk because "I have that same hat at home! Come on, you Spurs!"
Another supporter sees the Spurs logo on a shirt I'm wearing at a charity event, and we talk about whether or not Luka Modric should stay at White Hart Lane.
I'll wear my Spurs beanie to a Seattle Sounders pre-match rally, and somebody will inevitably emerge out of the crowd, eager to tell the story of the time they saw a match at White Hart Lane several years ago.
Most recently, my brother (a Liverpool fan) came across a man wearing an old Holsten-sponsored kit at the gym where he works.
After telling the man the story of his obsessed older brother, the man showed up one day bearing a gift: a brand new Tottenham Hotspur full-sized flag, purchased directly from London during his most recent trip.
The local football pub (my second home) will demonstrate this fact as well as any statistic sheet could. It's owned and operated by a Hereford United fan (poor guy) plucked directly from Western England. It's long accustomed to hosting droves of Manchester United, Arsenal, and Liverpool supporters each weekend, and advertising their match schedules accordingly.
These days, Spurs matches are suddenly a major priority, as well.
When the North London Derby comes around, the place is packed, and understandably so. But, it's no longer full of Gunners fans frightening away the one or two Spurs supporters that dared to attend. The ratio is closer to 50/50 than it's ever been before.
It's nice really, to be a part of something.
I was right in the center of things when world football took it's hold of Seattle and the Sounders made their way to an enviable position as one of the region's most admired and beloved sports organizations.
There's community in football, whether you're half a block from the stadium or 6,000 miles away. In America, the community surrounding Tottenham Hotspur football has never been as alive as it is right now.
Watch out, American Gunners fans. Soon enough, you'll be fondly remembering the "good-old days" when chance encounters with the rival side were a rarity instead of an everyday occurrence.
Win or lose, Tottenham has permeated the American soccer subculture as well as they ever could have hoped.
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