I spent the weekend in a fog of depression that started sometime after 9:30AM on Saturday and ended sometime Sunday afternoon as I walked through New England watching the turning of the season. The snow is melting, the sugar maples are beginning to bud, the sap leaking through the cracks to be collected in buckets and then boiled for hours and hours until it becomes sap. The Metaphor, says the inner-movie-narrator, is that from death comes something new. But the truth is winter isn't death and neither is drawing with Woolwich... even when it feels like it is.
When Alexis Sanchez scored the equalizer, the Kinsale Pub in Boston fell silent. We had been anxious, then angry, then excited, then jubilant, then silent. And when the three whistles were blown I grabbed my jacket and headed home. This was a loss masquerading as a draw. This was a missed opportunity. This was not good enough.
Of course there were positives. Lamela,Dembélé, and (yet again) Danny Rose were absolutely outstanding. Wimmer made what was essentially a legendary tackle. And Harry Kane continued his outstanding form in North London Derbies with a curled ball that followed the kind of assist from Alli that almost allowed us to forgive a mediocre showing up to that point.
And yet, there I was, driving home, my team sitting second in the table in March(!), above that lot from down the road (!), in a season that we all would have been satisfied with finishing fifth and going deep in a couple of cups, and I felt like we had just gotten kicked in the chest. And that's when I remembered the ride back from the Bil Nic in Tottenham after our last North London Derby.
I had never been to London before that week earlier this season, so before I left I got some advice from a few friends about where to stay and so I ended up in an Airbnb in Islington. Gooner territory. For the week leading up to the Derby it didn't bother me. To be honest, I didn't feel their presence at all. But that Sunday, on the tube home, they all got on at Highbury and suddenly I was surrounded by jubilant fans in red and white scarves talking about "what an amazing game! glorious finish!" I stewed in my hatred. HATRED. I couldn't believe how much of it I felt towards these strangers. And then I got off the tube, and checked Twitter and saw exactly what I expected: Tottenham Hotspur supporters mourning an away draw against their greatest rivals. I said a quick prayer of thanks that fate made me Spurs, and then I packed my bags for home.
Which brings me to the truest positive of what to take away from the weekend draw against the Scum from South London. In the Premier League era we have played them that shall not be named 48 times.
HERE ARE OUR RESULTS IN THE NLD (PREMIER LEAGUE ERA)
W - 2
D - 9
L - 13
W - 8
D - 11
L - 5
Those are not flattering numbers. No matter how you spin them. And when you look closer it's even less so. Of the 24 seasons in only 9 did they 2 or fewer points from both games combined. In other words: the vast majority of the time we beat them or draw level in one game they beat us in the other. Okay, but that's fine we all know we were pretty shit in the 90s. But what about the past few years?
For the past 10 years they've taken 21 out of a possible 30 points at their ground. We've taken 6.
At our house we've only managed 16 while they've won 11.
When looked at through the cold lens of points won and lost, they have every right to expect to get something out of every game they play against us. And it shows in their tweets.
Here's following a 2014 draw:
While we treated that same draw in 2014 as reason for celebration:
Now compared those two tweets following this season's draw at the Emirates:
This time, the feeling on the Woolwich side is a bit more joyous.
And the last time we drew at home:
Compare this to this past weekend's feelings:
If you think i'm cherry picking just take a look on twitter. It's depressed Spurs fans and tentatively less miserable Gooners. Enough of them that people on both sides are trying to return the fanbase to their rightful places: Blue check-marked Woolwich supporters are tweeting about how their still shit and no one should celebrate this point. While on the Spurs' side blogs like this one are trying to temper the disappointment by reminding everyone of our position in the league and our shifting expectations.
And sure, a bit of this is the order of the goals. It feels like a win when you're trailing and you get a late equalizer. And it feels like a loss when you pull ahead only to get sucker punched. But the fact of the matter remains: twice this season they celebrated a point against us and twice it felt like a loss to us.
That's what change looks like. Even before Coquelin got sent off we looked more dangerous, more likely, and more exciting. In two games we dominated them. And, true, in two games we failed to finish them off.
When theologians argue why God made the Israelites wander in the Desert after delivering them from bondage in Egypt the common phrase that's bandied about is: the Israelites that remembered slavery had to die off before a new culture could begin. Or, "You could take the Jews out of Egypt but you couldn't take the Egypt out of the Jews."
A kind of weird inverse is happening to us. The whiplash of expectations has led at least me to feel furious at a result like the Arsenal draw. And I don't want to remember the past. I don't want to feel like it's okay and look how much better we are now than we were then. But, on the other hand, there is a culture of losing in this team. There is a culture of disappointment. There is a culture of seeing omens in everything. A pervasive sense of "Oh this is how we end up losing the league."
Wait, what??? We are worried about losing the mother fucking league???? Fuck everybody this is still the greatest season I've ever experienced as a Tottenham supporter. And so, yes, it's disappointing to drop those points. But it's encouraging to be disappointed. It's encouraging that we've gone from hoping for a top 4 berth to feeling gut punched by not going top of the table for a few hours. Progress! It feels good!
One final, unrelated thing:
This was the second time I watched a game at the Kinsale. The first was the derby in the Capital One Cup earlier this year. Then, as on Saturday, Woolwich's first goal came after a spell of chatter and distraction at the pub. The critical and fairly unreasonable side of me says that we let a goal in because some supporters a few thousand miles away decided to start talking about that time that "Sully ate the biggest burger I ever seen, bub! You shoulda been there, it was wicked crazy, aw damn they just scored." Of course, barring the possibility that 2004's "The Butterfly Effect" was actually a documentary, there's no logical way that the pub's lack of concentration had anything to do the final scoreline.
What there is, however, is the curious case of the sleeping therapist. The story goes that a guy goes to his shrink once a week, and once a week his shrink falls asleep midway through the session. The guy gets angrier and angrier until he finally confronts the therapist about falling asleep when he's paying good money to be listened to. The shrink calmly replies that if he's falling asleep it's only because the patient is withholding important information—that essentially falling asleep is a response to something within the patient and not within the therapist. In other words, they started discussing the Red Sox because Tottenham had come off the boil and were essentially about to give up a goal. I guess my point is: The Kinsale Irish Pub is capable of predicting about five seconds into the future.