I Will Never Be Present to See Tottenham Hotspur Win A North London Derby at White Hart Lane

Ideas of Manifestation

I had the idea earlier this year that I would simply take my desire to take a trip to Europe this spring to cover part of the tennis clay court season--maybe Madrid and Rome--and simply make it happen. I added in the possibility of going to London to see one of the last ever matches at White Hart Lane before Spurs leave for a year at Wembley before moving into their new stadium for the 2018-2019 season. I looked at the calendar. Holy crap. The North London Derby could fit into that trip.

Did I dare? At the time, I was reading books about manifestation and considering just how much I wanted to believe them. I could make a case that I had the money. I could argue that this was a perfect opportunity to act "as if": I want to write about tennis. To do that, I should attend major tennis tournaments, right?

I decided against it. I put my powers of manifestation into other parts of my life. These parts don't have the same immediate gratification as "Trip to London to see Spurs play Arsenal at White Hart Lane! Trip to Madrid to see Rafa Nadal at the Madrid Open!" but one hopes what I am working to manifest now will in the future pay even greater dividends.

So I watched the match on TV.

Tottenham Hotspur 2 - Arsenal 0

Spurs have been on a massive upswing since Mauricio Pocchetino took over, but they have had to work to overcome a tendency to capitulate mentally when the going gets tough. Last season, you might recall, they chased Leicester all the way to the last matches of the season. Spurs held a 2-0 lead over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in the antepenultimate game of the season--Spurs needing a win to keep themselves alive in the title chase--then gave up two second-half goals to draw and give Leicester the title. They followed that up with a loss to Southampton at the Lane and a final-game loss to already-relegated Newcastle at St. James' to manage to finish third behind goddamn Arsenal. I was so disgusted by the abjectness of their late season performance last year (which I wrote about here) that I've only watched desultorily this season.

Which means I have only been partly aware that somewhere along the line, Spurs have become a group that go into most matches believing themselves to be the better team.

When you've been a Spurs fan for the period I have been (a bit more than ten years, starting when Prem games began to appear regularly on TV), you have probably come to view the North London Derby with a mixture of excitement and deep trepidation. You want Spurs to win so bad because you hate Arsenal, as is proper, but you know--you have witnessed--that most of the time, Spurs will somehow find a way to fuck it up.

So I won't claim that I watched yesterday's match from the position of smug superiority that I imagine Arsenal fans have watched most North London Derbies during the last twenty or so years, knowing both that they have the better squad and that their opposition are furthermore bound to discover a new way to lose. But I did witness a Spurs side that outclassed and outplayed Arsenal pretty much everywhere on the pitch. In the last ever North London Derby held at White Hart Lane, they looked like the better team, they looked determined to win, and they won.

I wasn't there to see it. But I watched it on TV, and it was still pretty great.

St. Totteringham's Day 2017 CANCELED

With that win, Tottenham assured themselves, for the first time in 22 years, of finishing above stupid Arsenal in the table. Perhaps unfortunately, this doesn't feel magical. It doesn't feel like some major victory. We still lost to Chelsea a week ago in the FA Cup semi-final, and with four matches left to play, we're still four points behind Chelsea in the table. An FA Cup victory would have made the season special. A Prem trophy would make it amazing. But finishing above Arsenal? I love it. But it feels only like the start of something, not its finish.

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