The North London Derby. A personal paradox. How can one hate something so much yet love it, be it dark demented love? It's like having a girlfriend that routinely beats the **** out of you but the sex is great even though sometimes you can't finish because you go from French kiss to getting slapped across the back with the lash of a whip. Humiliation has never turned me on.
I hate watching this game. Much like any given football match I'd rather be at the ground, surrounded by fellow sufferers so that pain or glory is shared amongst thousands. Even in defeat, there's a cleansing that you work through when you have to travel back home alone with your thoughts and a thousand sad faces. On-the-road therapy session. If you win you drown your throat with booze or make your nostril hairs dance to the tune of a Colombian beat. If you lose, you do the same. As long as you're surrounded by friends, it eases the pain or elevates the pleasure.
Watching this game at home (which is what I'm going to be subjected to this Sunday) is like being strapped into a chair and having your eyelids pulled open whilst you flashback to every single horrific moment that has left you hating them lot down the road more than hate could ever possibly allow. That '87 League Cup semi-final, the '93 FA Cup misery and most of the 90s and 2000s including the police approved Henry celebrations and the indignity of the two successive 5-2 capitulations. Even if you're confident, you're reminded by that ever paranoid voice in your head to practice self-preservation of nerves and embrace pessimism, because if you don't quite believe then it won't hurt half as much as throwing yourself into an ocean of optimism if the worst case scenario plays out.
I still opt for the latter, which is why I'm so battered and bruised from one derby to the next.
The game could be minutes old yet I find yourself screaming at the ref to blow the whistle for full time. I'd rather the game was quickly decided by a flip of a coin so I can avoid losing years from my life expectancy. Even if we're 4-0 up and storming it, I find yourself nervously twitching when they grab a goal back. You're never meant to enjoy a North London Derby, just endure it. You never want to lose to them, never. Why would you? Why would you even consider it even if (in the past) it's been inevitable? Any goal against them should be celebrated like the last goal that will ever be scored.
The sheer weight of expectancy paralyses me with fear of defeat and the pressures of expectancy that victory will bestow on me. I'd even take a draw just to avoid the risk of a loss.
Even that much maligned chant that invites you to stand if you dislike our red shirted white sleeved neighbours from the down the road defines the hatred that exists, a hatred that doesn't necessarily require reminders amongst ourselves but still it binds us all much like it binds them. We hate them for their presence in the north from the south and they hate us because they need something to distract them from their self-loathing.
Yet the rivalry is fuelled by hatred that, if we're all honest, no longer needs explanation. This rivalry is the purist of rivalries, without any socio-economic narrative or religion or politics. This is purely based on football and football territory, with the delicious irony that the self-loathing comes from the reality where most of their supporters would have followed us had their club died the death they escaped from or merged with Fulham,
Does any of this rhetoric help me on match-days?
Of course it doesn't.
Neither does the wall punching. Such is the venom felt at times, I could quick easily knock out the Grim Reaper if he had the audacity to turn up mid-game to cart me off to the afterlife.
I don't know if I hate losing to Arsenal football club or hate losing to their supporters or hate losing to this perpetual fallacy of a shadow. If there's an actual difference between any of that. It's all one and the same on any given day. The franchise. The enemy. I'd gladly hate them be it standing, sitting, sleeping. I hate them when I'm not even thinking about them. That isn't small time. That's the essence of a nemesis, even if said nemesis festers in a swamp that originated south of the river.
Even with the potential for humiliation or glory, this game still makes me feel more alive than anything else. The journey has me shifting between purgatory, heaven and hell with as much linear consideration as a Quentin Tarantino movie (with about the same amount of gratuitous violence and swearing).
There is no point in traditional tactical analysis.
These games are more 'cup game' than actual cup games. For all the preparation and pound for pound comparisons, any suggested script is torn to shreds and ticker-taped before you can scream 'red card'. Players play out of the skin, others freeze. The unexpected becomes the expected and vice versa...none of it makes any sense. Form goes out the window. You're chewed up, swallowed then spat out. And that's on a good day.
I can only hope that Spurs conquer Spurs to be able to defeat Arsenal. You know what I mean by that. It's when you hold something in your hands and then decide to let go for no other reason than questioning why you're holding it in the first place. Fragility is common place, belief all consuming and powerful. You can only choose one or the other.
I don't care for the hype. I don't believe the tags of under-rated or over-rated. New players, old players. They have a more settled team (injuries aside) whereas we await that injection of creativity. Third time of asking, to start well and retain the momentum to the conclusion. I dare not predict the outcome.
The very essence of this game is like any other football match just 1000 times more intense for the supporters. You hope those playing can channel our desire with more control than we display when watching it.
I hate it. I love it.
I might pretend I want to look away but I will never be able to take my eyes off it.
I am Tottenham. I hate Arsenal.
There's this football war, standing here alone, and then there's everything else over there in the miscellaneous box.
Is it Sunday 4pm yet?