FanPost

Worry Dolls


Woke in the predawn hours again.  K still sleeping off her car ride home, cats just beginning to make their rounds. 

Strikers. 

Fix coffee, fill kibble bowls, give the little dears their morning chuck behind the ears. 

Strikers. 

Check to see if it rained overnight. 

Strikers. 

Kick the laptop on, Facebook, email, Soccernet. 

Strikers. 

There's not a lot to be said at this point about the lack of transfer activity by DL & Co. that hasn't been said already.  The ennui builds like a wave at sea.  Nothing.  No news.  A pile of nothing. 

Not only is the negative psychic energy building around this transfer window crazy-making, it's actually not particularly interesting.  When I say to you, "I wish we'd just sign Adebayor on loan & be done with it," I'm 99% sure you're not thinking, "That's amazing.  What an incredible thing he just said.  That statement is sure to give meaning to the rest of my day."  & yet, speculation seems the only manna we have in this desert, dry & tasteless as it is.  Each new guess (Nilmar! Zarate! Osvaldo again!) gets chewed upon, autopsied, measured, weighed & ultimately valued.  Most times, the value is zero. 

If we're honest with ourselves, I think it's the case that we actually support two clubs: the one that plays in the Premier League & various European competitions, that fields living, breathing human beings that strive to beat other living, breathing beings across the way, who have arrived at the same place for similar reasons; & the club in our heads, Silly Season Spurs - you know, the one where Aguero's been our No. 9 since last January. These two clubs crash against each other, complicate proceedings, surprise & confound us completely.  How many folks were ready to deify Wilson Palacios before the 2009-10 season?  (A lot.)  How many people thought a loan to Middlesborough in Winter 2010 might be just the thing for an unsteady Gareth Bale?  (Also a lot.)  The Spurs team that will actually exist, the one that come September 1st will kick a ball around a grassy field is almost never concomitant with the Spurs team in our heads, especially in summer.  (I don't play, but I can't imagine Football Manager has helped ease this particular tic.)  We know this.  & yet we're up at night, fidgeting with lineups in our heads.

The faith tradition in which I grew up sends a lot of folks overseas to work on development & social justice issues.  These volunteers would often return bearing gifts.  One of the gifts my sister & I received came from an aid worker who had recently returned from a year in Guatemala.  She brought us worry dolls. 

Worry_dolls_medium

Tottenham Hotspur Transfer Targets (via upload.wikimedia.org)

 

She told us that Guatemalan children who couldn't sleep would pick up a doll, whisper their troubles to it, & then place the doll under their pillows.  My sister & I got five apiece, & they looked very much like the dolls pictured above.  I wish I still had them. 

As football fans, the wishes we make - ITKs breathing into forum threads, podcast hosts debating the merits of Striker X or Central Midfielder Y - are a form of displacement.  For our own individual reasons each of us has pinned a bit of our hope - a bit of ourselves, really - to Tottenham Hotspur FC.  It's embarrassing when you say it out loud like that, but I think it's true.  To peg any part of one's self-worth to anything...well, to anything other than one's self...is a decision that's fraught with danger, even as we remind ourselves that SPURS IS NOT THAT BIG OF A DEAL.  "It is a big deal," we say to our accusers (ourselves!).  "A tiny bit of me goes with them!" 

So really, to imagine Fernado Llorente rising to a perfectly placed Gareth Bale cross is a form of psychological unburdening - we give our worries over to an imaginary side.  & the displacement is double, because the worries we have about the club & its various dealings are actually worries we have about ourselves, the ones we love, the places & people we fear are at risk or under threat.  Those of you who come out of Judeo-Christian traditions know about scapegoating: a being (an animal, or a marginalized person) is saddled with the sins of a community, then sacrificed.  (In Old Testament Israel they used to literally drive a goat into the wilderness to die.)  Sport in general, & football in particular, is a much more complex revision of the scapegoating impulse, an intricate melodrama upon which - yes - we project our sense of iniquity, but also our hopes, our aspirations, our suspicions & our worries.  & because our psychological & even spiritual well-being is at stake, because the imagined machinations of the club in our heads can  in some sense be controlled by us, if even for a moment, & never without a tinge of loss (I know Benzema's not going to happen, but still, can you imagine?...), we let those teams carry our loads for us, if not on the field, then at least in our waking dreams. 

I'm not sure this analogy is complete or satisfying, but it strikes me that each notion or rumor or suggestion we engage when thinking about Spurs is a kind of worry doll, a stay against anxiety &, paradoxically, a generator of the very worry it seeks to assuage.  & when, in the sober light of day, nothing has happened (or something has), & the actual team takes the actual field, we feel at once a sense of relief, thankfulness that whatever catastrophe we imagined has been deferred for a little while at least; disappointment that the team that exists not quite as fantastic as the team in our minds; & a troubled sense of foreboding, that once the sun goes down we'll be beset again, & will once more turn to pour our souls out to little players made of string.

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