How the 2012-13 Tottenham Hotspur Season Helped Me Overcome My Demons

Jan Kruger

A personal reflection on what Tottenham Hotspur and sports have meant to me, and the place that this Tottenham team holds in my heart.

Sometimes, life has an odd and funny way of mirroring your situation through the many facets of your existence. With the internet, tangible life, and our own minds, we live a more fractured life than ever. Especially when it comes to an internet, a whole new dichotomy, lingo, language and morality has come to fruition. Where twenty years ago you may have had a few identities among different friends, acquaintances, and perhaps long distance contacts, that number has been squared. Now you're a different person when you're on different websites, you're a different person to different friends through text, email, Facebook. You divide yourself, become a one person study on human consciousness. While in one commentaiat you may be a brash know it all who constantly causes tension with other members, elsewhere you're a wallflower who rarely makes an interesting or informative post.

It's due to these completely different existences that you start to come across the interesting phenomenon of parallel lives. Sometimes, these lives seem to intersect, and sometimes that mirror each other. You have startlingly similar arguments going on between you and another member at one website, on another website the same argument could be occurring between two other members you follow, and then back in the tangible world you're having the exact same argument, with the exact same beats, with your significant other. You begin to feel deja vu from situations you've never actually been in, because you've witnessed it before or are witnessing it at the exact same time. Meanwhile, you see signs and signals and everything, and your emotions, thoughts, and feelings become intertwined with an independent event that has no bearing whatsoever to what you're comparing it to.

While it may seem convoluted and confusing, it's something I think is noticed all of the time. Especially noticed, when it comes to professional sports and the fanatical devotion and following it creates. I often find that teams I root for seem to have the same amount of success across the board, in my mind, even if it's not true. I found Syracuse Basketball and Tottenham Hotspur to have the same wildly surprising success in the face of massive turnover. I found Tottenham Hotspur and the New York Giants to become mired in disappointment on the final day of the season after incredibly dominant performances. I've been here before, and I know what's going to happen. It extends beyond sports and the internet though.

I always find that either monumentally memorable moments, thoughts, and times of my life coincide with something of great importance, or that I tie those memories to those occasions. I think it helps keep those memories more vivid than they usually would, as I tend to be rather scatterbrained and forgetful. I can distinctly remember my grandfathers health deteriorating before he passed in the wake of Syracuse's first basketball national championship. The New York Giants made their first Super Bowl, right around the time that I realized I was bigger than all of the other kids and the first girl that I ever had a crush on didn't think I was cute. This was also around the time when I realized that my mother was incredibly miserable in her marriage to my first stepfather and that I was living in a broken home.

This was also around the time when I realized that my mother was incredibly miserable in her marriage to my first stepfather and that I was living in a broken home.

I first began to realize my tendency to tie memories to independent events in the wake of the 2008 Summer Olympics. That summer is when I had the first girlfriend I cared deeply about. I can't help but tie in my memories of that summer to Michael Phelps quest for eight gold medals. The opening ceremonies coincided my first time meeting her parents. I can remember specific races where something particularly memorable occurred in my life. The first time I told her I loved her came when Phelps narrowly edged out Čavić in the 100 meter butterfly. In the end, the fallout became tied to other points in my life as well. I officially discovered and realized it was over when Syracuse was upset by Cleveland State.

It may seem trite and inconsequential to tie my life to something like sports, but it helps to tether my life into a common thread. Occasionally it helps me find refuge, when wildly different results are occurring in each. When I still cared a lot about baseball, the Yankees rediscovered success in the late 1990's helped me deal with a new father figure in my life. I take solace in sports, and I use it to relate to my own life. I would like to think others do as well, it's the only way I can rationalize some of the extreme and dangerous aspects of sports fandom. Deep down, who we root for is a reflection or a part of what makes us who we are, whether in a very minor way, or it's incredibly significant.

It may seem trite and inconsequential to tie my life to something like sports, but it helps to tether my life into a common thread.

I really didn't discover soccer or Tottenham Hotspur until I moved to New Jersey. My mother had finally remarried, and we had moved due to my step-grandfather's failing health. We moved the day after I finished middle school, so when I came to New Jersey I had nothing. I was left alone in our new apartment most of the summer while my parents dealt with the issues regarding my stepfathers father. I had a lot of Chinese food, free time, and no friends. With no sports i normally watched on at the time. I watched the Confederations Cup. I began to finally appreciate soccer for the first time, after deriding my cousin for years for playing the sport over American football. I remember hearing about how great a league the Barclays Premier League was, and I decided to pick a team to follow that summer, since I knew I would have a lot of Saturday's free while having few friends (in fact this continued until senior year, allowing me to develop my love for Tottenham).

I picked Tottenham specifically because I didn't want to root for a winner. I wasn't a winner myself, and I wanted my team to reflect what I thought of myself as a person. I was born into loving the New York Giants and New York Yankees. I grew up watching Syracuse sports. I followed the Ottawa Senators after their minor league affiliate chose my old hometown as their new stomping grounds. I had nothing to tie me to a Premier League team. I had never been the best athlete in any sports I played. I took to Wikipedia to find a club that reflected that. I found Tottenham, a perfectly average side. Their London location and strange name (Hotspur) attracted me to them. They went on to of course finish fifth that season in their first full season under Martin Jol. I was happy with that. I thought that it meant that I'd improve as well.

I didn't. Freshman year was pretty miserable. I missed my hometown and I had no friends. I hated New Jersey, I hated suburbia, I hated my high school that was filled with snotty kids from the north side, away from Newark, who had their friends and their sense of entitlement because their parents worked in New York or elsewhere, giving them what they wanted. I was ostracized by the south side kids, next to Newark. For all intents and purposes I was a country boy to them. I got picked on in gym class because I was soft. After being in honors history at my old middle school, taking high school courses, I was stuck in the lowest level history class for Freshman year despite protests from my mother. Kids fought constantly, it was nothing like my old school. There was twice as many kids and issues from outside school spilled into it. It was culture shock for me.

This is around when my depression began. I felt isolated from my school. I had no friends and was isolated in that respect. I started off badly with my stepfather; living with him everyday rather than seeing him only on the weekends was a rocky adjustment. I was isolated from my mother for a variety of reasons. I began to feel incredibly alone and worthless. Depression is a funny thing. It's so easy to bottle up and hide from the people who care about you and would help if you just told them about it. I really haven't talked about it until now actually, at least in a non blase way. In later years when I would have friends, I would say that I felt depressed at the time, in the sense that, "man, I am bummed out right now." I never let on about how hopeless I felt. I began to realize it began years before. I went from a relatively high achieving elementary school student, really interested in the violin, passionate about devouring books and anything I could come into contact with, to a kid who refused to read in middle school, refused to do homework, to challenge myself.

I began to feel incredibly alone and worthless. Depression is a funny thing. It's so easy to bottle up and hide from the people who care about you and would help if you just told them about it.

Jumping back to the Syracuse National Championship. At the time, that kept me incredibly happy. I ignored the issues going on in my life at the time. I felt divorced from my mother. Growing up all we had was each other. I never knew my father, and for the longest time acted like I didn't care that I have never met the man who helped create me. By this time though, my mother and I both were living on islands. We had just recently got AOL, and my mother became devoted to it, reconnecting with old friends and people who talked to her, unlike my stepfather. There was a time when I seriously thought my mother would uproot me and move to reconnect with an old high school friend in the Carolina's. I acted out by caring less and less about school. I began to get B's, C's, and D's. When my mother asked about it, I answered like a shithead, saying I was tired of being one of the smart kids and wanted to be average. That wasn't true. I was tired of uncertainty at home.

The following autumn, my grandfather passed away. He's the man I truly considered to be my father. Until I turned six, I lived with him and my grandmother with my mother. He was the formative male role model in my life. I wish i could remember the things I did with him better, like going to his favorite neighborhood bar as a toddler, where he would watch the baseball or football game while I sat next to him, eating cut up chicken fingers and drinking Shirley Temples. Everyone there thought I was going to be the next big football star at Union-Endicott (That would turn out to have been Arthur and Chandler Jones). When i grew older and moved though, I saw him less and less. I began to take him for granted, listening to him too little of the time, favoring staying at home rather than seeing him more of the time. Then he got sick. The last time I saw him, he was hacking and coughing while I watched the Giants with him, the chemo causing him to sleep through parts of the game.

I remember vividly the night I found out he passed away. By this time my current stepfather was dating my mother, and he was visiting. We drove over to my grandparents house, and of course being a stupid thirteen year old, didn't know what was going on. I remember I had asked my mother to see my grandfather in the hospital, to say goodbye. When we pulled up in front of the house, I was informed that wasn't going to happen. I bawled in a way that I haven't since. I cried with my family. I stayed at my grandmother's house for the next several days. The worst part about this was she lived next door to the funeral home. I don't remember the viewing, and I'm happy I don't remember the viewing. The next day was the funeral, and I absolutely refused to go. I couldn't stand it. I didn't get to say goodbye, and I think I thought that if I didn't see his coffin interred, I wouldn't have to believe he was dead. It was like a conspiracy, that hadn't been my grandfather's body at the wake. I still haven't been to his grave. I think it's a piece of ignorance I'd like to keep with me.

I still haven't been to his grave. I think it's a piece of ignorance I'd like to keep with me.

Jumping back to high school. I began to wallow in my depression. I didn't feel much in life. I knew when to act angry, when to act hurt, act happy. A lot of the time though, I didn't care. I found ways to maintain my depression, to refuse to connect to others. I acted as if my mother denied me the opportunity to say goodbye to my grandfather, when she really was just trying to preserve his memory as one that didn't involve tubes and monitors. I blamed my stepfather for making me move to New Jersey. I blamed the kids in my school for being themselves, which at the time meant that I thought they were weird and hostile. This is around the time when I began to think about suicide.

I had no friends. I hadn't seen my mothers family for months. My mind contorted itself to the belief that my mother didn't care about me.

When you think you're better off not existing, it's a terrible thing. It's incredibly selfish, but having been there I can't say that those who do it are reprehensible. If anything, I feel sorry for them, and wished people would have recognized the signs. When you sink to that point, you become very creative at walling yourself off. You actively run away from help, because words and actions that make you feel emotions are almost painful. You want to be empty, and you want to justify yourself. You become paranoid, you think that the slightest hint that you're in any way depressed will get you monitored and drugged. So you become a bigger liar. You make your emotions more grand, and try to act more genuine.

You actively run away from help, because words and actions that make you feel emotions are almost painful. You want to be empty, and you want to justify yourself.

Sad as it was to say, one of the things that kept me going was sports. Tottenham would do well. I ignored bad results (I stopped watching Syracuse football for this reason). The Giants won the Super Bowl, and I got to share in elation with my mother about it, and I can't even begin to tell how huge that event was to helping me reconnect to my mother. Sports were like an antidote to my thoughts and demons. While sports kept me going, I began to improve my tangible life. I started to make friends in my high school, friends who are still the some of the best people I have in my life. My relationship eventually improved with my stepfather as we became used to each other, and today I can swear we almost communicate telepathically at times. I felt genuine emotions. I made the mistake of thinking that as long as I had these things, those feelings would never come back. The rest of high school would be great. Life would be great.

After things fell apart between my girlfriend and I, I fell to my friends to feel better. I started to go out at night. I started to drink, go to parties. I got closer to my friends, but bad thoughts crept back up into my mind. I didn't open up about how I felt, and I think that let those thoughts come back and fester. My mom thought I was becoming a normal kid, going out on Friday nights. Despite this, I don't think she realized I was beginning to feel empty again. I stayed home from school for a three day stretch in the spring, pretending to be sick. Truthfully, I just lost the will to get out of bed, literally. For three days, I laid in my bed watching television like a zombie. I felt deflated, empty. It passed and I chalked it up as a minor episode. Besides, Syracuse made the Sweet Sixteen for the first time in a long time.

College was like a placebo. I saw it as a chance to be an entirely different person. The truth is, you are who you are, and you need to change and not rely on a new setting to do it for you. I should have learned that from high school. However I did make friends much quicker, and ended up pledging a fraternity with them. Pledging truly was one of the happiest times of my life. I felt great. I felt more active, I thought that maybe I would improve myself, stop being a fat ass. Again, you are who you are. I thought that just doing new things would change me, when I made no effort on my part to change myself. I got bigger, I became less and less likely to talk to girls, I developed a poor self image. At the end of spring semester of freshman year, I was starting to feel empty again. I no longer wanted to be a teacher, despite going to college for that. I had fraternity brothers I had grown close too, and enjoyed the fraternity, but as members graduated, I couldn't connect to the new members. It didn't matter though. Tottenham made the Champions League. If average Tottenham could do that, average me could reach the next level.

Over the next couple of years, I desperately repeated my formula for avoiding depression. I changed my habits. I would hang out more with my best friends, then when getting depressed despite that, hang out less. I would be forward and direct with girls I liked to usual rejection, and when that didn't worked and I still felt worthless, I kept my feelings to myself. That became the status quo truthfully. Keep my emotions to myself. I thought that if I acted on them, I'd lose them, building up emptiness. Depression doesn't work that way though. it's going to hit you regardless. I soldiered on though. I became less active in my fraternity, I wrote more after being told that I wrote well. As I found myself more worthless and empty though, I find my writing to be as well, and trailed off. I needed to challenge myself. try new things. By this time, I found SB Nation. I commented actively on Everyday Should Be Saturday, and eventually here, at Cartilage Free Captain. I decided I wanted to write here. I began to write FanPosts, trying my best to be of high quality. I eventually had the courage to ask Kevin for an author spot, which he gave. I wrote as often as I could make myself. It helped with the depression. I ignored the other things I needed to do though to stop those feelings.

That became the status quo truthfully. Keep my emotions to myself. I thought that if I acted on them, I'd lose them, building up emptiness. Depression doesn't work that way though. it's going to hit you regardless.

By this past summer I was back into being depressed. I thought about suicide again for the first time in the longest time. I wasn't having anymore sports placebos. The Giants disappointed after their fourth Super Bowl win. Tottenham had been struggling to reach fourth again, and had just been robbed of Champions League football by Chelsea. I felt like it told me that life was unfair. I was never going to win. This was it. I lost interest in writing often for this site. I became more moody. The only way to stave off depression, to get rid of my lack of faith in myself, my friends, in anything, was to latch onto extreme feelings. Anger, elation, sadness. I snapped more at people on the internet, in real life. I avoided my friends at the end of summer. I wanted to sever myself from the people I knew, to make it easier to listen to the depression. If I was alone, I could more easily check out.

If I was alone, I could more easily check out.

The new season started and I followed with great interest. Meanwhile, I kept to myself outside of the internet. I talked to my friends very little over the past calendar year. I went to school, but began to dread my impending graduation. I couldn't make it to that point. When I graduated, I would become nothing but an unemployed burden on the people I loved. I began to bargain with myself, telling myself that financially, killing myself would be a good thing. People would be better off without me. I kept to Tottenham though, just in case they made the Champions League and gave me another year to care about something new.

Tottenham started off poorly, and my depression worsened. I didn't write about it here at the site, because that didn't make me feel good anymore. I ate terribly, deciding that if I was going to no longer be around, I didn't need to care about my body. I listened as my friend told me how their life had been turned upside down by some horrific events, and I rationalized that as another reason to refuse to keep going. If life is that horrible to someone, who wants to be a part of it? However, Tottenham started winning.

Tottenham were in a good place in January. It made me feel better. Gareth Bale began to knock in wonder goal after wonder goal. He became the best aspect of Tottenham. I wanted to know what my best aspect was, but I struggled. I began to feel worse. I started to realize that I had used sports as a tool to ignore my life. Tottenham wasn't me. I looked bitterly at myself in the past, for using Tottenham as a crutch to keep my head above water at the worst of my depression. I stopped watching games altogether. Tottenham was my own thing, none of my friends or family watched. I could quit without them noticing.

I was tired of my life. I was unfulfilled, I had not done many of the things that I thought I would have done by this point. I was wasting my life, and tired of it. I didn't think life was going to get better for me, and in fact reveled in this fact. I began to hate myself. I didn't have a terrible life. Billions of people in this world could have wanted to trade lives with me. I deserved to no longer exist because of how worthless and whiny of a person I was. Who the hell ties their mental well being to a sports team?

Who the hell ties their mental well being to a sports team?

Of course, depression is a fickle thing. It's a funny thing. You really should laugh at depression more, it's the best thing to do. It's so irrational, it's such a construct of a mind failing to cope with the world around it. Depression doesn't exist (it totally does, I'm speaking metaphorically). It's just a coping mechanism. I never realized this. Of course, I also learned that depression is a unique thing. I read two pieces about depression that helped me being to climb back up again. Spencer Hall and Allie Brosh have written two very nice pieces about it in the past two months. The thing that helped me was that they were completely different. They both said depression, but the meaning and definition of that word, of what it entailed and what came with it, were entirely different. I was depressed, even if we all have it in different ways. The most important thing to me though, was that it was a good thing to talk about it.

I didn't want to talk about it. I've never wanted to talk about it. I kept my depression to myself because I was embarrassed by it. I also feared talking about it. I worried about the way my friends and family would react. My friends would try to cheer me up, I thought, and do nothing but make me feel worse and want to run away from them, run as far away as possible until I was alone with my horrible thoughts. My family would send me to a therapist, or treat me like a mental case. I'd be forced to confess my feelings to a court appointed stranger. I would be put on drugs. I wouldn't be myself. The closest I ever came to seeking help for it was calling my University mental health center sophomore year. I hung up when the receptionist answered. I was scared.

I was scared.

So Spencer Hall and Allie Brosh helped me to recover a little bit. I decided to invest myself in Tottenham again. I felt bad, like I had abandoned the team, the people of this site. I commented more often, I watched the games religiously. I thought for sure Tottenham would get fourth. There was now a way. If I could climb up out of my pit again, so could Tottenham. The final match day arrived. I felt good. Fourth place was in the bag. Arsenal would fail. Tottenham would reward my faith. We lost.

And I laughed. I had never done this before. I had always treated sports with deathly seriousness. Failure was the end of the world. It meant having nothing to keep my happy. It meant another ingredient to add to my depression. It didn't matter though. I laughed. I laughed at Tottenham, I laughed at myself, I laughed at my faith. We finished with 72 points and still finished fifth. We had our best season ever in the modern top flight, and we still came up short. My mind lost all sense of logical thought. The season meant to me that you could do the best you can possibly do, and still finish up short. That's alright though, because all I could think was the fact that we were still the best fucking Tottenham team in years, and we could be legendary the next year. Ultimately though, I realized what a silly, silly game sports was. While I cared about sports, and I still am passionate about the teams I root for, Tottenham Hotspur helped me realize that there are better things to use to feel fulfillment in your life. That would be the things I had forsaken in the past year. My friends, people I felt deeply about. My writing. My parents. My family. Myself.

Tottenham Hotspur helped me realize that there are better things to use to feel fulfillment in your life. That would be the things I had forsaken in the past year. My friends, people I felt deeply about. My writing. My parents. My family. Myself.

I needed to care about myself, use myself to fulfill my life. I needed to lose weight. I needed to read again. I need to eat better. I need to quit smoking. I need to do a lot of things. However, what I really need to do is never forget that the only person responsible for my happiness is myself. Since the loss on Sunday, I've felt better than I have in a long time. I read Drew Magary's book about parenthood, and I let myself really cry for the first time since my grandfather died as I read about his struggle in the complications he and his wife had with his third son. It reminded me that life is never going to be perfect, that picture perfect moment sought at the end of the book.

I finally began to care about my friends. One of my best friends did something incredibly stupid the other day, nearly ruining his life for the next couple of years. I got mad about it. I realized I needed to talk to him and help him. I cared about him. I've spent more time with my friends the past several days than I did over the preceding ten months. I can feel my mind getting better. The terrible thoughts have stopped. I've found goals I need to accomplish. I finally realize what I need to do for myself. Many things led to this epiphany. In the end, Tottenham Hotspur triggered it. Specifically this Tottenham Hotspur team. 72 of the greatest points ever achieved.

I know I can be mad, happy, sad at how Tottenham, Syracuse, anyone performs. I vowed this past week to no longer let it be the only thing keeping me going. While the title says this Tottenham team helped me overcome, a lot of people helped. While this team will hold a special place in my heart, will be a memory I go to if it ever gets bad again, and this article a testimonial to the fact that I know that this team made me realize I need to help myself, others helped just as much if not more. My mother, my stepfather, my family, my friends*, the friends I've made on the internet, here and at EDSBS, the writers I look up to in my writing (Kevin, Bryan, everyone here, Spencer, Drew, Matt Ufford, many others). A lot of people helped me realize that I can be better.

"I've never met someone who wasn't important." -The Doctor

Of course, it can all come back again. I plan to not let that happen, but I'm no fool. That's why I'm finally being open about it. Tottenham gave me a way to tell my story, and to hopefully reach out to others. I may not have as much reach as Spencer Hall and Allie Brosh, but I hope the few people who read this take heed. Don't tie your happiness up into something else. Whether it be sports like me, the internet, your significant other, your friends, your family. Make yourself happy. I guarantee you'll make others happy just by doing that. I know I have. The most important thing of all though, is you need to talk. Don't keep it to yourself. Don't put up a front. I'm lucky that I didn't reach the tipping point. Everyone isn't so lucky. Talk to your friends and family. Don't be afraid of drugs. You may not know it, but people do care about you, and life is infinitely better when you're in it. In the words of a character who could briefly make me feel better about the future and the vast possibilities it has, "I've never met someone who wasn't important."

*AE, AT, BT, EN, EG, JQ, JS, and many others

(I just again want to thank everyone who made it possible for me to write this. My parents, my friends, those I meet on the internet, Tottenham Hotspur, and of course, the lovely people here. I let you guys down by wasting a writing spot someone like Lennon's Eyebrow and MCofA deserved more. I hope to write much, much more for you guys, and to make help make this the best place to be on SB Nation.)

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