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Contextualizing The Champions League

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Yesterday, I watched Tottenham Hotspur draw AC Milan at my favorite football pub in Ann Arbor, the Blue Leprechaun. I was one of only two Tottenham supporters in the pub. The other supporter, a student from North London himself, asked me how I became a Spurs supporter. I told him the story, which I told in part previously here. He replied that I have been lucky to root for the team over these last seven years, and what great years they have been.

The statement made me pause. I came into Spurs fandom with no expectations of glory or trophies. League finishes were mediocre, and besides a 1999 League Cup win and 2002 League Cup final loss, it seemed to be a middling existence as a Yid.

That era is long gone now though, and Tottenham are proving themselves Europe-wide. They're the most hated team in Milan and are on the precipice of making an unprecedented Europe run. The impact of this is huge: Tottenham are now in the position to be a destination for the world's best players, just as Chelsea became in the 90's with the acquisition of Ruud Gullit and Gianfranco Zola.

We hear all the time now that a game is the biggest in Tottenham's recent history. First it was the 2008 League Cup final, defeating Chelsea after a a famous 5-1 win over Arsenal in the home leg of the semifinals. Then it was the Manchester City win last year to clinch top-4. Now, the Inter Milan Ties and AC Milan ties in succession. And now, the quarterfinal tie will surely be brought up again in such context.

Spurs has been a team of strong eras: the glory years of the 60's and the last league win, the 80's into early 90's of three FA Cup victories. We find ourselves in the third era right now, the time where Tottenham has the opportunity to assert itself as a European contender, a bastion of beautiful wing play.

The future is uncertain, Spurs could push into the upper places of the league, have a deep run in the Champions League, the precursor to a time of Tottenham excellence. Or they could finish out of the top four, lose in the quarterfinals, and fall back into a familiar upper-mid table position as the likes of Manchester City pass us by.

Either way, let's allow the rest of the season to play out without the hyperbole we so want to put on these times. We don't have the context for what this means in the grand history of the Lilywhites, whether this is the start of the glory days or simply another aberration. Just enjoy the ride.