The trinity began when I was about four, when I strapped on my cleats for the first time and started playing "soccer." The son of a former high school soccer player, who had played in a time when the sport was foreign to these shores. What started in my Philadelphia backyard became a lifetime love. I had been bit with the bug, and as I pull my black Adidas boots out of my bag it's clear to me that I'll never stop playing.
The second part of the trinity came in 2002. Aged 11 and in the isolation of summer camp in the Pocono Mountains, I fell in love with the US National Team. Waking up at 5 a.m. to watch matches, the drama of the '02 World Cup forged my love of the world's game. The names of the Americans I rooted for hang like tapestries in my mind: Friedel, O'Brien, Reyna, McBride, and of course Donovan.
As I sit in North London this morning, jet-lagged and tired, I feel that this holy footballing trinity is about to close. It was Tottenham Hotspur that completed my eternal love of football. In the wake of that 2002 World Cup that I began searching for all things football: books, television, video games. And when I had come out the ringer of that footballing immersion, it was clear that Tottenham Hotspur were the club for me.
In my seven years or so of supporting Tottenham, waking up for those early morning matches on Fox Soccer Channel, Spurs have always been something of an abstract phenomenon to me. I was raised a fan of Philadelphia sport, a choice that indoctrinates into a tight-knit family of sporting disappointment. Perhaps it was even that culture which helped me identify with Spurs. But I had seen the collective disappointment of my city when the Eagles lost, and the way millions of people filled the streets when the Phillies broke a 25-year trophy draught for the city. My hometown and my sporting identity are intrinsically linked.
Spurs? My love of Spurs was forged over pajamas and bagels, watching this team 3600 miles away from me barely awake. I graduated high school before Premiership matches were broadcast on ESPN, and this team was barely known even among my soccer teammates. For me, Spurs were an individual treat, something I consumed outside the spectrum of a greater identity. Tottenham was something I explored, consuming every bit of available content to learn the rich and usually disappointing history of this team from White Hart Lane.
Walking into Heathrow with my Spurs scarf on, it was clear to me that the way I viewed this team was to forever be transformed. Premiership logos to be found everywhere, as news of FA Cup replays blasted from the radio and the television heads endlessly discussed the England manager. My footballing identity was no longer something to be hidden or marginalized. It fit me into this very fabric of England, casting me with this tribe of Tottenham devotees.
My time in England runs through the end of June. I will be studying at Loughborough University, where Spurs become as much a part of my identity as my nationality, age, or religion. This is England, where football was created and is the lifeblood of a country.
There is nothing that excites me more than the first time I will walk through the gates of White Hart Lane. But for me it is not simply being where Danny Blanchflower, Jimmy Greaves, Glenn Hoddle, and Gazza once took the pitch. It is the journey I took to get here. It was rec league soccer and halftime orange slices. It was celebrating the victory over Portugal and crying after losing to Germany in the forests of Pennsylvania. It was King and Keane, League Cups, food poisoning, and Weezus.
Being here through the rest of the Premiership season and through the Euros, it is clear that the narrow prism I have viewed football through is to be forever changed. So perhaps it was never about being able to go to White Hart Lane. It was about being ready for it.