I’ll start off with a mild apology to our UK and foreign readers who might not have any idea what I’m talking about with this theme, but I’ve wanted to do this for a while. Charles Schulz’ “Peanuts” comic strip is an American institution, and even though Schulz died in 2000, you can still find reruns of Charle Brown, Snoopy, Linus, Lucy, Pigpen, and Peppermint Patty in the comic pages of newspapers across the country.
But as great as the comics were, it was one of the few strips that successfully traversed the gulf to the small screen. “A Charlie Brown Christmas” debuted in 1965 with a jazz combo score by the late, great Vince Guaraldi, and has been shown on broadcast TV in America every year since. It spawned a multitude of successor specials, 46 at last count, the most recent of which debuted in 2011.
We can’t possibly rate all of them, and in fact I haven’t seen all of them. But we can rate the Tottenham Hotspur players after their win over Crystal Palace to the classics, from the “Golden Age” of Charlie Brown specials.
Hum along with the theme below, and let’s dig in.
You all thought I was going to lead with “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” didn’t you? But for my money, this is the greatest Charlie Brown special of all time. Pulled from a serial comic strip story (like many of these specials), this one focuses less on Charlie Brown’s social ineptness and the traditional supernatural Halloween tropes and more on Linus’ steadfast belief in the Great Pumpkin and the inevitable disappointment — mostly from Sally — that comes with it. This one goes over the top due to the quotable dialogue (“I got a rock”), the haunting B-roll plot of Snoopy as a WWI ace trapped behind enemy lines, and Guaraldi’s haunting score that made liberal use of alto flute.
Eric Dier: Let’s put it out there -- Palace played pretty well for, well, Palace. They did the best when they ran straight at Spurs through Wilfried Zaha, who was a terror on the pitch, and Andros Townsend. Dier was magnificent throughout the match, anticipating Zaha’s runs and keeping pace with him, and making a number of outstanding tackles to deny Palace a chance.
Jan Vertonghen: Whoscored listed Vertonghen as their man of the match, and it’s not hard to see why. Along with Dier, he kept Palace at bay (until those last few minutes, at least) with his positioning, and also had four tackles. We need to #GetJanAGoal.
The first, and the timeless classic. Supposedly the producers of this special thought it would bomb catastrophically in 1965, but 52 years later it has turned into one of the enduring classics of American television. Schulz’s special is an allegory about consumerism and the meaning of Christmas, and it still rings true today. It’s hopeful, uplifting, and watchable. It also launched Guaraldi’s music career into the stratosphere. Even if you’re not religious, it’s worth watching once a season since there’s something here for everyone.
Paulo Gazzaniga: Gazzaniga made his Spurs debut as the third keeper under extremely difficult circumstances. He had three impressive and critical stops, but also nearly gifted Palace a goal when he tried to be a sweeper keeper, and possibly should’ve conceded a penalty to Mamadou Sakho in the third minute. He was pretty awesome... with some hilariously scary moments. He also probably won Spurs the match.
Son Heung-Min: I struggled a bit with Sonny. He was one of the only Spurs players out there making runs and starting attacks, and his strike from the top of the box was very good and from a low xG opportunity. But then he also wasted two chances on the break to put the game away. Still, I can’t discount the fact that his goal was the difference, and he should be rewarded for that.
Mousa Dembele: A halftime substitution for Harry Winks who twisted his ankle in the first half, Moose did all the things you expect Moose to do in midfield. Had fewer touches than normal, but that’s partly due to Palace trying to bypass the midfield entirely. Dembele was great.
In all honesty, this is my favorite Charlie Brown special. Peppermint Patty is annoying and invites herself over to Charlie Brown’s house for Thanksgiving, forcing him and Snoopy to improvise supper on the lawn with popcorn, pretzels, and jelly beans. Highlights are Guaraldi’s score (the Thanksgiving theme and “Little Birdie” are outstanding), and the scene where Snoopy & Woodstock prepares for and makes dinner. Points deducted for the credits scene where Woodstock cannibalistically eats turkey.
Davinson Sanchez: Sanchez was given the primary responsibility of keeping Zaha in check, and for the most part he did a capable job, with six clearances. Zaha did get the better of him on a couple of occasions, though.
Danny Rose: Yes, he was rusty, and yes he’s still overweight. But you got glimpses of the Danny Rose of old in Sunday’s match, and he showed moments of that old pace, chasing down (I think?) Zaha for the ball in the first half. Going 90 minutes was an important milestone. He’ll continue to improve. Also: love the hair.
Snoopy dressed as Cupid trying and failing to hit a mopey Charlie Brown with a suction cup arrow is a pretty good summary of this special. Charlie Brown just wants to get a valentine from the Little Red Haired Girl (or, alternately, anyone) and that scene of him waiting beside his mailbox is just soul-crushing. Few people did pathos quite like Charles Schulz (who reportedly based Charlie Brown in part on his own childhood).
Harry Winks: Started off solid and then rolled his ankle midway through the first half. He didn’t look the same after that and for good reason. The silver lining is that he’s been withdrawn from the England squad and will now have a good two weeks to recuperate.
Christian Eriksen: A rare off-match for Eriksen, who has been brilliant this season. He didn’t look engaged and his touch was unusually wayward. I think he’s tired, and with Denmark playing critical World Cup play-ins next week, I’m worried about him.
The kids complain about Christmas decorations already being up, Linus believes in a mythical being that turns out to be Snoopy, and Charlie Brown getting crapped on. It all feels just a bit... derivative, and lacks an overall narrative. Saved slightly by the scene of Marcie trying to hard-boil eggs in a waffle iron, a toaster, and the oven (ironic since the oven is one of the better ways to “hard boil” eggs).
Harry Kane: I considered grading Kane on a curve considering he also picked up a knock against Palace. But that’s not fair. Kane was pretty mediocre. Despite his usual excellent work rate he could never really get into the match. I would’ve actually been happy to see him pulled at halftime, if only to protect him after that knock.
Moussa Sissoko: Pretty much the definition of anonymous. It’s not that he was egregiously bad, necessarily. He just didn’t actually DO anything.
Not technically a special but a 1972 feature-length movie, this was the only Charlie Brown film produced in Vince Guaraldi’s lifetime that didn’t feature his score. It’s terrible: Snoopy runs away to his original, hospitalized owner Lila, because Charlie Brown yells at him and because he sees a “No Dogs Allowed” sign on the beach, but only goes back to Charlie Brown because dogs aren’t allowed in the hospital. This is the Seinfeld finale of Charlie Brown specials: everyone’s a jerk.
Serge Aurier: Serge’s worst performance in a Tottenham shirt, and I’m not sure it’s close. Two of Palace’s best attacks came directly after Aurier hospital balls in midfield and directly led to counters. Palace being bad at shooting was pretty much the only thing that saved him.
A “kids should exercise more” PSA disguised as a Charlie Brown special, it’s more an excuse to show leg-warmers, terribly produced musical numbers, and Snoopy dancing to disco music because... reasons, I guess. It’s bad. Skip this one.
No Tottenham Hotspur players were as bad as having to watch “Flashbeagle.”
Fernando Llorente, Ben Davies