The Gareth Goodbye
I’m relatively new to following Tottenham Hotspur. Unlike my fanaticism following the New York Yankees or the Green Bay Packers, I don’t have an old story to tell about me as a kid or teenager bugging my mom for Tottenham Hotspur gear (Packers football) or fighting with my brother because I wanted the television for a few hours to watch a Tottenham Hotspur match (Yankees baseball).
I only started following the team three years ago and I was more interested in learning about soccer at large rather than following an individual team. At the time, I was in London meeting up with a good friend during the last game of the English Premier League season (Relegation Day) and I got so caught up in the wave of excitement permeating the city that I knew soccer would be a sport I’d follower closer. Yet, it wasn’t until my friend explained the cast of characters who made up that Tottenham Hotspur squad that I knew I’d commit my allegiance to Spurs.
What a cast of characters they were! Flamboyant and flashy internationals, young English players and one Welsh figure who everyone could see was on the verge of greatness. Luka Modric is long gone from Spurs, Tom Huddlestone has just painfully left the club that he no longer fit in, Benoit Assou-Ekotto is in some sort of “LOL-limbo” and then there’s Gareth Frank Bale.
Gareth Bale was not the reason I started following Spurs but he damn sure was the reason I never thought about following another Premier League team.
I was talking with a friend over drinks a few weeks ago about society’s obsession with athletes. What makes us live and die by their on/off field actions? Why would we be so inclined to name our first born after our favorite athletes and yet when things go wrong, have the temerity to mail these athletes death threats. We both agreed that it was the intrinsic animal tendency in humans to be attracted to the most agile, powerful and cunning of us all. I went further to say that we also imprint ourselves onto our favorite players which euphorically reward us when our favorite player does well and remorselessly scar us when these players disappoint us.
Since I started following Spurs, I believe I’ve made a personal connection with Gareth Bale. I loved watching how he grew from an embattled left back to a mercurial left winger finally evolving last year into a footballing talisman at Spurs. I grew to like him so much that I would even check out his international games he played for his home country of Wales. The last 18 months was an amazing feeling to have what many considered the best player in the league. I admit to many day dreams of pretending to be Gareth Bale cracking free kicks into the net through the power of my unstoppable left foot. Whenever I did something spectacular at work, I’d mime the Gareth Bale (trademarked) heart celebration.
Last season at Spurs was Gareth’s breakout year and it was so good that Spurs knew other teams would come calling. But I always thought that we could hold that young fiery Welshman for one final year. One final push for the all-important Champions League qualification. In my most optimistic of thoughts, Gareth would continue to carry Spurs, we’d qualify for Champions League next year and then Gareth would opt to stay with Spurs still and make his way to being a Spurs legend.
It wasn’t meant to be though. There are football clubs like Tottenham Hotspur and then there are football royalty like Real Madrid. When Real presented their full push to Bale and showed him all that they could offer via money, fame and Champions League competition, Spurs had very little recourse to keep Bale. The goodbye was written in the stars and it was a matter of how long Spurs could hold off the inevitable.
Personally, I wish I was a smart as the Tottenham organization. They saw the writing on the wall from the beginning and brought in over a dozen world class players over the last two years as they prepared for this day. I never prepared to say my goodbye to Gareth. Up until I received confirmation today, I thought somehow, someway, Gareth Bale would be a Tottenham Hotspur forever.
To willingly commit to be a fan of a professional team requires a dizzying mixture of myopia, bias and suspension of belief. You are constantly trying to justify your rationale for following a group of people who don’t know you exist and sometimes seem to care less about the game than you do. My initial and instinctual reaction to Gareth’s departure feels like it should be anger at Bale and at Tottenham. But I’m old enough and have had enough heartbreak via sports (Hello, Brett Favre) that I know nothing is forever and sports are a business where players move on and the fans should too.
I’ll shed a tear before I complete my Gareth goodbye as I’ll dearly miss his blazing pace, his wicked goals, his cheeky smile. But I won’t be sad for long. Tottenham have seen fit to use this not so unexpected sale to bolster the team in so many places. Spurs fans have no need to be sad, just bittersweet.
Ultimately, the future at Tottenham Hotspur is lilywhite bright because of all Bale has done in the past as well as his astronomically astounding sale today.
And because the game is about glory, I wish you all the best Gareth Frank Bale.
Spurs are moving onward and upward and will not be looking back.
You know these words and would do well to never forget them:
“To Dare Is To Do”