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What Tottenham reaching UCL final means

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From Rob Dauster, lead writer of College Basketball Talk

Let’s get this out of the way before I get rolling here: I am a Tottenham fan.

Die hard. I care more about Spurs than I do any other sports team.

[ VIDEO: Spurs stun Ajax ]

I assume we’ve all seen the video of Steve Nash losing his mind when Lucas Moura scored his last-second winner in Wednesday evening’s Champions League semifinal. He is a studio analyst for TNT’s Champions League and also a lifelong Spurs supporter with deep North London roots. He sprinted off the set, did two laps around the building and returned with tears in his eyes, all while he was live on the air.

My reaction was similar, only it was in my living room, I danced with my three-year old Boxer, I woke up a sleeping two-month old and I wiped out trying to take a corner in the dining room. My wife has the video. The blackmail has already started.

I say all that to say this: I don’t care if Spurs fall to Liverpool in the final on June 1. That’s the truth. I want them to win more than I’ve wanted any team to win any game since UConn won the 1999 college basketball national title, but if this is the end, if Jurgen Klopp‘s heavy-metal football overwhelms a worn down, banged up and, frankly, lesser Tottenham with a never-ending barrage energy, I’ll be fine.

More than fine, truthfully.

[ MORE: Pochettino hails Spurs heroes ]

The ‘Spurs have no trophies’ jokes will continue to be mildly annoying, but at this point that’s the same as saying ‘Rob, you’ve gotten fatter since college.’ Of course I have. If that’s the best you got, maybe leave the banter to someone a bit wittier.

(Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images )
(Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images )

Because I don’t care about winning trophies just to win trophies.

I don’t think that’s what being a fan should be about. I want Harry Kane and Dele Alli and Mauricio Pochettino to win anything and everything they can, but the reality is that Spurs winning a domestic cup doesn’t impact my life in any meaningful way. Let’s say Spurs did win the Carabao Cup this year. I would have been happy for a few hours. I probably would have had a beer or three to celebrate. I’m sure I would have watched the highlights on twitter a couple times.

And then you know what would have happened?

I would have come home and my three-year old would be having a meltdown because I told him he has to wear socks, my wife would be asking me to change my two-month old daughter’s diaper because she won’t stop crying, my dog would be going absolute bonkers because Boxers are incapable of doing anything else and between all of that I’d have to find the time to mow the lawn, fix a dresser and patch up a couple of holes in my ceiling where the nails popped.

The same is true if they find a wait to beat Liverpool in three weeks. Or if they lose to Liverpool.

And despite wearing a lucky matchday jersey that was too tight 15 pounds ago, I’ll have absolutely no control over the result.

So if I have no control over it, and if my life will be exactly the same regardless of whether or not they win, why am I going to get torn up over a trophy?

That’s not what I believe sports should be about for fans.

Jimmy Greaves is Tottenham’s all-time leading goal-scorer. He played for the club for a decade in the 60s. He’s a legend in North London, and nine years ago, he said this to the Daily Mail:

“People are always coming up to me, ‘Jim, can you remember that goal against West Brom in 1968?’ and I say, ‘No.’ But that’s all right because they only want to tell you about what happened to them, anyway. ‘Well, you had the ball on the halfway line, and I remember that because I was with Charlie and we’d just got two pies…’ and it turns out the real story is about Charlie dropping his pie and what you did wasn’t all that important anyway.”

And he could not be more right.

Being a sports fan should be about the memories, about the moments, about the buildup leading to the biggest game in your club’s history. It should be about the experiences that come along the way. No matter what happens in Madrid on the first Saturday in June, nothing will ever be able to takeaway the experience of watching Wednesday night’s comeback, or the jubilation every Spurs fan mainlined when Moura scored the winner.

(Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images )
(Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images )

And nothing will be able to takeaway the indescribable swing of emotions that occurred during the second leg of the quarterfinal tie against Manchester City, when Spurs gave up three goals to put themselves in a losing position only to retake the lead before Raheem Sterling‘s 93rd minute winner was disallowed through VAR.

And I’ll never forget the final matchday of the group stage, when that man Moura scored in the 86th minute in the Camp Nou to get a draw that sent Spurs to the knockout rounds, or watching on a second screen as PSV Eindhoven found a way to make some miraculous saves that allowed them to draw Inter and keep Spurs in second place in the group.

And I’ll always remember Christian Eriksen‘s 79th minute winner over Inter on matchday five that kept Spurs’ chances of advancing alive, just like I’ll always remember the two goals Harry Kane scored in the final 12 minutes to give Tottenham a come-from-behind win on matchday four, when they were dead in the water after mustering just a single point from the first three group stage games.

And I will make sure to remind everyone I come in contact with that this all happened as Spurs played without a home until April, played without a midfield for the second half of the season, dealt with more injuries than Jon Snow’s army of the living in the Battle of Winterfell.

This run should not have been possible. And yet, here we are.

That’s the beauty of sports and sports fandom.

That is literally all that I can ask out of the club that I support. Give me a reason to spend day and night looking forward to the next time they set foot on the pitch. Give me an escape from reality for a couple of hours a week. Give me a reason to feel alive in the leadup. Give me heart palpitations for 90 minutes.

A win on top of that is nothing but icing on the cake.

Details for free NBC Sports Gold Premier League pass

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A free preview of the NBC Sports Gold Premier League pass is now available to sign up for.

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The deal will begin on Sept. 26 and run until Oct. 1, with access to a huge range of exclusive live Premier League games online, plus plenty of other shows and features from around the PL.

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Men in Blazers podcast: Evaluating Jose Mourinho

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Rog and Davo evaluate Mourinho’s mental state after United’s 2-0 win at Burnley and talk perfect starts for Liverpool, Chelsea and Watford, Glorious Watford.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

Subscribe to the podcast OR to update your iTunes subscriptions ]

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Men In Blazers podcast: Chelsea-Arsenal, Rooney, Pep

Men In Blazers
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Rog and Davo break down Arsenal’s draw at Chelsea, Wazza’s return to Old Trafford, and a robotic performance from Pep’s City side. Plus, a musical number at the end.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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Should Serge Aurier’s baggage impact Tottenham move?

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By Rob Dauster

Serge Aurier is everything that Tottenham needs in a right back.

He’s pacy. He’s strong. He’s attack-minded. He’s the prototype of what manager Mauricio Pochettino looks for in a fullback; Kyle Walker at half the price.

[ MORE: All the latest transfer news

Anyone that watched Kieran Trippier struggle to do anything against Chelsea early in the season is already well aware that kind of speed out wide is something Spurs are missing, potentially the difference between competing for the top four and competing for a title.

Serge Aurier also comes with a significant amount of baggage, not the least of which is an issue getting a visa and work permit to actually enter the UK.

He was arrested and charged with assaulting a police officer outside a Paris nightclub. He received a two-month jail sentence and is currently appealing the ruling. In November, he was not allowed to enter the country for a Champions League group stage match against Arsenal.

But assuming he wins his appeal, and assuming the reports linking the want-away PSG defender with Tottenham — according to L’Equipe, terms have been agreed upon and Aurier has already undergone a medical — are true, then the bigger issue Spurs chairman Daniel Levy faces is the fact that he’ll be bringing in a player with a documented history of using homophobic language.

For those that are unaware, last spring, during a Q-and-A that Aurier did on the app Periscope, the Ivorian insulted a number of his teammates and called then manager Laurent Blanc “une fiotte,” which, in French, translates to “f—-t”.

After initially denying that it was him on the video, Aurier released a half-hearted apology, attempting to clear the air with his teammates and coaching staff:

“I made a big mistake, I am here to say sorry to the coach, the club and my team-mates, and to the supporters because they are the most important people,” he said. “I want to apologize especially to the coach, I can only thank him for all he has done for me since I arrived in Paris. He wanted me and since I came here everything has gone really well. I owe him a lot and that is why I apologize sincerely to him for what was said, which I deeply regret.”

“I will accept any sanction the club impose on me regarding this incident. I made a mistake, it was unforgivable and I am ready to face all the consequences.”

Nowhere in that statement does Aurier apologize for the use of homophobic language. Nowhere in there does he accept responsibility for the pain he caused LGBT PSG fans that had to hear him say those things. Nowhere does he acknowledge that using that word is wrong.

And therein lies the problem.

Every time a member of the LGBT community hears homophobic language like this, it triggers something in them. They hearken back to the days when it wasn’t okay to be gay. It reminds them of every time they were discriminated against for their sexual orientation. The mere presence of Serge Aurier on Tottenham’s roster will do this to LGBT Spurs supporters.

Think about it like this: How many times have you found yourself lying awake at night, replaying the most awkward, embarrassing and painful moments of your past over and over in your head?

Now imagine having that feeling every single time you watch your favorite soccer club play simply because they decided to sign a player that may actually be homophobic. Imagine being put into a position where you have to decide whether or not to continue cheering for your club because something as normal as hearing an announcer say the right back’s name reminds you of every single person that has hated and ridiculed you for who you are.

Sports are supposed to be the place we go to get away from all of that, particularly at a club like Tottenham, where the Proud Lilywhites supporters group’s rainbow flag was clearly visible on every television broadcast from White Hart Lane:

Ben Daniels and Michael Caley of Cartilage Free Captain, SB Nation’s Tottenham website, wrote a sensational piece on this topic and I encourage everyone to go read it.

Where I differ is that I do not believe that Aurier is off-limits to the club, but that is assuming the player is willing to make amends, to become a face fighting for equality within the league.

According to reports in France, PSG’s chairman punched a door over the lack of sincerity in Aurier’s apology. Compare that to Manchester United star Paul Pogba, who has spoken openly about respect that gay footballers deserve and shaved “#EQUAL” into his hair to support the cause.

Frankly, I’m not sure even that would be enough. Anyone can read a PR crafted apology when they know millions of dollars and a career’s worth of earning power is on the line.

Sit Aurier down with the LGBT supporter’s groups. Reach out to at-risk, LGBT youth. An apology is not as impactful as educating someone with his platform as to why using that language is such a problem.

Because I promise you Aurier is not alone in thinking it is OK to call people “f—-t”. I can also promise you I’m not the only one that is thankful that I didn’t have a platform and an app that could broadcast everything I said in my late-teens and early-20s to the entire world.

People should be allowed to make mistakes like this as long as they learn from them. Young athletes saying ignorant things should be a teaching point. Getting through to Aurier means reaching all the people that pay attention to what he has to say.

Which is why Tottenham, should they opt to sign Aurier, have a responsibility here.

But it’s about more than forcing an apology and a few public appearances. It’s more than a couple of well-produced twitter videos featuring

Aurier trying to make amends.

It is on the club to make Aurier prove that he wants to learn, and that he truly understands what he did and why it’s wrong.

And if he doesn’t, then he doesn’t deserve a place at Tottenham, and the club should be ashamed of putting the pursuit of a trophy ahead of the people willing to spend their life supporting Spurs without one.