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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.

[ SIGN UP: Get NBC Sports Gold free ]

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.

If you can’t get enough from the Premier League, Gold’s Premier League Pass is for you.

Click on the link above to sign up for the deal.

 

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:

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How can Liverpool stop Chelsea’s Morata, Hazard?

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A key tactical battle in Saturday’s massive Premier League clash at Anfield between Liverpool and Chelsea (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com) will be Liverpool’s defense vs. Alvaro Morata and Eden Hazard.

In recent games Antonio Conte has decided to play Hazard in a central role just off Morata and it has worked wonders.

The duo are on the same wavelength and last time out in the Premier League they each had an assist for one another with Hazard scoring twice and Morata once.

Liverpool’s recent shaky defensive displays (ahem, the second half collapse to draw at Sevilla in midweek after leading 3-0 at half time…) aren’t anything new but Jurgen Klopp has been slightly more defensive in bigger games this season. See: the 0-0 draw with Manchester United at home last month.

Could Klopp deploy a true holding midfielder to block the burgeoning partnership between Morata and Hazard?

In the video above Joe Prince-Wright uses data from Opta to discuss why that might be a good idea.

Matchday experience: Behind-the-scenes at Southampton

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What is a proper “matchday experience” really like in the Premier League?

For fans of the Premier League in the USA, you’ll no doubt be curious as to exactly what goes on over in the UK around every single game.

[ MORE: Full replay, Saints v West Brom ] 

And for all of you who have ever wondered what it’s like, good news: we had a complete 360 experience from Saturday’s Southampton v. West Bromwich Albion match.

We were on site at Southampton to give you special access at St Mary’s Stadium before, during and after the game.

Look back at Joe Prince-Wright’s journey behind-the-scenes as he spent time in pubs in the South Coast city before the game and was closer to the action than ever before in the tunnel area and up close and personal with players.