Movies

Little Women Review: Jo March’s Lesson on Love

*Spoilers* 

We meet Jo March in Greta Gerwig’s adaptation of Little Women defiant over her publisher Mr. Greenwood’s demands for her characters to be married by the end of her stories. This reluctance towards marriage persists as we learn more about her. She never misses a moment to mention that her fuel in life comes from her independence.

However, she arrives back to her childhood New England home sharpened much like the winter airs that greets her. She no longer possesses the cheerfulness of her youth, shown to us through intermittent flashbacks that carry the story along. Her role as the leader of the March sisters is no longer necessary, her big sister Meg content in marriage and her little sister Amy off on European adventures. We start to realize the claims of independence mask contrary intentions. Eventually, she unleashes her pent up frustrations to her always understanding mother Marmee.

“Women, they have minds, and they have souls as well as just hearts, and they’ve got ambition, and they’ve got talent, as well as just beauty. And I’m so sick of people saying that love is just all a woman is fit for. But I’m so lonely.”

Saoirse Ronan’s delivery of this pivotal scene is what frames her character’s viewpoint on love. I empathize with her fears attached to love. The concern is that a sharing of yourself with another leads to you being left with less of yourself. You have less time to pursue your passions. Your important personal connections already made, like Jo’s with her sisters, will move to the background. The worry is that accepting another as a part of you results in an entire shift in your identity.

However, that stance can be a dangerous one to keep. Self-acceptance can quickly turn into complacency. Jo finds her herself in this spot. She is reluctant to challenge herself in her writing. Her educator counterpart Friedrich offers the potential at an equitable partnership based on honesty, but quickly pulls back from the leap necessary to embrace new truths.

She walked herself off that ledge before at the culmination of her transition from childhood to adulthood. The autumnal leaves of change surround her and her childhood friend Laurie. Her sisters have accepted the change ahead. Meg has married. Amy has accepted her aunt’s offer of an artistic apprenticeship in Europe. But when Laurie admits his love for Jo and her leap of faith into unknown appears in front of her, she retreats into what is comfortable: her understanding of who she is without love.

Now Jo faces a future of loneliness, unless she accepts that a past layer of herself must be shed and a new version of her well-defined personality adopted. We as humans must force ourselves out of the rigidity of old ways to allow for opportunities at growth. In these regards, Jo is no longer mentor but mentee to her younger sister Amy.

Amy, played expertly by Florence Pugh, put herself through this cycle of growth. She transforms in the film from fussy and petulant child to steadfast and determined adult. She has worked hard not only at her painting, but in understanding what she wants from life. While Jo prides herself on self-discovery, Amy has discovered herself through her relationships. As she paints her forever love and soon to be husband Laurie, she reveals her mantra towards love.

“I believe we have some power over who we love, it isn’t something that just happens to a person.”

Love needs to be grabbed when you see a chance at it. It isn’t something that serendipitously falls upon us. A successful partnership requires the diligence to work towards common goals, without the suffering of individual identity. We cannot reach understanding alone, as we often are unaware of our blind spots. A true partner can help us reach greater truths about ourselves and give us the fire to push our passions to new heights.

When Friedrich took life into his own hands and finds himself face to face with Jo and the entire March family. Now, Jo must heed Amy’s lesson on determination. A new adventure awaits in a train to California with Friedrich on it. It will not require a sacrifice of who she is, but an admittance there is still much more to become.

So here’s to those of us who are love-hesitant chasing that train in the new year and taking the chance at betting understanding ourselves through the love we can give others.

Standard
Movies

My Favorite Films of 2019

*Spoilers abound*

10. Judy

Reneé Zellweger’s performance was all it was hyped to be. She adds a new dimension to a star that is sadly fading from the pop culture canon. Zellweger captures tragically the agony of Judy Garland’s last stages in her career. Her eyes convey someone broken, and fully aware she cannot be fixed. Zellweger endears us to Garland with the devotion she has for both her children and her fans. The climatic scene of her pouring her last drops of energy into a final rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” a last shared moment between her and the fans that gave her meteoric rise and devastating fall purpose, was one of the most heartbreaking scenes in film this year. Zellweger fully deserves the Oscar that is hopefully heading her way.

9. They Shall Not Grow Old

I don’t think there was a grander feat attempted in film this year than Peter Jackson’s efforts with this World War I documentary. First off, Jackson and his crew sifted through 600 hours of interviews from soldiers collected by the BBC and International War Museum. Jackson then took the distorted footage that remains from almost a century ago, colorized it, used modern production to create more animation, then added sound effects that resulted in one of the most authentic war documentaries to date.

8. Midsommar

The boldest and most imaginative horror film premise on record. The newly crowned king of horror, Ari Aster, takes never ending daylight and transforms it to sinister effect. Florence Pugh kicked off her moment in the spotlight with a good breakout performance as the grief stricken Dani. Unfortunately, Aster wasn’t able to get the most out of his characters like he did in his debut Hereditary. The gang of caricatures in Midsommar don’t produce the same complexity as Toni Collette’s internal fight between grief, anger, and motherhood. Aster should be praised for this brave attempt to revolutionize the horror genre, but I just wish the execution could’ve been better.

7. The Farewell

There is not a single character in Lulu Wang’s family memoir that I do not love. Zhao Shuzhen’s performance as Nai Nai, the family matriarch who is diagnosed with cancer but unaware of her diagnosis because of the family’s cultural practices, is brilliant and if there is any justice in the world should sweep up any best supporting actresses awards (she’s nominated for a Independent Spirit Award in that category). She’s sweet and witty, but also the epitome of toughness that main character Billi (played by Awkwafina) needs in her navigation of the quickly approaching adult world. The other family members deserve their praise as well, from the stoic but secretly hurting son Tzi Ma (played by Haiyan Wang) to Hao Hao (played Chen Han), the grandson and groom lost inside his own culture. The camera swivels rapidly as the family downs shots at Hao Hao’s wedding, each character completely unique from the next but a perfect fit together.

6. The Lighthouse

I’m a sucker for a film heavily packed with allegory and symbolism, and Robert Eggers makes sure to shove as much of those aspects into his sea-epic. Willem Dafoe plays a lighthouse manager, who doubles as a shepherd-like figure for the vengeful god of the sea Neptune. Robert Pattinson is quite literally a lost soul at sea, looking for four weeks of work, but more importantly for salvation from past transgressions. A nasty storm hits that tests Pattinson’s desire for penance, and puts him on the tipping point between heaven and hell. It’s a film that opens itself to multiple interpretations, but regardless of your takeaways the last 30 minutes will leave your jaw dropped.

5. Knives Out

A fun and light murder mystery that also is a politically astute commentary on American politics is a hard thing to pull off, but Rian Johnson nails it. The descendants of Harlan Thrombey’s (Christopher Plummer) self made wealth are a murderers row of everything wrong with our current political landscape: the rise of the alt-right youth, trust fund babies, and lifestyle gurus. Daniel Craig relished the opportunity to get his Atticus Finch on, and delivers a great performance as the righteous Southern investigator. The true star of the show is Marta (Ana de Armas), Thrombery’s nurse living with her undocumented mother, who against her will finds herself up against these scourges of America. Johnson gives his main character a happy ending, and instills in the audience the fantasy of justice that allowed us to escape the unfortunate reality of our current American society.

4. Uncut Gems

This film never gives you a moment’s peace. Adam Sandler never stops screaming as a jewelry salesman and overall asshole Howard Ratner. The noise continues to build as Ratner weaves his bullshit across New York. You’re anxious, you’re irritated, but also somehow rooting for Ratner. The Safdie Brothers did what they set out to do, drain you of all your emotion and leave you dumbfounded. You might leave the theatre not sure what the hell just happened, but you’ll have definitely felt the entire 2 hours right in your pulse.

3. Waves

A true coming-of-age drama that leaves all the sappiness at the door. Tyler Williams (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) faces the real challenges of American youth that can’t be overcome with light-hearted romps. He’s weighed down by the expectations not only of family, but of the pre-defined notions of masculinity and our ill-fated attempts at perfection. He faces the reality of human limitations without the copings mechanics to come to terms with his humanity. Mix in the opioid epidemic and you have a powder-keg of youthful frustration that has no healthy chance to escape. We are hit with a harrowing end to act one, but are thankfully given an optimistic second act that gives a tad of reassurance. Themes of love, honesty, and acceptance through the lens of Emily, Tyler’s sister (Taylor Russell), and her positive relationships with her father (Sterling K. Brown) and boyfriend (Lucas Hedges) provides the next generation a blueprint to climb out of that dark hole that often faces us.

2. Parasite

A suspense film masterpiece. Director Bong Joon-ho moves gracefully from comedy to tension, tragedy to vengeance, in his metaphor of class struggle between the working class Kim family and ruling class Park family. The images within the film of that struggle are poignant. The Kims find themselves stuck in the Park family’s house, trapped underneath their luxurious living room table, as the Park couple find sexual gratification in their employee’s poverty. Never will you want to eat the rich more. It’s probably the most complete film of the year, and should clean up come award season.

1. The Last Black Man in San Francisco

I didn’t identify with a character more this year than Jimmie Fails’ fictionalized version of himself in Joe Talbot’s commentary on gentrification and cultural displacement. Jimmie Fails is struggling to find his place in the city he loves. He holds his hope in his childhood home that his family was priced out of. Jimmie maintains the home that he no longer possesses, continuing to paint and garden so the cracks don’t start to show. As the film moves forward, the cracks inevitably do show. The idealized version of his childhood starts to show its true face. Jimmie has built a new family network involving his best friend Montgomery (Johnathan Majors) and Mont’s father (Danny Glover), insulating him from the dissolution of his relationship with his own father. The scene that will stick with me the most from this year sees Jimmie on the bus, eavesdropping on two transplants bad mouthing San Francisco. Jimmie sharply interjects:

“You don’t get to hate it unless you love it.”

It spoke so much to my feelings with Pittsburgh. I hate the problems this city faces, and look nowhere near close to changing. Racism is prevalent throughout the city, its cultural charm disappearing institution by institution. As yes there are some elements I can never understand when it comes to the systemic racism of inequitable development, but Jimmie Fails and his search for his small pocket exclusively his own in the city he loves represents all us city dwellers that are worrisome about where they belong in the future of the city we love wholeheartedly.

Standard
Movies, Uncategorized

Yet Another Star Wars Review

*This article contains huge spoilers, so if you somehow stumble on this without having seen The Rise of Skywalker, it would probably be in your best interest to steer clear.* 

Star Wars opinions: it seems like everyone has one on the Internet these days. Disney sucks. Rian’s fault. JJ’s fault. The inundation of reviews has made it almost impossible to determine whether I even think the trilogy are good movies. It’s all swirling around up there, ready to be synthesized. There is only one possible solution to it all… one more hot take to throw into the fire. Head deeper into the Disney content vortex, in hopes I can sail the ship out the other side with some conclusion.

The only way this can be achievable is if I scale things back and determine what actually matters in a Star Wars film. The biggest problem I’ve had in analyzing these films is that the passion I have for the franchise consumes me (much like the passion Anakin had for Padme consumed him… see, here I go). Once the characters were established for this trilogy, I started to build the vision in my head. Then the plot starts to steer off the course I plotted, and I got upset the Star Wars world I built wasn’t realized.

Thinking about what could have been will get me nowhere. Instead, I need to look back at what started this passion and understand what made those first three movies great to a young nerd. I boiled down the original trilogy to three core elements that carried them into the pop culture pantheon: character development, world building, and story. When scrutinizing the new trilogy on these terms, I think I finally might find clarity.

Character Development

Ah, what a motley crew that greets us in the beginning stages of A New Hope. We immediately receive the groundwork for an epic space opera that’s on a direct beeline for immortality. Darth Vader epitomizes villainy perfectly. Luke is a boy about to embark on the journey of a lifetime, certainly an idea that a young imaginative mind can embrace. Then surround that main character (aka yourself) with the coolest best friends ever. It’s hard not to immediately get lost in that world.

Going forward, they search for love, friendship, and salvation in one another. All of these are achieved for the most part in a group dynamic. That togetherness provokes a familial element that reaches into our inner desires. Watching the bonds of family and friends conquer intergalactic adversity gives us hope that our personal networks we build can achieve the same.

Here we find my first flaw in the trilogy, and the blame for this one lies mostly with The Last Jedi, the film that produced the most inner strife for myself. The Force Awakens regenerates new great characters in Rey, Finn, and Poe, and the film ends placing them all in interesting attack positions on the chessboard. The Last Jedi takes those pieces and with a giant swipe sends them to the dark corners of the galaxy.

These three characters share almost zero screen time in the film until the final moments. Poe and Rey actually meet for the first time at the end of The Last Jedi. Finn spends the movie on a do-nothing mission with a pawn on the character chessboard. Two and half hours dribble by, and the opportunity to build that group rapport is squandered.

Writer and director Rian Johnson took a similar risk that The Empire Strikes Back managed to pull off. By isolating the major players, the characters embark on inner discovery that shapes them for the rest of the series. However, Johnson failed to recognize his positioning within the entire Star War series. Seven films came before him and a whole universe has already been established by the introduction of his chapter in the saga. More works needs done to chip away at the old guard of the first six films and create a new group dynamic that the audience wants to invest in.

J.J. Abrams, the creative point for the new trilogy, tried to right this mistake in his direction of The Rise of Skywalker. While Abrams has taken flak for contradicting The Last Jedi and making Johnson’s contributions to the saga obsolete, the decision to have Rey, Finn, and Poe share the screen for a huge chunk of the film was a needed fix. Watching the new crew sleuth around the Star Destroyer harked back to the adventurous and amusing nature that made you want to root for the OGs.

The chemistry was simmering between the three, but because of the separation caused by The Last Jedi it never reached a full boil. There just wasn’t enough experience shared between them to fully commit to them being lovable successors to their Resistance elders. Part of that is due to the group never encountering meaningful conflict (more on that when I get to the story discussion). Watching the characters work together to overcome their misfortune is what truly bounds the audience to them. As we enter into the final chapter without that redemption arc in place, the trilogy feels more like a cute Meetup session between a pilot, fighter, and Jedi than a family’s journey reaching its satisfying end.

World Building

Tauntauns, AT-ATs, Cloud City… the original trilogy brought us new concepts that revolutionized science fiction cinema. You fell head first into a universe that captured imagination, but left room for you to build more in your head. For the most part, the new trilogy succeeds at this as well.

Here is where Johnson deserves praise for his bold attempt at branching away from the already established and much loved Star Wars universe, and chartering off into his own territory. The planets he creates are unlike others from the series, but my favorite thing about them is they are functional in understanding how the universe operates. This is one of the complaints I have about the world building additions made in the prequel trilogy. The planets created serve no purpose other than for Lucasfilm to flex their CGI capabilities.

Canto Bight is the best example of using a planet to glimpse into the culture and problems that arise from intergalactic governance. Within the Canto Bight scenes, we see capitalist greed, police over-surveillance, and a fight for animal (species, creature?) rights. These are issues we never contemplated occurring within space, but make incredible sense considering the always present themes of imperialism and rebellion within the entire saga. We also receive snippets of religion (the nuns of Ahch-To) and industry (the mineral mines of Crait), all elements that take a universe and mold it into a society.

Sadly, Abrams seemed unwilling to venture into the darkness of the Star Wars universe and discover his own worlds like Johnson did. He retreated into the comforts of the already existing. The climatic scenes of The Rise of Skywalker involved X-wings, Star Destroyers, and the Millennium Falcon. It all felt repetitive and stale. While perhaps there was a vocal group of Star Wars fans that wanted to stay in their nostalgic bubble, I wanted a new adventure that sparked the joy that started this obsession. While there were many flaws to Johnson’s film, at least his universe made us curious about what else laid inside it.

Story

What film can succeed without a coherent story? The original trilogy’s storyline was simple, easy to identify with, and captivating above all. This new trilogy is none of those three.

It could’ve been. The Force Awakens ends with character arcs that should guide them through the rest of the series. Kylo Ren dealing with his inner conflict between light and darkness. Rey set to embark on her difficult journey of self-realization. Johnson’s duty with The Last Jedi is to take these character arcs and develop deep conflict by the end of the film that the characters must resolve in the final chapter. It’s what makes The Empire Strikes Back the greatest film in the franchise. The characters encounter their limitations and face the dire consequences because of it. You worry not only about how they will come on top, but how they will grow as characters. It’s the perfect bridge between beginning and end. Perhaps Johnson tried doing this, but I feel he failed miserably. The characters are in no greater danger than how they began The Last Jedi. Even worse, our main character Rey has no personal crisis that will propel her forward to her coronation as trilogy hero.

The lack of a cohesion between the visions of Johnson and Abrams derails the story completely off the tracks. Abrams gives every impression in his script for The Rise of Skywalker of feeling pressured to correct Johnson’s mistake, scrambling towards some sort of conflict that can carry his film. Once again, he rests on the ideas of George Lucas with a half ass attempt to write Emperor Palpatine back into the universe. Then gives Rey her personal crossroads by an even lamer decision to bind her and Palpatine by blood. It’s lazy writing that lacks a single drop of creativity. When we reach our ending, I hardly cared. The story had been twisted and mangled to the point where the crux of any good action film, your beloved characters overcoming their struggles and affirming our utopian dream of good always defeating evil, was incapable of any satisfaction.

If you leave the theatre after the last film of your favorite film series devoid of any satisfaction, I guess you have no other choice to label the new trilogy not good. After looking past the gut reactions and embroiled debate between friends, I think I now understand why. It comes down to the lack of a unified vision with how this trilogy was to unfold. There were moments in the three films that had the three great elements of a Star Wars film, but never were they working in sync. Abrams built the bare bones for a good story and Johnson buried those bones so Abrams could never find them again. Johnson built a new captivating universe and Abrams blew it up with a Star Destroyer. In the end, I will view this new trilogy as a story of unrealized potential and an inability to work together. And when you consider that Star Wars is a series dedicated to fulfilling your destiny and the power of fellowship, a trilogy that is drastically missing these elements can only be seen as a dishonor to those original films I hold so dear to my heart. 

Standard
Tottenham

My Tottenham Trip

Each week, I’m offered a different perspective as an American supporter of Tottenham Hotspur compared to those that actually support from England’s capital. As I step through the door of Piper’s Pub, I immediately feel home amid a sporting culture that treats soccer as an afterthought, and even sometimes, with open hostility. I can gather with like-minded individuals at Piper’s and experience the magnitude of a North London Derby or a massive six-pointer to an almost authentic degree. Celebrating these moments with a small community is what makes me feel connected to my club while so far away.

However, that doesn’t stop there being at least one brief moment each match where I feel there’s a part missing. The distance starts to echo as I look on through television monitors. There is quite clearly an awesome atmosphere beyond the screen that becomes subdued as it transmits over the Atlantic. For the past two years, the desire grew stronger within me after each match. “I have to get over there,” especially pressed as the hallowed grounds of White Hart Lane are to be torn down after this season.

I couldn’t fight the feeling any longer. I saved up and cashed in my vacation days. I welcomed in 2017 on a flight to London to see my first Premier League match, and one of great quality. Spurs were to host Chelsea, heavy favorites to win the league entering the new year after notching 13 wins in a row. I couldn’t pick a better fixture to experience that atmosphere I craved.

The journey to my footballing mecca began with a tour of the grounds. I prepared myself inside the tunnel for that burst into light. I emerged and was surrounded by the perfect green of the pitch. Off to my left, Tottenham crested cranes skied towards the clouds, working on the new stadium just behind the North Stand. My eyes swept across the roof of the opposite East Stand, spotting the bronze cockerel perched on top. The panoramic view offered a brief snapshot into the club’s past, present, and future.

Throughout the halls were other reminders of the great history that accompanies Tottenham Hotspur. The bust of the late Bill Nicholson didn’t do the well-decorated club legend as much justice as the beautiful speech of appreciation that our tour guide gave. On the other side of the room rested the ball used in Tottenham’s 2-0 victory over Leicester City to win the 1961 FA Cup, thus becoming the first club in the 20th century to complete the league and cup double. It was the greatest year in the course of Tottenham Hotspur, and I got to relive a small part of it a half-century later.

Trophies ranged back all the way to 1901. Framed was the sponsor-free lilywhite shirt that Ricky Villa danced in to lift the 1981 FA Cup. These relics of past glory helped me realized another reason why I love this club so much. As modern football gives way to sheikhs and oil magnates, we refuse to sell our history. The players of today honor those before them with the same “To Dare Is to Do” spirit. I exited the grounds, reflecting on a quote printed on the hoardings that encircle the pitch. “This is my club, my one and only club.” I felt proud and ready for matchday.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The floodlights switched on for the primetime fixture. I arrived at the grounds early to witness the atmosphere build. The night began with an egg sandwich and coffee in the corner of a cozy Ethiopian and Eritrean café on Park Lane. After collecting my tickets, I trekked up Church Road for a couple drinks at the Antwerp Arms.

The pre-match pub vibe surprised me. There were no songs or banter shouted loud enough for the crowd to hear in the hopes of being crowned jester. It was quiet and everyone seemed reserved, as if they were storing all energy for the match to come. I picked up an adequate buzz and fell back to White Hart Lane.

People outside the grounds had tripled while I was away. Polices horses now pranced around to keep the traveling Chelsea supporters in check. The winter air felt sharper as the clock ticked down to kick-off. I found a spot and watched people shuffle up and down Park Lane. A man then approached asking if he could interview me. I knew this was a thing that happened at English football grounds, as I often watch ArsenalFanTV after a bad Gooner result to see Claude and Ty implode for my sick pleasure. This, however, was clearly a smaller scale production. The man nudged next to me with a low-budget microphone, his friend recording from a handheld camera. I thought why the hell not.

The man began by asking me who I support, as I looked back at him with my Tottenham beanie and scarf. He then attempted to wind me up, hyping Antonio Conte’s managerial skills and the quality of his players. I politely agreed, but retorted with the magic of Mauricio Pochettino and his Tottenham boys.

“What will be the score?” he asked.

“2-0.”

“Chelsea?” he said with a wry smile, hoping I would boil over and he would get an interview that was YouTube worthy.

“No, Tottenham,” I shot back calmly.

I shook off the weird encounter and entered the stadium. I found my seat in the last row of the Southeast corner. My sight line went directly down the corner flag and end line. The pre-match warmups sped by and all of the sudden the two teams exited the tunnels. The adrenaline began to course through me while the hosts welcomed their heated rivals to the Lane with handshakes.

That reserved energy at the Antwerp Arms exploded once Dele Alli passed back to Eric Dier to get the match underway. There wasn’t a single moment in the next 90 minutes when the stands were silent. Even seemingly insignificant parts of the match carried a weight with them. Whether it was Jan Vertonghen intercepting a pass and galloping into the midfield or Victor Wanyama shrugging a Chelsea attacker off the ball, the crowd roared.

Spurs pushed closer to Thibaut Courtois’ goal as the first half progressed. The supporters developed their full voice, working through their catalog of chants. I had yet to join in, feeling undeserving. I worried about being labeled a fraud if I fumbled a line.

That shyness disappeared around when the fourth official displayed the amount of first half stoppage time and a few fans made the poor decision to leave for the restrooms early. All in the stands seemed to accept a 0-0 stalemate at halftime when Christian Eriksen orchestrated one last attack. He played Kyle Walker down the right hand side, where Walker flicked back for Eriksen to float a cross towards Alli at the far post. The young star seemed suspended in air. As the ball arrived at Alli’s head, you could tell what was about to unfold. I was about to experience the moment I traveled all this way for. Alli knocked the ball across goal and past a flying Courtois. 1-0.

The next 30 seconds were spent in unconscious bliss. I regained myself to find Alli in our corner, surrounded by delirious Spurs supporters in the front row of the South Stand. The people around me pulled out their phones for a perfect photo opportunity, while I picked mine off the ground after it must’ve fell out my pocket during the post-goal scenes.

Not shortly after was the halftime whistle. The players were serenaded off the pitch to the tune of the super-catchy Dele Alli chant. This one I couldn’t help but sing.

“We’ve got Alli, Dele Alli. I just don’t think you understand. He only cost five mil. He’s better than Ozil. We’ve got Dele Alli.”

Everyone joined in at different points during the first refrain. The Lane grew in volume during the second refrain and crescendoed in the third go round. I unabashedly belted out every word. It left me with goosebumps.

The second half began by Chelsea delivering me down from my state of elation and putting me on edge. The visitors started to pick at the cracks in Tottenham’s defensive wall and tested Hugo Lloris with a handful of threatening chances. My chest hardened and my foot tapped the concrete below with the pace of a hummingbird. Visions of Eden Hazard dashing our title hopes last year appeared in my mind.

Spurs weathered the storm and dealt the counterpunch that proved the knockout. The second goal mirrored the first: a Walker pass back, a perfectly placed Eriksen cross to the far post, and an Alli header across goal. The stands erupted with a similar burst of noise and chaos, but was followed by a sense of relief. Tottenham could switch on the cruise control for the remaining 35 minutes.

Pochettino and his back three controlled the match until the final whistle. Vertonghen destroyed all of Chelsea’s play that came down the right-hand side. Dier tormented a mopey and ineffective Diego Costa all night.

Supporters continued to sacrifice their vocal chords for the brilliant display their club gifted them. The Lane thundered with the collective stomps that accompanied “Yid Army.” The Chelsea supporters were sent back to West London with the mocking, “na na na na, you’re shite.” The climax came in stoppage time with “The Spurs Go Marching In.” The pause in between each line allowed me to survey the crowd. Everyone had the hands raised in the air. 25,000 were united in love of their club. We had synced with the players to make a statement to the Premier League, and now we celebrated our accomplishment. I gave everything I had left to the chant, a happy goodbye to this special place that had only existed to me within a 36-inch frame just days ago.

The final whistle blew and one last roar came from the crowd. The score flashed “2-0” on the big screen. I hoped that man with the microphone felt like an idiot now.

The team showed their thanks to us while “Glory, Glory, Tottenham Hotspur” played over the sound system. Pochettino and his boys disappeared into the tunnel, and like that it was over. All that energy faded until White Hart Lane returned to its peaceful sea of royal blue seats, the way it was first presented to me on the tour. The night disintegrated fast after that. No amount of beer could rescue that high I just experienced.

The match was so fast-paced that it was hard to process what it all meant to me right away. The amount of emotion within the stadium pushed me back onto my heels, sending my brain into overdrive.

The 7-hour flight back to the States gave me time to decompress and put the trip into context. I sometimes think that “football is a religion” is an overused metaphor, but I would truly describe the four days I spent in London as a spiritual journey. My time in White Hart Lane among the Tottenham supporters gave me a deeper understanding of my faith in this club. I learned of the responsibility that each supporter has to give their passionate voice, in order to tip the scales in their club’s favor. I added a new layer to the communal spirit I feel around with other supporters. I knew how it felt to be one of ten awake at 7:30 in the morning on the Saturday, trying to summon some gas from the bottom of the tank. Now I also know how it feels to be anonymous within the masses. I left my identity outside the grounds and melded with others into one entity, a fellowship solely dedicated to Tottenham Hotspur. I no longer had the feeling that some part of me was missing. Singing Dele Alli’s name under the lights of White Hart Lane filled that last piece. I was now complete.

 

Standard