In April of 1995, Tottenham Hotspur officially finished ahead of Arsenal in the Premier League table. With games in hand, they opened up a 10 point gap on Arsenal who only had three games remaining. The teams would finish seventh and twelfth, respectively, a far cry from anything resembling a positive season for either team, trapped in the midtable doldrums. With the higher finish and a win and a loss, Spurs had the upper hand on their rivals and North London was officially White.
It was also the last year they would manage that feat.
Since 1995, also notable as the year I started high school and wasn't even a full fledged soccer fan, the history has been well mapped out. Arsenal went on to add a new manager who built a team that would go on to win league titles, FA cups and be a mainstay in the Champions League. Tottenham remained a midtable team, winning two League Cups and until this year, despite a Gareth Bale fueled false dawn, wasn't a true force domestically, finishing no higher than fourth and always behind Arsenal.
This lead to a little celebration we call St Totteringham's Day or, if you prefer, simply St Tott's. It has been a nearly friendly reminder year in and year out, since it's official inception in 2002, that there always was one team in second place in North London and it wasn't the Gunners.
There are some who like to set aside such a celebration as mere childishness, a distraction from true goals such as winning the league. Those people, in my humblest of opinions, hate fun. The sport is plagued with massive money signings, advertising deals, superclubs playing with a stacked deck and an overall focus on making money (and, yes, winning titles or your team is a failure). What Arsenal have with Tottenham is, in comparision, a beautiful thing. It is a tournament of two with very few moments to decide it (so far, this season is a draw) and is something that can be played for despite the circumstances of the rest of the league. It is a strong rivalry based almost solely on location, as two siblings forced to share the same bedroom. One that has only grown stronger as Arsenal have had the upper hand for so long.
St. Totteringham's day is a dose of humility Arsenal have gotten to dish out for TWENTY-ONE years straight. Twenty-one. That's a heck of a streak (and a lot of amusing phone calls home to dear ol' dad). Whether winning the title on Spurs turf, surviving "negative spirals" or hilariously overtaking large point differentials (MIND THE GAP), it has been a non-stop Arsenal celebration. Wenger has never known finishing second to Spurs; for him, North London is red.
Until Sunday. Tottenham need merely a point against relegated Newcastle (what could go wrong?) while Arsenal need them to lose and then beat even more relegated Aston Villa to pull ahead. It feels improbable. It feels as though the St. Totteringham's Day decorations will have to stay in the closet, while Spurs fans finally get a taste of legitamately being the top dog. And that sucks.
There will be calls from Arsenal fans that Spurs shouldn't celebrate, just as they say Gooner's shouldn't, that this is meaningless in a year Leicester City won it all and both teams are headed to the Champions League. But, again, these people hate fun and I suspect don't have a sibling. For Tottenham this year is much like that younger sibling who never could do anything as well as Arsenal who suddenly grew that extra foot and are now on a level playing field. Believe me, you never want that sibling to win. So it does matter. In the purity of rivalry and getting another year of banter, it matters. Spurs have been waiting a long time to throw St Tott's back in our faces and it sucks.
Unless St. Totteringham's Day improbably comes again. Which, well... stranger things have happen. As a wise commentator recently said, "let's cook up some lasagna."