The Big Get Bigger
When Tom Brady engineered his 9th Superbowl appearance yesterday, this may seem to have nothing to do with Tottenham Hotspur football club, but as the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium gets ready to host its first Premier League Game in the coming couple of months, a part of the current stadium readiness displays is the complexity of build and that complexity of building includes a retractable grass surface, with a separate surface underneath it, primarily to host future NFL games. It is the same thinking that got the Fulham billionaire owner to contemplate making a billion dollar bid to buy Wembley Stadium, for that owner also owns the Jacksonville Jaguars - an NFL franchise.
As Spurs continue to play their home games at Wembley Stadium, across in Oakland, the Oakland Raiders who are moving to Las Vegas to become the Las Vegas Raiders will soon be without a home themselves as they (like Tottenham) are waiting for their stadium to be built. The prospect of the Raiders playing their "home" games at Tottenham's new stadium is a viable option for them as they wait to relocate in Las Vegas in 2020. At the same time the Raiders have not intent on sharing their new forthcoming new stadium as part of any MLS expansion bid. If Las Vegas is going to get an MLS soccer team to add to the NFL and established NHL team, it will come through the United Soccer League which features a relatively unsuccessful team called the Las Vegas Lights who play in front of 7000 fans, which in Britain would be a good sized non-league team.
Tottenham's new stadium is being designed with two changing rooms. One for the resident Tottenham team and another built for the NFL. The NFL have accordingly contributed about 10 million to the build project, but that is a drop in the ocean to the expected final cost of the stadium build which will be nearer the 1 million mark.
Ultimately, once the Tottenham Stadium is ready for professional sport, it may well see the New England Patriots coming to it to play an NFL match and that means people in London seeing the now legendary quarter-back Tom Brady play (as he comes to the final couple of years of his American Football career. There is little chance of a Superbowl being played in London, but when we think of Tottenham in the future, we will eventually also be thinking of the NFL.
Those decisions to create multi-purpose use for the stadium makes financial sense but it also provides some perspective as to priorities to focus on making Tottenham Hotspur a giant among giants. The stadium may add to Tottenham's financial muscle and bring them greater cashflow, but just because they have a bigger stadium does not necessarily mean that Tottenham will finally begin to dominate as a European soccer powerhouse. The decisions made in the stadium build are ones made with a financial motive rather than ambition to have the best soccer team in the world. Interestingly in showcases about future NFL stadiums, Tottenham's stadium's is mentioned, but the Raiders new stadium provides actual perspective of a team thinking much bigger than the planners of the Tottenham stadium have done, despite the state of the art stadium that Tottenham will be playing in. The Las Vegas has a build estimate that is just under a billion dollars more than the Tottenham Stadium, but its design is breathtakingly at a wholly different dimension.
Ironically this weekend saw Tottenham go to Fulham (the team owned by an NFL club owner) and Fulham are just one place above the bottom placed team, so on paper the game on Saturday should have been an expected win. That Spurs scored with just a couple of seconds left of injury time says that some of its players are thinking about what it means to play bigger - and Harry Winks, the latest success to emerge from an excellent Youth team program, headed the ball to rob Fulham of a precious league point. It was also a precious 3 points for Spurs that now create a 4pt distance from the chasing pack for one of the two Champions League spots that are still in sight, recognizing that Liverpool and Manchester City are so far ahead of everyone else.
This idea of the big get better is what Tom Brady showcased with his partnership with coach Bill Bellchick and owner Robert Kraft. The big think bigger and 17 years of a successful dynasty that is still operating with the same three men is an amazing testimony. How many Quarterbacks in the NFL however are already expressing thoughts about leadership? In the following two part interview with Tom Brady, Brady shares some of his thoughts around leadership :
The big get bigger because they think bigger. Just because Tottenham have built a state of the art stadium does not guarantee them success, it only guarantees financial constraints because the project at Tottenham is not a Patriots like dynasty. For one, the New England Patriots have delivered six Superbowl wins that Tom Brady quarterbacked and yet still have also managed to incorporate an established MLS soccer team called the New England Revolution. They are the big boys, while Tottenham have simply bought a ticket to make the ascent into being bigger possible.
Manchester City have financial muscle that is greater than Tottenham, and they also have a MLS franchise club they own which is the new expansion team called New York City. Like Manchester City, New York play in the City traditional sky blue. The owners of Manchester and New York City expect success for the New York club in the same manner they expect success and achieving success with their soccer club. Like the New England Patriots there is a long-term project that thinks much bigger than most other teams do. They are not worried that a bigger team will poach their manager, or their best player because Manchester City are now the bigger team.
The way players who play for New England Patriots and Manchester City play, it is big time players who also have the capacity to play even bigger when playing bigger is called for. Nothing proves that much more than the miracle injury time goals that snatched the title from Manchester United - who were already assuming they were champions with the score showing their cross-city rivals losing 2-1 to Queens Park Rangers with normal game time elapsed. From somewhere, big game players stepped up (very much Tom Brady) to secure one of the most unbelievable last seconds title victory.
All the pieces that are required for success are not achieved by thinking financially, they are achieved by thinking bigger than drive future financial power. Tottenham fans only dream of moments this big and this powerful and this means winning the biggest prize. New England Patriot fans have been served regular doses of bigger than big outcomes and when Brady was 25 points behind, he engineering the greatest comeback any Superbowl has seen, against an Atlanta team whose players thought the game won - and this year Brady takes his team of all places - to Atlanta for this years Superbowl on Sunday February 3rd.
While the Atlanta Falcons have felt what Tottenham Fans have felt of being the nearly men, with success in sight but still not in reach, Atlanta were given a MLS franchise which is thinking bigger. Arthur Blank, the owner of those Atlanta Falcons watched this year his new soccer franchise winning the MLS Cup and already achieving bigger crowds at the Mercedez Benz Stadium than his Falcon's franchise.
Arthur Blanks brought in an untested Chairman, Darren Eales. Eales used to be legal counsel for Tottenham Hotspur and he drew his philosophy from his experiences at Tottenham. The difference was that Eales instituted a total football strategy that thought bigger and his immediate focus was in creating relations with fans and the Atlanta community and institute a colour scheme and look and feel about match days that made the NFL stadium into a defacto soccer stadium.
Now winning the MLS is not as big as winning the Premier League or the Superbowl, but for an expansion team to be playing in front of 70,000 fans - which is BIGGER than the Stadium capacity for Tottenham's new ground (Capacity 62,000) is a product of thinking really big and making that big, even bigger by hiring players who embrace being bigger. Tottenham players are beginning to think bigger but the team is also governed by a shoe-string budget. This month 11 million is coming in with the sale of Mousa Dembele to a Chinese team but Pochettino knows that it is unlikely that Spurs will go beyond the zero investment in new players in the last transfer window.
Somehow Pochettino is learning to create a team that is tinkering close to becoming a Champion squad, but one that has to make up for severe limitations in player investment and player wages. Tottenham are not out of the title race, but they are barely clinging on and now with Kane, Son and Ali all not available for the coming few weeks, they are depending on the one thing they have invested in, which is the youth team academy. That focus on youth team is not to win championships but create talent that can command top dollars in the transfer market or buy players that the market have undervalued - so it is much like the Moneyball approach of the Oakland A's baseball team.
The hope is that the present Tottenham investments go on to bring in bigger picture thinkers who bring in managers and players who also think at the same level and who expect championships and to become a dynasty. That is a dream still and at best Tottenham fans can dream of a fairy tale as the one Leicester City fans experienced, when they had that one year when all their players played bigger than big and in so doing denied Tottenham their only other chance to win a league title that they have not won since 1961. It isn't about one title win - but a dynasty like the one Sir Alex Ferguson built at Manchester United - and the job of thinking is not a top-down hierarchy, it is an infectious relationship from the executive suits to the playing staff - not talent bought for talent, but talent that can move from big to even bigger.