Tottenham Hotspur's Gareth Bale, center, is congratulated by teammates… (Frederic J. Brown / Getty…)
Hanging with my homies at a Galaxy game — or are they hooligans? That's what I'm here to find out.
To be specific, I am with the L.A.-based fan club of Tottenham Hotspur of the English Premier League, a boisterous but likable bunch of chaps with British accents and David Letterman hairlines. Most are transplants from across the pond, which leaves you thankful — after a few beers — that there is indeed a pond (I now think of it as more of a moat).
Thanks to transplants like them, and the global spread of pro sports in general, U.S. interest in the Premier League seems to grow every year. And the Tottenham fan club is at the forefront, they say, the first such Premier League fan club in L.A., started in 2005.
Or as they would put it, "Stairt'd in toooo-tousand fi-uv."
And Tottenham is pronounced Taut-num, as if a martini olive just went down your windpipe. "Go Taut-num! I hate Arsenal!" Like that.
As one wit noted, Britain and the U.S. are "two nations separated by a common language." On this night, they are also two nations united by beer.
Before we go any further, let's look at what a Hotspur is exactly. No, it's not a club in West Hollywood. It is the team's name, and nobody really knows what a Hotspur is, except the nickname of some long-ago English nobleman. The team is represented by a bird — apparently a chicken, maybe a goose.
Now, think of the most passionate fans you know. Yankees? Red Sox? Packers? Puppies, all of them, once you get a whiff of the nut jobs of the English Premier League.
What's the appeal of the Tottenham team, over such bigger brands as Chelsea or Manchester United?
For one, it has tradition, dating to 1882. It is also based in London's version of the Bronx, the north part of the city. Very working-class. Enormously diverse. Angry just because.
Over the years, Tottenham has had its share of success. These days, though, there is the aura of the Little Guy taking on the well-moneyed teams from Manchester, in a league with no salary cap. Think of how you feel about the Yankees and that's the way the Hotspur fans feel about Manchester City.
An added attraction, at least in my own estimation, is that Hotspur fans are like some sort of roving comedy troupe.
Gerald, whose last name he swallowed when he told me, like a goat re-chewing his lunch, goes back to London 10 times a year for games. He explains that the hooliganism you hear so much about is not that rampant.
"You'd 'ave to sort aw'f seek it out," he says.
Gerald assures me that the L.A. Spurs are nothing like that, merely a fan club committed to gathering for TV games at local saloons during the Premier League season — August to May — to root loudly and relentlessly.
On Monday, they held a pep rally at the Cat & Fiddle in Hollywood, in advance of Tottenham's exhibition match against the Galaxy here Tuesday, one of three games in the U.S.
"We really aren't very good, are we?" one fan with a microphone asks some Tottenham coaches.
Rolfe Jones, the fan club's gentleman leader, is here. Irish Dave is here too, flown out from New York, where he is the social director of that city's Tottenham wing. To be social director of a soccer fan club is probably the highest responsibility. Without some sort guidance, the guys wouldn't know how to drink at all.
"Oh when the Spurs, go marching in,..."
Oh, Lord, they've started singing already.
"Oh, when the Spurs go marching in...."
The spiritual core of the 500-strong group is a slight chap named Graham, mouthy and irreverent, in the finest British tradition of such things.
Over the weekend, he'd been thrown out of a Tottenham practice; no one's quite sure why.
At Tuesday's pregame party at the Home Depot Center, the cry throughout the stands is, "Where's Graham? Anybody seen Graham?"
"I know he's here because he kissed my shoulder on the bus ride over," a pretty lawyer says.
Just to be safe, a tetanus shot is wise in those cases.
By the way, every time you enter the Home Depot Center, be sure to ask the usher where the plumbing department is. That's what I do — "Which aisle's plumbing?" Your kids will hate it, but the usher's puzzled expression is worth the hourlong ride.
Another thing I'd recommend is to spend one upcoming Sunday morning watching a Premier League game on the telly with the L.A. Spurs of the Tottenham Football Club (www.laspurs.com).
Because the L.A. Spurs, about to begin yet another boisterous season, always come to play.