“It’s about time you started singing,” Jimmy, our bus driver, said over the PA, as we closed in on Louisville, with the first NSC cheer song finally breaking out in the back of the bus. This trip wasn’t what I expected; it was better.
One of my favorite books about bus tours and singing is Noel Monk’s 12 Days on the Road: the Sex Pistols and America. When I decided to take the bus with the collective NSC supporter’s groups up to Louisville to watch NSG play Louisville City at Slugger Field last weekend, I didn’t quite expect the seen Monk describes, but I did wonder exactly what I was facing. How freaking loud would this group get? How much would they drink? What the hell am I doing?
I had already rented a room for the night of the game in Louisville. My original plan was to drive up with a friend and stay overnight. When my friend couldn’t make the trip, I considered the supporter’s group bus, but I wasn’t quite sure I wanted to be on a loud, alcohol fused caravan for three hours up and then face an even messier situation on the way back. I’ve aged out of that scene, I tell myself (and, honestly, what used to sound fun now can sound like a pain in the ass). While I still love catching a football day buzz, it’s clearly the slow buzz of a man in his 50s rather than the determined high spiritedness of most supporter sections. And I’m pretty sure I was the oldest person on the bus. If not, I was in the top 3, for sure.
Nonetheless, the bargain was just too good. On my own, if I drove, I was paying for gas, food, beer, a ticket and a hotel room, easily topping a couple of hundred dollars. The trip planned by the collective supporters group (although seemingly organized by Stephen Robinson) included travel, beer, a ticket, no need for a hotel room, plus some free community goodies, all for less than $40. Such a bargain that I was shocked when there was still a seat available.
When I first sat on the bus, I thought the trip was going to actually meet my expectations. Almost before we left the parking, jello shots were passed around the bus. I had already determined that I was going to make rules for pacing, and my first drink wasn’t going to be until we passed the Kentucky line, but it looked as if the bus would be way in out in front of me by now. By the time we hit the interstate, everyone seemed to be a shot and a half of a beer in.
It was then that Stephen rehearsed the three rules for the trip, rules that everyone on the bus seemed to know well: 1. “Don’t be a dick: on the bus, in the stadium, anywhere.” 2. “Do not poop on the bus” (as the bus driver announced, “That toilet is like a bank. Whatever you deposit in it, is going with us”). 3. “Pace yourself. Do not get drunk and act like an ass. We have 10 hours together” (and, as the bus driver noted, “I don’t care how much you drink, but if you get sick, get to the toilet. If you throw up on the bus, we have to all stop and get off.”).
Ultimately, it was a great experience on the way up to Louisville. While the traffic getting out of Nashville delayed my first beer by quite a beer, we had self-segregated on the bus in ways that made the drive even more pleasant that I would have expected (i.e., the loudest, Cards Against Humanity players in the back), the loud, non card players in the middle, then the quieter types who were checking their phones a lot toward the front (needless to say, that was me).
The ride had all of the summer camp aspects that these things generally do. People who had brought pretzels, cookies, or bourbon passed those around; you would overhear stories about previous trips (I heard a lot of conversation about games and plays while I also hearing bits of stories around road trip), but it was fun, civil pleasant. And the bus delivered us right in front of our entrance to the stadium.
The collected supporter’s groups have got trips like this down to a science. My guess is that this is going to be good practice for the future. If we ever get the types of support teams like Portland and Seattle have, we’re going to need to be able to charter multiple buses for trips to Cincinnati). Get off the bus, tailgate for an hour, march into the stadium, and get ready for the game. Watch the game; march out; get on the bus; go.
While I know this is not unique to this group, it really is impressive to see a collective be supportive in the same tone regardless of how the game was going. The group’s familiar chants and cheers sounded just as supportive after NSC had scored the initial goal as when we found ourselves down by a goal. Relentlessly upbeat, relentlessly supportive, relentlessly non-dick like. When a few kids stood outside the section and tried to over banter in the last minutes of the game, the group ignored them, keeping their focus on the team. (And to be fair, the Louisville City fans were more accommodating and friendly than hostile).
When the game ended, the entire section cheered the players off the pitch (and, of course, some of the players cheered the supporters) and then, evidently taking a cue from the Japanese supporters at World Cup games, the group cleaned the entire section, picking up cans, bottles, and napkins..
We were back on the bus, loaded and on the road in time to get back by 11:30. The ride home wasn’t as quiet as I would have imagined, as people talked, sang, communicated back home, or read reports of other games; I chose to depress those sitting around me by reading the doom and gloom stats and facts Ben Wright was providing). When we got back to Nashville, a collection was taken to tip the driver and, once again, members climbed back on the bus to clean it before going home.
I didn’t expect this trip to be like Monk’s experiences with the Sex Pistols, but I also didn’t expect it to be quite so easy, quite such a comfortable setting to have fun in one’s own way.
Not a bad way to spend 10 hours at all.
This is an opinion piece, and does not necessarily reflect the views of Speedway Soccer as a whole.