A Diversion More Like Family

A J Boyd is going bowling.

Megan Robinson is reading, drinking, and doing jigsaw puzzles.

Robert Cortner is hitting the outdoors—hiking, cycling, visiting waterfalls. And going full force on making his craft knives.

Travis Poole is watching a lot of YouTube.

The ever-active Corey Almon is playing a football manager game, watching old country music videos, catching the Democratic debates and primaries and, of course, giving us all stadium updates while dreaming of all that free beer that’s been promised.

Jennifer Rochelle is reorganizing, cleaning, cooking and playing board games with her kids. And FIFA, of course. And she’s hiking. And thinking about the ways supporters can improve on what they’ve learned from the inaugural match.

Chase MaGee is reading books about disciplining children and trying to feel the void by reading, playing games and doing yard work.

Brian T. Henderson is binge tv watching, playing video games. And FIFA, of course.

Gabby Acosta is also a TV binger. And trying to figure out what it’s like to be a hermit.

Stephen Robinson is setting the world record for eating chips and junk food, while he listens to the news and frets, tries not to be too much of a pain in the ass for his spouse, and dreams about supporting the team. He recorded an interview with Colby Sledge for Pharma Soccer. And he plays FIFA, of course.

And, finally, feeling out of sorts, Jennifer Slape tries to push away the anxiety by thinking about different ways she can help support local businesses so that we will have places to which we can return after this crisis is over.

Casey Gower/Speedway Soccer

These are a few of the ways members of the NSC supporters community are facing the COVID-19 crisis. When I posed the question, I asked each one what they were doing while soccer is on hiatus, but we all know my question was about more than the game.

As I’ve said ad nauseum, soccer brings us together. It’s not just a distraction; it’s something we do together that makes life easier, a bit more fun. Ironically, in the midst of a global crisis, we have lost the one distraction—our love for NSC and our other teams, our love for the sport—that would be most helpful to us, in easing the anxiety. So, when I asked “What are you doing without soccer?,” I discovered that I was really asking, “How are you handling the loss, at least in part, of not only a sport, but of a community?”

And while I adored the humor of some of the responses, was impressed with the contemplation, and found myself smiling at each mention of FIFA, it was AJ Boyd’s response that seemed most telling. While I didn’t pursue the conversation further with AJ, I couldn’t help but think back to Robert Putnam’s Bowling Alone. If you know the book at all, Putnam’s thesis—based on a hella research—was that Americans had become more and more disconnected from their communities, friends, networks and democratic structures. While I don’t need to go deeply into Putnam’s thesis, he was interested in how we might reignite those communities and commitments.

In a sense, soccer in general, NSC in specific, gives us those very connections Putnam found missing. We’re not bowling alone; we’re supporting together, across our differences. Hell, we are creating identity and finding ways to reach across divides with a common cause. Sure, we pull for a team, but we pull for each other, we are here to help one and other in times of need. There is something beyond the sport for us, something about connection and family.

And when it’s taken away from us, we mourn. We bowl. We find other things to do to distract because we must. Each of us to varying degrees feels the constant hum of anxiety. About our health, the health of our loved ones, the economy, the future. Like the virus itself, it’s everywhere and nowhere, but it has a large psychic toll.

We’re lucky in a way. With the proliferation of social apps, we are always able to connect (just imagine this with nothing but a telephone). We have numerous ways to play games with each other while we also unite and huddle with our loved ones. So, we have ways to be together, even if they are not entirely adequate (in my mind, only being together at the game is the cathedral we’re looking for).

If there is any one theme that had underlined what I write for this column, it’s community. And while I meant for this particular week’s theme to be a light hearted one focusing on what we do in soccer’s absence, my pursuit only served to highlight the importance of its presence.

We are going to get through this. We will. And, for me at least, the promise of celebrating the game, supporting the team, with the rest of you is going to be the light at the end of the tunnel that I’m looking at.

I miss you. I miss it all.

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