Updated: Mar 15, 2019
When Nashville Soccer Club (or its rebranded version) begins its inaugural MLS season in 2020, I plan on being one of the die-hard, NSC-til-I-die, type of fans. I say this now, after some real gut-wrenching, existential hand wringing, pearl clutching, crisis mode, thinking. Thing is, the first soccer team I ever followed, the first jersey I ever wore, was that of the Portland Timbers. While I can't say I was ever a die hard fan, I did get out to see them once a year in Portland, saw several games when they were on the road and attended their two MLS finals (in Columbus and in Atlanta). So, I'm a casual fan, but a pretty active casual fan.
So, why am I bothered with something seemingly so simple as fanship? Why so much existential angst about something that is supposed to be so much fun? If you’re reading this, you likely know the answer already. Soccer fanship never feels like fanship; it’s more of a life commitment, a predetermined identity. At its best, soccer fanship emphasizes the "fanatic" from which fan derives. With Chelsea, for example, I am one of those people who feels as if they were chosen rather than chose the team. The bond feels spiritual, meaningful, transcendent. And, given the famous meme of the kid who changed from a Manchester City jersey to a Chelsea one after Chelsea defeated City one day, I take any announcement of jersey change—even with an MLS side—with a great deal of trepidation.
I’ve justified this change from a number of different angles, and I’ve never quite squared it away yet in my own mind. I’m not quite comfortable with my decision, but here’s the angles I’m using:
1. Mystical geography: Being a US born and based fan of a Premiere League team is based on different factors than fanship of a domestic league. This is likely the justification which is the biggest stretch, but it feels right. I didn’t grow up anywhere near Stamford Bridge. Hell, I had never been to London until after I became a Chelsea fan. My fanship with Chelsea as a result feels more like I’m part of an imagined worldwide diaspora of fans. Imagined because we never had a real place of origin, but a diaspora because it feels like we did; it “feels” mystical, as if we were always already fans before we knew it. Yeah, some mystical bullshit there, but I can no more imagine changing PL teams than I can imagine changing my eye color by decision alone.
2. US geography: I live and breathe Nashville. I LOVE this town. I’ve lived here for 25 years now and have never felt more at home any place. I expect to die and be buried here someday. There is something different about being aligned with something you live and breathe everyday rather than a team all the way across the country.
3. Growing with the team: While it may technically be that the Nashville MLS team is a brand new club, we all know it doesn’t feel that way. From the day I met Chris Jones, and he was talking about starting Nashville Football Club to fill the void left by the decline of the Metros, I was all in. I joined the very day he put memberships up for sale and was a member every year. As soon as NFC moved to the USL (and became NSC), I grew with them, buying season tickets each season. So, I was simultaneously an NSC fan and a Portland Timbers fan. While I can see an argument against being a “fan” of two teams in a league with promotion/relegation, that isn’t the case here. So, I feel a little more comfortable getting to make a choice when the little team I supported here moves up to MLS.
So, that’s how I’m justifying it. Maybe I’m overthinking it. Maybe I’m not thinking enough. My friend Robert, who introduced me to the Timbers, is OK with my change and thinks he would do the same thing. My friend Trevor, who lives here in Nashville but is Timbers Army, thinks the change is justifiable although he’s sticking with Portland. So, while I understand the absurdity of changing “Rose City til I die" to “Rose City-til-2020,” that’s where I am. And when the time comes, when NSC finds itself playing Portland, I plan on being louder than any of the rest of you in cheering for our boys in Nashville.
This article is an opinion piece. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Speedway Soccer as a whole.