By John Sloop, columnist.
You always imagine an audience when you write. When I sit down to write, I sometimes picture particular individuals; sometimes specific groups, and sometimes, I picture a more universal audience. Today, however, I am writing to what I think of as that large group of “post stadium brouhaha intimate friends.” We made it (or at least we are close enough that I feel confident saying it). Not only did we make it, but we’ve become something better. And bigger.
We all know the feeling of going through an intense period of time with a group of friends and/or strangers. From a week at summer camp as kids, to an overnight relay race, people who were once strangers become intimate, tied together for life in one way or another. People who were already friends form new bonds that others will never be able to experience. While many of us in the NSC community (and its earlier NFC incarnation) have known each other for years now, there was something about the stadium struggle over the last several weeks that intensified the potential beauty and esprit de corps of this fan base.
We are all Nashville SC. We are all in this together.
While I always try to take the philosophy of “do not worry over what you cannot control” and while I truly held faith that the stadium deal would ultimately go through (and still believe that the court case against it will not hold up), I admit to having experienced some serious anxiety as our Mayor seemed to dig in harder and harder despite the overwhelming signs of public and corporate desire to get the deal done. What had seemed impossible then seemed implausible, then unlikely, then Oh-My-God-It’s-Happening.
But as we all dug for more information, as we all wrote letters to our council members and mayor, as we talked online and one-on-one, something remarkable happened. We became more united than ever before. And to top it off, by keeping the faith and by making it through to the “victory,” Nashville SC (as a club, and as a family) was left stronger.
Over the course of the last year, I’ve been dismayed to have conversations (with friends, with Lyft drivers, with visitors) who either did not know Nashville had a Major League Soccer team debuting this year (or, aghast, didn’t even know MLS existed) or were at best vaguely aware. Then, as the news about the struggle with the Mayor reached a peak, it seemed that everyone was aware. Knowing I was into soccer, friends wrote me asking about getting tickets (e.g., “Where should I sit?” “What are the advantages of a season ticket?”). The team reported that ticket sales had gotten close to 40K the week of the controversy and that they had their biggest day of sales once the stadium deal passed. And I’m sure a number of you had this same experience.
While I do not want to appear thankful that we had to go through this mess—and I hope our Mayor has learned a lesson about the damages such re-negotiations can cause, despite his predictable declaration of victory—I cannot help but be grateful for how spectacular it all turned out. And that says a lot about this community, about this family of believers.
On a broader level, while the Twittersphere was kicking Nashville around before the deal was made, once it was over, and with the help of FC Cincinnati’s spectacular implosion, we were being celebrated. Like a number of you, I heard from numerous friends around the nation, totally in support of our struggle with the Mayor. Nashville was suddenly on fire.
We were one family before; now, we are a family with a growing history of struggling and fighting. This is the fire that forges strength. This is the fire that increases numbers.
In this mostly celebratory, morning after column, I do want to urge one bit of caution for all of us, however. This is a time to welcome all the new members of the Nashville SC family. Make them feel like family, like they are one of us. This is not the time to brandish your credentials as I admittedly did earlier in this column (e.g., “I’ve been a fan since before Chris Jones first saw a soccer ball”). It’s not a time for any "us-versus-them"s. There will be plenty of time for those discussions later.
This is a time to welcome everyone in, to make it clear that we are all Nashville SC.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The views expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of Speedway Soccer as a whole.
Photo by Casey Gower.