Tribes and Money

By John Sloop.

MLS is back (and have a tournament with an moronic name that says the same), but, alsas, we still have no idea when we’ll be allowed back to the games.

Like all of you, I dream of being present at the tournament, at a game. Honestly, my desire to be at these games, at any NSC game, is likely stronger than any of yours, given that I had to miss the inaugural home game while taking a class over to London (we flew out the very day of the game and watched it in the Chicago airport while you guys were making history).

Honestly, though, I don’t expect that we’ll be seeing any live games this season, not unless a one-step vaccine is developed and produced in mass quantities by that time. So, assuming that we won’t be able to attend any games (or that we will only be able to attend a handful of them), the question arises as to what to do with that money we put down to buy our season tickets.

As most of you know, the club says (and this appears to be what most clubs are doing) that we will have the option either to get a refund or to roll the money over to next year’s season tickets. That seems like a wise decision on the club’s part. It allows those who need some quick cash now access to it, and it allows the team to have a bit of liquidity given that a number of folks, myself included, will just roll the money over into the next season.

Casey Gower/Speedway Soccer

It seems so cut and dry of a fair deal—given that absolutely no one could have predicted or known how to handle the situation that we are in—that I’m surprised to hear so much chatter on line (where else would I hear anything these days) about what the team should be doing in addition to this option. I’ve heard people say things like, “Why isn’t the team doing something for me to give me an incentive to let them hold my money?” Or “This is basically like the team asking me to loan them money that I could be making interest on” (yeah, slap that season ticket into a savings account for a year, and watch it grow you four dollars).

Everyone is entitled to their opinion, for sure, and, as my colleague Davey is constantly pointing out to me, ultimately, this is a business. But, honestly, I never really look at it as “just a business.” I’m far too romantic about the sport for that. I feel like part of the team (not part of the company or organization, which would be very different). I often refer to Nashville Soccer Club as "we". That is, I’m more likely to say “We are playing Atlanta this weekend” than “Nashville is playing Atlanta this weekend.” With other sports, I refer to the team (e.g., “Who are the Titans playing next week?”), but it’s different with soccer. It feels tribal. I get misty eyed imagining that somehow we are all identified with the team.

As a result, I feel like “we” have been affected by the pandemic, that we are all in this together. If keeping my money does anything for the team, then that’s the tiny itty bitty thing that I can do, that makes me feel like I’m part of it. While Davey is right, of course, that it’s this precise logic that would allow a team to “take advantage” of its fans (and I suppose we should always think about that), I would rather have the attitude of “What can I do to make this team and fan base feel more solid?” than “Well, the team owes me now.”

Again, I’m not pointing fingers and I’m not naming names; I’m not prescribing a proper behavior and I’m not saying there is only way. I suppose what I’m doing—or have been doing during this pandemic—is thinking a lot about community: how we build it, how we belong, how it constitutes us. And I’ve been thinking a lot about how much community has gotten me through this awful nightmare of being at home all day every day. And one of the communities that is most meaningful to me is this one. And I suppose I’m still naïve enough to want everyone to have the same starry eyed, teenager in love, passion that I have for it.

I hope to see all of you strange people soon.

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