I classify my interactions with FC Cincinnati over the past couple of years as some of the most fun and positive experiences of my life. The sport I have loved since the age of five exploded in front of my eyes in 2016, in my hometown, a place that I returned to eight years ago.
There are dozens of FC Cincinnati memories that I already treasure: The first game at Nippert and that Sean Okoli scissor-kick, a success-laden inaugural season led by U.S. legend John Harkes, Djiby’s four-goal fiesta against Saint Louis FC in ’17, Mitch’s brilliance in the Chicago penalty shootout during the U.S. Open Cup run, and the people I have met while covering the team and while cheering in the stands. I love each plume of Bailey smoke like a small child I raised myself (ok, overboard). Hell, even “Streamergate” and the Louisville City “bite” scandal are already part of the lore, and I will remember those moments fondly when I look back on this in a few years.
Originally, the possibility of MLS expansion was woven right into that excitement. I watched Don Garber land at Lunken and stood by as Taylor Twellman announced our top-flight aspirations to the nation. It seemed like an unstoppable wave. That was November of 2016. Here we are in March of 2018, and that MLS excitement and anticipation couldn’t seem further away.
Sometime in early 2017, a cloud formed over the MLS expansion conversation. Maybe it started last April when the Saint Louis stadium plan narrowly fell short, and soccer fans around the country, including Cincinnati, celebrated their loss. Maybe it was the opaqueness in the MLS timeline, process, and decision-making criteria that became evident over time. Anthony Precourt’s intentions to move the Columbus Crew to Austin certainly added to the gloom, and that’s a cloud that’s still raining on us today.
Add to that our local government wallowing in the agony of the Paul Brown Stadium deal. Then our beloved media joined in to paint FC Cincinnati as a greedy corporate machine preying on the Cincinnati taxpayer, just to wind people up and generate clicks. How about the special interest groups that have used FC Cincinnati’s popularity to draw attention to their own cause? Throw in all those putting a hand out to get a piece of the Lindner money if they support the stadium plan. I know the process of “how the sausage gets made” can be ugly, but this is disgusting. That’s an idiom usually reserved for lawmaking, but the analogy fits.
So where does that leave me as an FC Cincinnati fan? Fatigued and annoyed, but steadfast. Soccer is the beautiful game. It’s a perfect blend of athleticism, simplicity, strategy, and art, played and watched by every flavor of human being on the planet. It’s supposed to be fun. It’s fun to play. It’s fun to watch. It’s fun to argue about it with my friends over drinks. It’s really fun to make fun of fans from Louisville for…reasons not fit to print.
I’m still in favor of #MLS2CINCY, because I think it’s vital to securing the long-term future of professional soccer in this city. But I’m ready for soccer to be fun again, and I plan to make that happen by fiddling with the controls of my soccer social-media equalizer. I’ll be turning down the blow-by-blow details of MLS expansion, and turning the soccer-specific content up to a ten. Now that the season is in full swing, that’s what I’ll be listening to. So tap me on the shoulder if Don Garber books a ticket to the Queen City. I’m happy to miss the middle part of the MLS expansion jam-band song. Soccer got me into this happy mess, and soccer will get me out of it.