For Columbus Crew fans in Cincinnati, June 14 is the dilemma you never thought you’d have to deal with. If you have been a fan of the Crew from day one, you’ve seen MLS lose teams, you’ve seen Crew win it all and seen them at their worst. You remember games in Ohio Stadium on OSU’s campus, Brian McBride, and those stupid hard hats. But you also remember begrudgingly supporting a team not from your hometown. You remember having to learn to like the black and yellow colors that you were raised to hate. You remember The Crew refusing to play friendlies in Cincinnati while playing games in Akron instead. You grumbled through “Glory to Columbus” and told yourself that Crew was “Ohio’s MLS team”.
And then FC Cincinnati showed up.
The latest in a line of failed professional teams trying to represent your city. But this one felt different. A team that proudly claims Cincinnati as its home and continues to partner with local soccer academies, building fustal infrastructure in the inner city, and provides an amazing on field product that makes you proud to be a fan. The signing of local product Austin Berry showed you this was a team that wanted to win, and to represent the Queen City.
Finally, a professional club for the Queen City.
And now they play each other. Wednesday June 14th is a game between two soccer teams, but it is also a clash of fandom for a soccer loving portion of the city. There are plenty of Crew SC fans here in Cincinnati. So what to do? Do you stick with the team you rooted for as kid, albeit by default? Or do you pull for the team that represents your city? This is not very common. Columbus and Cincinnati are cities that do not clash all of that often, in fact I don’t believe they have ever had professional teams in the same competition ever in their history. This is especially rare for sports fans in Cincinnati.
But it’s not like it has never happened.
The Bengals have only been around since 1967, new kids on the block in the AFL. For NFL fans here in Cincinnati, this presented a crisis. Many of them were already fans of a team dressed in black and yellow, the Pittsburgh Steelers. Having been the closest team for years, and not wanting to cheer for a team from Cleveland, they found themselves Steelers fans. And then some upstart team in orange showed up in their city, playing in Nippert stadium. This marked the end of their Steelers fandom. When you have a chance to cheer on your hometown team, you take it. Sure, you may have fond memories of the road trip to another city while dressed in black and yellow, but now you have a team all your own. A team that represents you and your community, up against other cities, trying to win championships and defend their home in front of a roaring crowd of support. You can’t blame people for abandoning their adopted teams in favor of that hometown pride.
So whose song will you sing?
At Nippert Stadium on June 14th there are going to be two types of fans. There will be fans nordecke-ed out in their yellow and black, singing “Glory to Columbus”, and wanting to see a team from Cincinnati fail. And there are going to be those carrying Cincinnati flags, singing “Cincinnati Here We Go”, and wanting their local team pull an upset that will send a message to the soccer world. There will be two teams on the field, one with Cincinnati on their chest, the other with Columbus over their heart. I know which fans I want to be a part of. I know which team I want to win. I know which city is my home.
I won’t begrudge a person for keeping their loyalty to a team they have supported in the past, but it comes with a price. How much pride in their city can one person have if they won’t support their local soccer team? Worse, they’d rather support another city’s team. And we have tons of pride in our city, hell it’s the name of our supporters group! Cincinnati is our home, adopted or otherwise. And Cincinnati has always seen itself as more of a city state than a part of a larger region. We are unique. We don’t fit neatly into a box. Are we Appalachian? Southern? Northern? Midwestern? Great Lakes? Eastern? Western? No, we’re Cincinnati. We eat weird chili and are home to four Presidents. A city Winston Churchill called “the most beautiful inland city in America”. The Queen City. The first American city. Our city. From the good times to the bad, this is where we call home. And we support those that represent us. I pity the folks who decide to support a team whose fans don’t respect our city and claim we are beneath them. I wouldn’t want to find myself on the side hoping to see Cincinnati fail. I don’t want to see a team from Columbus do well at Nippert period. I want what’s best for my city and my team.
You only get one hometown.