My very first blog post for the Pride was about the excitement of Opening Day in Cincinnati. It’s a celebration that has surrounded our baseball team since the beginning of time, or at least it feels that way. There’s just something about it. For me, and probably you, opening day represents optimism. It’s a celebration of the possible. It’s the one time a year Cincinnatians allow them selves to dream of what’s possible.
But let’s be honest, the other clubs in town have been terrible stewards of this holiday. The Reds have failed to playoff series winning team since the majority of the bailey has been talking. Despite “Cincinnati Opening Day” being so closely associated with the Reds, they’ve survived solely on tradition. The Bengals tend to open their stadium for the first time to a full-priced preseason game that hardly anyone can muster a concern about. On top of the failures of the franchise since the late 80’s, it’s been a long time since this city has been allowed to feel optimism around the Bengals. When looking over the last 30 years, Major League sports and Cincinnati have been a bummer of a combo.
And here comes the inevitable turn to FC Cincinnati. And I’m not going to sit here claim that Opening Day should belong to FC Cincinnati, that’s not what this is about. But you have to admit, FC Cincinnati have been better stewards of the Opening Day optimism than the Reds or Bengals have been. They’ve been a club willing to dream big dreams. They started off in the third division of US Soccer with team like Wilmington Hammerheads and Rochester Rhinos, teams you would be forgiven forgetting we ever played. And in this basement of a niche sport, this club had the audacity to claim they were going for the throne. That they would be a major league franchise. Hilarious.
And slowly but surely, FC Cincinnati has overcome every obstacle in front of them. They’ll never bring 10,00 fans to game = 14k at the home opener. Nobody cares about soccer = 35k at a friendly. They’ll never win anything = Regular season title. They don’t match up to MLS = beating two MLS teams and taking another one to extra time. They’ll never get into MLS = they’re in MLS.
We all know the successes. But if you’ve only casually paid attention you might have felt like it was inevitable. It hasn’t been. Each step along the way has been an uphill battle, and each time the club has come through. That’s why they’ve earned our optimism. And as an expansion team in MLS, another obstacle exists, to perform well and find a way into the playoffs. And there are plenty predicting doom and gloom for our boys in orange and blue. But they’ve always been doubted. They’ve always been underestimated. We’ve always been counted out. But here we are.
So when you grab a pint at a bar (might I recommend TopCats?) on Sunday before the game, take a moment to reflect on the moment. It’s opening day, you’re allowed to feel optimistic. You’re allowed to get your hopes up. You’re allowed to have expectations of excellence. Because that’s all this club has delivered. That’s why we support. That’s why we set off smoke bombs, paint banners, drag in heavy drums, and sing until our lungs give out. Because this club has finally, finally, captured the civic pride that has always existed in Cincinnati. They’ve been better stewards of the idea of Cincinnati than anything else that has come along in the last 30 years.
Republic of Cincinnati, always and forever, singing for the Kings of the Queen City.