Why would anyone want to sit anywhere else?
Last week, when Nashville SC released the new preview video featuring the new stadium that allowed us to see some mockups of some of its features (e.g., a Supporters Bar, a club with a honky tonk feel, a club with a sports bar feel, exclusive boxes, shared boxes). It generated a good bit of online discussion. Of the many comments, one member of the Backline asked the question above. It’s a question I, too, would have asked in wonder a decade ago. It’s a question now to which I have some answers.
If the question had been phrased, “What type of person wants to sit anywhere else?,” there might be a wide variety of answers. A person who just bought their tickets for a tax break. Someone who is trying to entertain clients. Someone who just likes to support local sports. Someone who feels too old to sit in the rowdy section. Someone with a family who doesn’t want to hear off-color language or have beer spilled on them. I dunno… lots of folks.
I’m none of those things, but I still don’t want to sit in the supporters section, even though I’m damned glad they are there.
I write this column not as a prescription but more as a reflection on how fanship changes for some of us over time. When I first became a soccer fan, it was all about the supporter sections for me. When in Portland, I sat with the Army (and, yes, I’ve written about why I feel fine about switching loyalties to Nashville once we joined MLS), when I went to see any USMNT or USWNT game, I sat with the Outlaws. In fact, I daresay that I cared more about being in the supporter section than actually winning or losing. I just freaking loved getting lost in the crowd, or, rather, become one with the crowd. I loved the energy, the atmosphere, the feeling that we were making things hum.
I still love that, honestly.
But something happened over time. I remember feeling irritated once when I was in Portland watching a game and was having trouble watching the play on the field because we were in the midst of doing “Tetris”. I missed a freaking goal while dancing back and for the with the supporters. It began to feel as the Timbers Army was more about the Army than it was about the game.
I’m sure they would say that they are supplying “atmosphere” for the game, but, by that point, I was about the game itself (to the degree that it can be separated out). I was intent at watching plays develop, seeing players take position, and so forth. Not only was it hard enough to watch the game from that perspective (indeed, I spent huge portions of those games watching the screen rather than the actual pitch), but it was even more difficult when I was supposed to moving and chanting in unison.
I decided to move.
Nonetheless, it was difficult to make the transition. Not only are seats more expensive in other parts of the stadium, but I also felt like I was giving up on something. Besides, I used to see the people sitting mid-pitch and picture them as unenthused observers. Now, I know better. For me, when I’m watching, I’m more involved than ever emotionally with the game. My nerves are a wreck, and I don’t have the capo distracting me into a chant that gives me some release. While I had assumed I would stay in the supporters’ section forever, I find where I’m at now to be equally thrilling, if not more so. I’ve changed.
I don’t see this as some type of natural evolution. Indeed, most of my friends in the Backline are hard core types that are in love with every aspect of the game. I don’t think they will ever leave the supporter section. And I don’t think it’s any indication of what kind of attachment they have. But, for me, the way I’ve grown into the game, I had to find my way to a place where I could yell but also pay close attention. At this point, I’m glad the Backline exists, but mostly it’s background to my experience. Although, I do go over at halftime to say hello and relish the feel.
Heck, I have to admit, when the new stadium video rolled, I immediately found myself salivating at the thought of box seats or club level seats… the very types of seats that I used to think were occupied by people who just wanted to drop in and didn’t really care about the game. Now, I think sitting away from the crowd, but watching the match live and in-person, sounds ideal.
Feel free to call me old and out of touch. But I know better.
The views expressed above are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of Broadway Sports as a whole.