#EveryoneN as a way of being

With Nashville SC’s season over, it’s that time of year, whether I like it or not, when pundits and columnists (including my own colleagues) will be writing columns about what the team needs to do to improve for next season.

We will read about the great debut season we had, take a second to enjoy it, then jump right into what Nashville needs in each position to really shape the team into a force. Who stays and who goes? What kind of player are we looking for? Do we name names or simply talk about positions?

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While I suppose I enjoy that type of talk, I’ve never been particularly gifted at it. I know who I think played well consistently, and I know where I think there are weaknesses, but I’m never quite confident with my judgement. I never feel great at assessing when a player who is good in one system might not fit well in another. There is another part of me that thinks it irrelevant anyway. Managers and owners don’t make a decision based on the chatter of the likes of me.

This is a long roundabout way of saying that this column will not attempt to make such a stand. Instead, I want to think about what we are doing as a community outside of the club at making this thing grow. What’s working on our end? What can we, collectively, do better? This year, we were limited by the pandemic; the year after next, we will be gifted with the new stadium as a built in momentum builder. So, what do we do next year, you and I? 

Fans at Nashville SC’s MLS opener in February (Casey Gower-Broadway Sports)

We had an amazing start to our first season. Almost 60,000 of us in Nissan Stadium, cheering away, waving the gold, announcing to the league that we had arrived. Then the disaster of the pandemic hit. So, the Backline was cooking, building chants, getting the energy brewing. The club was doing its part, building traditions and songs that the fans could play with. But now, we had to change gears.

Here’s the stuff I think we’ve done well, or rather, you have. 

The online discussions have been generative and amazing. I’m in a lot of places, not always under my own name and rarely ever talking, but I like what I see… on Facebook, on Twitter, on Reddit, on Slack. I’m not in every community, but the ones I am in illustrate people dedicated to the team, dedicated to the community, thinking hard about soccer, sometimes thinking even hard about the community at large.

Somewhat parallel, I’ve been very impressed by the way folks take care of each other. There is not only the recent example of the group in Ghana I talked about last week, but I’ve also witnessed a number of GoFundMe types of campaigns for individual members. That’s how we build something we can trust. Even when it doesn’t involve funding, there seems to a general sense of good will toward each other that I think will serve us well as we work together in the future.

Then, there’s the groups like Kickin It 615, who are building a better world through soccer. They are not directly tied to Nashville SC, but, in a larger sense, they are. Not only are their directors part of the Backline, but they are also helping provide opportunities for others through soccer. That not only helps build a soccer base, but it also helps all of us see things a little differently.

Here’s the thing I want to stress about all of this. Almost unfailingly, people have been welcoming.  he snark seems reserved for little asides between friends. I see less of the trolling behavior in most of the conversations than I do in other communities. It’s not absent, I know, but it seems tempered. I think that’s important. 

Fans at a match in last season’s USL Championship playoffs (Casey Gower-Broadway Sports)

We are a big community, some of us have been here since Nashville FC started as an NPSL team, others just joined. No one should feel intimidated; no one should feel anything but pleasure in becoming part of this. When we win the league in a few years, and a million new folks join our community, let’s remember to welcome them in the same way. Getting here earlier than others doesn’t mean you’re a more dedicated fan or a “better” fan.

The pandemic will pass; we will get into our own stadium; we will be at massive watch parties together; this is going to get better and better. In the meantime, we can build toward that by welcoming one another, respecting one and other, and helping when we can.

#EveryoneN should be more than a slogan. It should be an attitude. We are in, and we are in it together.

The views expressed above are those of the author, and do not represent those of Broadway Sports Media as a whole.

Author: John Sloopgrew up in Asheville, NC, and after forays to Georgia and Iowa, found his way to Nashville over 25 years ago. On a trip to Portland, Oregon, 15 years ago, he watched the (then) USL Portland Timbers youth squad play one afternoon and fell completely and totally in love with soccer, to the detriment of his love of all other sports. In addition to thinking, writing, watching, and talking about soccer, Sloop teaches media and rhetoric at Vanderbilt. He is currently serving as the Chair of the Board of the Belcourt Theater and is part of the team that runs Tenx9 Nashville, a monthly story telling event.

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