The closing of the gap

In 2011, returning from a trip to Portland, Oregon, that led me to watch a lot of soccer, I searched Facebook to see if there was a group advocating for an MLS team in Nashville. 

There was. It had, I think, 20 members and two posts. For all purposes, it was a defunct interest group. It either no longer exists or was absorbed into one of the existing NSC pages because I cannot find it. I remember thinking to myself, “We’ll never get a team here in Nashville. No one’s interested.”

After the demise of the Nashville Metros, things felt hopeless until Chris Jones began feeding my optimism (and that of many others) with his successful attempt at building a fan supported team.  A little hope. Although nothing close to MLS. Not at all.

A couple of years later, in one of the early Nashville Soccer Club games being played at Vanderbilt’s football stadium, I ran into Marcus Whitney, one of the owners of the club as we were moving to USL status.

We talked about the upcoming game and season and then we both made note of how grim it looked inside a space far too large for the crowd.  Even a crowd of a couple thousand looks like they are just rattling inside a mostly empty stadium.

“Well, I’ll say this,” Whitney told me, “This does gives us a good visual of where we are now and the type of work we are going to have to do to get where we want to go.”

Nashville FC’s 2015 home opener. Ben Wright-Broadway Sports

Honestly, the visual did more to dampen my enthusiasm than it should have. Because of the good work of so many, Nashville was on a slow but steady roll. Nonetheless, everything that followed seemed impossible at the time. Before John Ingram stepped in, before we all flooded those Metro council meetings, before the games in a baseball stadium, then another football stadium.

But here we all are, collectively, ready to join together this weekend for Nashville SC’s first home game in their very own stadium. 

It’s freaking amazing. It’s such a time to celebrate as a community. 

For the week, let’s put aside the concerns about parking. For the week, let’s not discuss if we like the anthem or not. There are an infinite number of items that each of us could find to get up in arms about, if we want. At least for this week, remember how far soccer in Nashville has come in such a short time. Let’s recognize that, all things considered, the distance between what we wanted and what we now have closed faster than anyone would have dared dream. 

On Sunday, as we all find out various ways into the neighborhood and hike up the hill to GEODIS Park, let’s forget everything but this moment. It’s only going to happen once. There will be frustrations that day, and there will likely be aspects of the experience that don’t work for you and others that will bring astounding joy.

Let’s focus on the joy. We have all the time in the world to get back to arguing over chants and songs. We have lifetimes to be armchair managers of the team. And we will get back to that.

But for Sunday, at least for Sunday, let’s freaking celebrate the fact that the gap has been closed.

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