The free soccer movement

Finally, Nashville SC fans, finally. Our dreams are just about to blossom in color in real life. Our days of salivating in anticipation are almost over, as we approach that the date that we walk into our own home, our own stadium, our cathedral, for the first time.

While we’ve got what feels like dozens of games on the road before that moment (and while I hope I get to see some of you out west for those games), our dream is about to become our reality. Our first home game in our very own home.

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Like most of you, I’m way beyond excited. I check the calendar often to see if I can make it move a little faster.  I watch the live cam to see what is happening each day. I get my hair cut by Soccer Moses in part so that I can look at the stadium and know it’s real, without looking like a creepy old man casing the neighborhood.

And damned if everything is turning up aces for us. With twenty thousand season tickets sold position inside a city that people just love to visit, Nashville is virtually guaranteed of multiple sell outs throughout the season. 

While some of this excitement might be pinned on good marketing, some of it on the successes of their first two seasons, some of it on the growth and visibility of soccer in the US in general, a heavy portion of the success also has to be placed at the feet of the fan base. The loud, cheering, chanting, sweating, drinking folks who make up the Backline, as well as other areas of the stadium.

Indeed, early every time I’ve seen someone on a social media platform note that they are considering getting season tickets to NSC games and are wondering what others think, they are immediately “surrounded” by fans—new and old– noting that it’s the best sporting experience they’ve had. Consistently, they highlight the fan atmosphere, the sounds, the buzz of excitement, the sensate ecstasy of emerging into the crowd.

So, yes, if you’ve been at games in the past and are responsible for at least some of that noise, pat yourself on the back.

But be ready for a challenge from me.

A decade or so ago, Dan Wiersema started something he called The Free Beer Movement, something I’ve written about in the past. While the website appears largely inactive now, the philosophy behind it was a sound and simple one: Invite someone who is unfamiliar with soccer to watch a game with you—any game, live, on television, at a local park—and buy them a beer. Everyone likes free beer, and it’s simply a pleasant one to help someone get interested. And there are people like me out there for whom, the first soccer experience is all it will take. They’ll go from soccer curious (especially when the game is free) to fanatical at a rapid pace.

And while the Free Beer Movement is a great idea, I propose that we raise the stakes a little. If you are going to a game and have a spare ticket, invite someone who is not (yet) a fan. If we are at a moment in a season when ticket sales are slow, dig in, buy a spare and bring someone new. I have enough faith in this team and in the atmosphere the fans have created to think that the purchase of a spare ticket is a great investment.

Not only will this help keep the stadium full for games now, but it grows the fan base for games later..  Excitement begets new fans begets excitement.

Make an internal pledge now. Join the Free Game Movement.

Yes, yes, I know the team is responsible for marketing and selling tickets, but you and I—we want something different than marketing. We want to continue growing a very atmosphere, a certain way of being a crowd. Since we are the ones who create it, let’s help bring in a new wave of fans. 

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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