Who do you pull for now?

So, here we are, wishing Nashville SC should be playing in the MLS final, thinking they were good enough to do so, thinking maybe even we have the MVP on our team. Nonetheless, some of us are about to spend an afternoon watching the final act of this season, while our boys sit at home. (I’ve been surprised at the number of NSC fans who told me they quit watching after we were knocked out).

The very idea of having to watch this game without Nashville’s presence urges me to reflect on one of life’s least important questions: Who do you root for in a situation like this?

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In the broadest sense, it’s an unimportant question because it simply doesn’t matter in terms of having any effect on the game. Nonetheless, like a lot of you, I have all types of ridiculous parameters about who I cheer for and who I don’t.

1. Honor thy victor

This theory always comes up from someone after your team has been beaten in the playoffs. The idea here is that if someone beat you, you want to pull for them for the rest of the playoffs.  The underlying psychological logic, I think, is that if they end up winning the Cup, you don’t feel as bad, given that you lost to the Champion instead of to another loser. Last year, Nashville could at least say that they went out to the eventual MLS Cup champions.

Well, too late for this one.

2. Honor anyone playing the team that beat you

I don’t adopt this strategy, but I understand it. Watching fans and opposing players celebrate when your team loses is hard. I oft-times find myself despising people I don’t know, simply for celebrating their team’s victory. I want to see them suffer, every bit as much as I have. 

At least I do for a few minutes there. I’m certain there are a number of Union fans who, right now, want nothing more than to see NYCFC lose, certainly more than they want to see Portland win.

3. Honor thy conference

Here, one takes pride in the idea that your team plays in the better conference. Much like the weird position SEC football fans find themselves in—shouting “SEC! SEC!” as a team they generally despise wins that national title—this position provides one with some weird type of reflected glory, rather deserved or not. 

This one is still in play for some of you.

4. Honor the enemy of thine enemy

When your biggest rival, or a rival at all, makes the finals, it seems reasonable to pull for someone else to defeat them.  Regardless of who you think is our biggest rival (I certainly think it’s Cincy, but I’ve seen people online try to argue Atlanta, Austin or Orlando), we simply don’t have that option laid out in front of us.

5. Honor thy second-favorite team

Some people, believe it or not, have “second favorite” teams. If I had one, for example, it would indeed be Portland because watching them as a USL team is what first got me attracted to soccer. I liked Portland before NSC was even an idea. 

That said, I don’t have second favorite teams.

So, that’s only five of numerous ways people justify the temporary support they are giving to a team other than their own. But, and again, I know this is not one of life’s important questions. I personally can’t find myself pulling for anyone else in the final. Whether Portland or NYCFC wins, Nashville lost, and Nashville is the team I care about. 

There are plenty of reasons that my feelings about Portland are more positive than those I have toward NYC (a baseball field still? Really?) but, nonetheless, on Saturday, you won’t see me cheering for either team. I’ll cheer for good strikes, for skilled tackles, for weird random bounces, but I won’t cheer for either team. And while I’m certain I will internally hope for one team to win rather than another, I’ll never fess up to that. Indeed, I’ll fight with myself internally about it.

There’s Nashville SC, and then, there’s all the other teams.

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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