(Photo: Getty Images)
If you're a Cincinnati sports fan, then surely you've spent a lot of time in recent years lamenting things like failure, misfortune, and the belief that for our teams, if things can go wrong, they will. It's been a long time since we were associated with a true, bona fide winner - at least in pro sports - and the fun and joy of being a sports fan is often tempered by both fear of the worst and the eventual realization of it.
A soccer team that didn't exist two years ago at this time is trying to change that.
FC Cincinnati has, in a amazingly short amount of time, captured the imagination of a larger chunk of our community than most would've ever expected. In less than two full seasons, they've emerged as not only a true entertainment option (and the primary one for a lot of people under the age of 30), but a legitimate placeholder in the Cincinnati sports landscape.
And last night, FCC delivered the kind of result that felt, well, so un-Cincinnati.
FC Cincinnati's 1-0 win over the Columbus Crew at Nippert Stadium did not deliver a championship to our city, nor did it exorcise 27(!) years worth of pro sports demons. Even if it was an upset, it was far from unfathomable that they could actually win their first ever match against an MLS team. What it did though, is conjure up the kind of feelings that have been in short supply when our teams play in "the big one."
Triumph. Jubilation. Hope.
If you were there last night, you know of what I speak. Maybe you're an FC Cincinnati die-hard. Perhaps you're a casual fan. Maybe you were just drawn to Nippert to see what all the fuss was about. Either way, if you were there, you felt as if you were a part of more than just a game in a tournament that's held in the middle of a soccer season that the local club has - at times - struggled to get its way through. The vibe at Nippert was of a big, important, statement-making game. The crowd of over 30,000 was equally raucous and attentive from the match's first touch, and as the final few minutes played out, there was that feeling of equal-parts pensiveness, equal-parts excitement that come with your team being on the verge of something big.
Something that's been in short supply around here.
On the field, FC Cincinnati seemed to gain confidence as the game wore on, and as victory inched toward reality, its players looked able to handle the moment and control their emotions while staving off Columbus' last few desperate attempts to tie.
It was among the cooler sporting events we've had around here, not just because of the victory for the home team, but how that win in that atmosphere felt like the kind of thing that's so often been absent when our teams play in big games.
It was also a loud statement about what FC Cincinnati has accomplished in the 22 months since the announcement of its formation. 30,000 people watched a professional soccer game in Cincinnati, a take-a-look-at-this-MLS show of passion and emotion that the people who run American soccer's highest league had to notice. It was the latest step in the remarkable evolution of a sports franchise that's accomplished so much in its infancy, but seemingly has its best days in front of it. It was an emphatic upset that made you wonder what kinds of things this particular soccer team has in store for the rest of its season.
And the result itself felt so very un-Cincinnati-like.