This was originally published in The Athletic.
Professional sports teams are good for a lot of things. They have the ability to engender high levels of civic and regional pride like nothing else. They can provide a diversion for both the regularness and cruelty of life. Their daily comings and goings can break the awkwardness when two people have no idea what to talk about, they’re fun to argue about over a couple of beers, and for those inclined to plunk down the occasional wager, they can help or hurt a bettor’s bottom line.
And when they’re at their most ideal, pro sports teams can unify.
This paragraph might be the hokiest one I’ve written, but I believe its content to be true. The successes and failures of a sports team have the unique ability to cut across every line that divides – socioeconomic, racial, political, ethnic, gender, geographic – and bring people together, sometimes in pure ecstasy. Often around here, unfortunately, in complete agony. Of all the things I love about sports, there might not be anything higher on the list that the way a team can galvanize a community, often for good, and at times for things that transcend how much it actually wins.
I’ve been thinking about this over the past couple of weeks, as I’ve listened to and read the latest on what’s happening with the new FC Cincinnati stadium. Chances are, you’re aware of at least the basics. West End residents are being displaced. Half-truths, once taken as guarantees, are being re-explained. A neighborhood that’s never really seemed to be completely on board with a state-of-the-art soccer stadium being plopped right into it seems almost completely at odds with its new neighbors.
The stadium project has become local government’s latest, most annoying, and right now, most polarizing political, well, futbol. A body almost defined by infighting and pettiness, Cincinnati City Council’s arguments with the club seem non-stop, as does the lobbying attempts of a defiant, bordering at times on petulant, FC Cincinnati President Jeff Berding.
No one is happy. Not the people who run team, nor those who run the city. Certainly not the folks who are being kicked out of their homes, or the folks advocating on their behalf. Definitely not those of us who endured so many exhausting months of debate about where the proposed stadium should go, hoping that the determination of a site would put an end to all the squabbling.
You feeling the unity? Yeah, me neither.
To read the entire piece, go to The Athletic.
(Thumbnail photo: Getty Images)