As many of you may know I am the digital host and sideline reporter for Columbus Crew SC, of Major League Soccer. I first joined the team in September of 2009, a year after the black & gold hoisted MLS cup, but I've covered the team since it's championship winning season. A lot of American soccer is synonymous with Columbus and in my opinion much of that IS Columbus Crew SC and the foundation that has been laid in the capital city. A big part of soccer is the supporters culture. Whether you turn on a premier league match, a U.S. Men's or Women's National Team or MLS match, the supporter culture is a unique aspect to the game and on Sunday, September 6, after almost seven seasons I was finally able to take in some of the culture in Columbus. I knew I was going to have fun and at the time I had zero intentions of blogging about it, but I needed to put into words what I experienced. I learned a lot on Sunday, you'd think after sitting diagonally across the field from the Nordecke for seven seasons I'd pick up on some of the details I noticed on Sunday, but alas my focus is on the action in front of me, just like theirs is and it's not the proper way to entrench yourself in the supporter culture.
When Sunday rolled around I had no idea what to expect. As a sideline reporter I am cozy on the sidelines, not having to stand for 90+ minutes, while chanting non stop for my team and waving flags (which is much harder than it looks), all while being in-sync with this amazingly diverse family of supporters. Needlessly to say, I got much more than I bargained for. I was welcomed to a cul de sac-ish set up with tents and the tailgating was in full force. I popped a bottle of champagne for the first time to have a toast with many of the familiar faces that I get to see at games but don't have much time to chat with, after all, seven seasons is a long time to have never gone to a MLS regular season, home game as a fan. I made my way around the tents that represented the different supporters groups and at each one I was greeted with open arms and supporters swag, which was unexpected and appreciated. It felt like I was re-connecting with friends that I had grown up with, but hadn't seen in awhile. Many of the families were there with their kids so that observation probably stands true for some them. We shared hugs, took pics, chatted and snap chatted, then finally it was time to cheer on our club.
The team may have lost but my experience was a total win. There were a few things that really stood out to me. First off, the Nordecke, is without a doubt a family and there is room for everyone in this family. These relationships that have developed run deep, it's years of supporting one goal and one team that represents their city. And just like family, they want what's best for one another and their team. I've known this about the Nordecke and the supporters groups, BUT to experience it is something completely different. When their team got scored on not once, but three times, the supporters were the first to bellow out not just any chant, but one of love and encouragement, every single time. They were just as disappointed to have missed a PK or miss out on an incredible shot but they were the first to show signs of life to cheer their beloved black and gold back into action. When a fan who was new to the Nordecke, threw a can on the field the supporters were the first to reprimand the individual and let them know that-that is not what they stand for, such behavior would not tolerated. The individual was escorted out and while that was happening they quickly got their focus back on what mattered, the game and their team.
When you look over at the intimidating Nordecke, which features the occasional smoke bomb, tifo, bandana cladded individuals chatting, who would think that the overwhelming feeling would be love? It's a true testament to the organic and authentic supporters culture in Columbus.
A big thank you to Crew Union for the ticket, Joey and Nick who were my partners in crime, Tony who I stood next to (sorry for elbowing you) , Morgan and Suzana, who were excellent wing women and all the supporters and the groups for taking me in and making me one of your own on Sunday afternoon. While the result is something I'd like to forget, the experience is one I will cherish forever!