Friday Funblast — May 14, 2021

Well, we’ve finally made it. It’s the first FC Cincinnati home match that fans can attend since 2019. The first ever match in TQL stadium. If that’s not enough to make your Friday fun, I don’t know what is. Anyway…

GEOFF COMES BACK ACROSS THE POND

The FC made on-field headlines this week by announcing the much-rumored signing of Queens Park Rangers FC (and former USMNT) defender Geoff Cameron. Cameron is, by all accounts, still a stalwart on the backline with the ability to play in the defensive midfield as well. The mentions on his departure tweet from QPR were filled with Rangers fans thanking him for his contributions to the club and indicating that he’ll be missed on their squad — which is always better to see than the “good riddance” stuff accompanying Jaap Stam’s departure and/or the “eh, he’s not worth that much” stuff you saw from Sao Paolo fans when Brenner departed. However, I wouldn’t put a ton of stock into that, given that we all remember the incessant cries of “JOSU PLEASE COME BACK!” from the (apparently) millions of sad Kerala Blasters fans — and he turned out to be incredibly fucking average.

On paper, this signing checks a ton of boxes. Cameron has immediate availability to play in a position where Cincinnati has no natural starter — defensive mid, which is currently being manned by Yuya Kubo (the worst translation from Japan to America since Zero Wing) — and CB, a position where Cincinnati has no good starters. Unlike most of the players brought in by Nijkamp, Cameron also has experience playing in the United States and MLS specifically. He’s been successful at every one of his career stops, which you can’t say about a lot of The FC’s recent signings (including the man managing him). He’s also known for being a leader on the pitch and in the dressing room, which — just watching this club — seems absolutely fucking needed right now. Cameron is the kind of guy you wanted on the club three weeks ago, right after the team got absolutely shit-pumped by NYCFC, lighting into his teammates and demanding better from everyone involved.

Of course, you can’t talk about Geoff Cameron without talking about his politics too. I mean, I wish you could — but this is 2021 America and we’re fucking incapable of even the most basic forms of compartmentalization. Geoff Cameron has made the wrong kind of headlines over the past several years for, among other things, being an open and vocal supporter of our previous festering Cheeto of a President and endorsing some his more openly xenophobic foreign policy. Overall, not a great look in a league where fanbases openly fight with the team front offices over the right to bring ANTIFA displays into stadiums.

I’m not going to dwell on the issue; if you think anyone who has ever supported The Donald is an irredeemable pile of shit who should bear a Scarlett letter and be shunned from society, there’s nothing I’m going to say on a dumb fucking soccer blog to convince you otherwise. I’m also not going to defend Cameron’s takes, because he’s dead fucking wrong on a lot of them. The so-called “Muslim Ban” was pure nationalistic bullshit and the opening-act to a ton of horridly racist and xenophobic policies that ended up getting innocent people killed. It’s utterly indefensible to support them or have supported them. But, I’m also going to suggest that if you’re going to applaud athletes like LeBron James, Colin Kaepernick and Megan Rapinoe for speaking out about politics (fighting back against “Shut up and dribble” culture), you’re going to have to accept that other athletes like Cameron are going to speak up too. And if that bothers you, what you’re really saying is “I only want to hear from people I agree with.” And that’s pretty fucking shitty, IMO.

Sports and politics is always going to be an odd intersection, and being a sports fan just requires you engage in some bizarre cognitive dissonance. Hell, being an FC Cincinnati fan requires you to be OK with supporting a team owned by a major Republican contributor. The club itself has never held a “Pride Night” celebration (preferring to use the term “Equality Night”). If you surveyed the political opinions of the players, you’d probably find a lot you agreed with and a lot you disagreed with. It’s an area where foreign born players tend to get a pass because, for the most part, we’re more familiar with who our own villains than the ones overseas (but, for fun, google “Jair Bolsonaro” — and be happy no one has asked Brenner what his take on him is). They also benefit from a language barrier (no one is hiring a translator to do a story on whether or not Acosta supports abortion rights). I’m not telling you to love Geoff Cameron or his views (which — for the record — you absolutely shouldn’t), but I am suggesting that your life as sports fan might be a smidge more enjoyable if you can turn off the political part for 90’ once per week.

COLUMBUS FUCKS SOMETHING UP AGAIN

Cincinnati can’t get out of it’s own fucking way on the field, but keeps nailing things off the field. We’re moving into a beautiful new stadium, we’ve got an incredible training facility (INNNNNNNNNN MILFORD), and we’ve got an ownership group dedicated to throwing money at problems in the hopes crawling out of this death spiral of performance issues. Columbus, the Mr. Glass to our Bruce Willis, dominates on the field but keeps stepping on fucking rakes with every other aspect of running a soccer franchise. Truly, they’re a perfect villain for what we’re doing down here — if you ignore the fact that they keep dick-stomping us on the table.

For the 2nd time in 10 years, “Columbus SC” will have a new name and new branding, dropping the old “Crew” name and circular, faux-German badge. Their new badge, which looks like a carabiner fucked the Tiger Woods logo, was announced on Monday and immediately met with hostility from Crew fans (and mockery from the rest of the league). A sadly small, yet super on-brand, number of Crew fans took their anger directly to Crew Stadium. In a hastily-called supporters meeting, one person apparently ripped his shirt off to show his tattoo of the old Crew badge (and, presumably, at least one tribal or Celtic design) to show how much the design meant to everyone involved.

Personally, I find this shit hilarious. I also am squatting on a conspiracy take that the league (and “Columbus SC” front office) have realized that the only way to keep Crew fans engaged, vocal, and buying tickets is to keep pissing them off. They took the team away and saw how much interactions online went up. Then, once that ended, shit settled down and their fans stopped giving a shit again. How do you fix that? Fuck with the branding and badging — bring the #SaveTheCrew band back together and get people talking about this otherwise irrelevant fucking club.

On a macro-level — the constant rebranding in MLS is getting kinda old. If you want people to develop an attachment to these teams and start into the kinds of generational fandom we have in other sports, you need to just pick some logos and names and fucking stick with them. The New York Yankees have been the fucking Yankees for a billion years. They’re still basically wearing the same goddamn uniforms that Babe Ruth did. Would the New York Yankees be the same juggernaut if they’d had 30 different hat logos and done a stint as the “New York Freedom” for a few years? Maybe — they spend shitloads of money and play in the biggest media market in the country. But, I doubt the interlocked “NY” hat is an iconic symbol around the world in this alternate reality.

If I’m running MLS, I tell every team in the league “You’ve got 2 years to decide if you want to rebrand (looking at you, New England).” After that two year window, I’d impose a league-wide moratorium on rebrands for the next 25 years. You need to let these brands and these names start to mean something to people. As much of a neckbeard as that shirtless guy in the Columbus meeting probably was, you want people following your league who are invested enough to go get shit tattooed on them. It’s hard to get invested when you don’t know what the fuck your club is going to be called next week.

Thankfully, we don’t have that problem in Cincinnati. We carved Gary into the goddamn stadium, so I’m betting our branding stays for a long while.

THE FIRST VISIT TO THE TQL (PRONOUNCED: TICKLE)

As I wrote last week, I’ve already made a visit to TQL Stadium (spoiler alert — the Chief knows a few people), so this weekend won’t be my first time walking inside. There’s a small part of me that does wish I’d waited, in order to get that first “feeling” on match day — but fuck, I don’t need people seeing me all emotional or in my goddamn feels. I’ve got an image to maintain.

I’ll have more thoughts next week, but I encourage everyone to embrace the absurdity of what’s happening on Sunday. There is a fucking soccer stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio. Think back on what your reaction to that news would have been if someone told you that it was going to happen 6 years ago, when FCC was announced. Or what it would’ve been 7 years ago, when the goddamn Cincinnati Saints (remember them?) were playing to 15 fans on the exact same fucking spot we’ll be walking into on Sunday. It’s objectively fucking crazy.

Do yourself a favor and get down to OTR early. Bar hop to the various SG establishments. We’re spoiled fucking rotten in this city that you can go from Taft’s to Sam Adams and up to Northern Row and not get a bad beer at any spot. Imagine being Columbus or one of these cities that has to tailgate in a blacktop parking lot in order to have fun (related — there is absolutely no feeling quite like the fear of assessing whether or not you’re sober enough to drive tailgate gear home after a concert or event).

MIKE DEWINE SAYS: “MAY THE ODDS BE EVER IN YOUR FAVOR”

In one of those rare #NotTheOnion moments, Governor Mike DeWine announced this week that the State of Ohio would be randomly drawing names and awarding $1M checks to people who could prove they had been vaccinated. I did a double take, because this absolutely seems like the kind of idea I’d come up with after a few drinks and one rant about how these dumb unvaccinated fucks — most of whom haven’t passed a science class since 8th grade — are ruining everything for the rest of us. Of course, I’d slur — what better way to get rubes invested in something than doing a fucking lottery. The only way this could’ve been better would be if the names were revealed on a comically large scratch off ticket on live television.

It did occur to me that there’s an incredible opportunity for fun here. Myself and another friend are already planning to prank a co-worker (who hasn’t been vaccinated because DERR THEY RUSHED THE TESTING PROCESSS!) by having a friend from Columbus call and pretend to be from the awarding committee. I think the government should follow a similar strategy and record every single call they make to people — because, apparently, they’re going to just call people at random and the first one they hit who can prove vaccination status gets the cash prize. You’re telling me you wouldn’t watch the fuck out of rednecks getting called, being told they could have a million fucking clams if all they can do is prove they spent 10 minutes getting a free shot? You wouldn’t want to hear that disappointed and dejected reaction when they realize they won’t be getting the money? Much like the Pfizer vaccine, inject that shit directly into my veins.

Also, if Kevin Wallace wins the $1M, I’m demanding he start to pay me for my shit takes.

THEY MADE A MOVIE ABOUT THE NEW TQL STADIUM

It was called “Ready to Rumble.”

Alright, that’s it from me me this week. After years of waiting, it’s fucking go time. West End forever. Miami never. See you motherfuckers in the all new Thunderdome this Sunday.