We're in Hell Right Now
"We’re in hell right now, everyone, believe me. And, we can stay here -- get the shit kicked out of us -- or we can fight our way back into the light. We can climb outta hell one inch at a time."
I probably watch this clip at least once or twice a year. It’s 1-A on the list of “most inspirational moments ever recorded in human history” alongside Eminem’s final rap battle against Papa Doc from “8-Mile.” If you can watch this clip and aren’t fired up by the end, check yourself for a pulse or add more red meat to your diet.
I’ve been thinking about the start of Pacino’s speech since walking out of Lower.com field (a brilliant corporate name, by the way, because it makes every reference to it a clickable link in the story or tweet) on Friday night. We are in hell right now, as FC Cincinnati supporters. And part of what makes it so fucking tough to deal with is that we really don’t have a choice about staying around and getting the shit kicked out of us. We’re stuck in it. There is no rousing cheer at the end. Willie Beamon (who I’ll forever believe was inspired by the Cincinnati Bengals’ Jeff Blake — right down to having his own song in the middle of his first year as a 3rd stringer-turned-starter) doesn’t come into the game and lead us to victory. We just get our fucking heads beaten in over and over again, with no real end in sight.
That fact has made this the most frustrating season in the history of FC Cincinnati. The first year in MLS (2019) stung, being that it was the first losing season we had experienced in the brief history of The FC. But, ultimately, you could at least write it off to the usual parade of excuses we got used to hearing (the most anyone has talked about a “short runway” since that plane crashed in Lexington 15 years ago). Then, in 2020, you had the pandemic send everything to hell. The season was terrible, but it felt distant and detached from reality since none of us could go to matches. This year, though? This was the year it was all supposed to come together in our brand-new stadium, and it's been the exact opposite. This year fucking sucks. And what makes it so frustrating is that we can’t do anything about it except sit and take it.
Gerard Nijkamp, the architect of this bullshit soufflé, has already been fired. If he was still around, there would at least be something we could protest against or direct our anger towards. Jaap Stam, the remaining of the two Dutch Dickheads, has 3 months left on his contract and is a mortal lock to lose his job at the end of the season. These are both good things. As I wrote about on Friday, there’s an imperative need to replace the leadership in this club with MLS-experience. But, none of the things necessary to start on this path to fixing things can begin until 2022. Sure, we might hire a new GM in the next few weeks, but with the transfer window closed there isn’t a ton that can be done to help what’s happening right now. A new GM coming in would bring a few hours of good feelings with a presser, promises to make changes, etc. — but the same dogshit team would still take the field the next weekend and we’ll be right back in hell.
Similarly, we could fire Jaap right now, but a replacement manager isn’t likely to be available until the offseason (especially with both the MLS & FIFA calendar now in full-swing). History suggests that an interim manager, from within the same loser coaching staff, isn't going to do much by way of improving things. Do I still want Jaap fired in spite of that? Absolutely. But I recognize this feeling as one of vindictiveness — Jaap (and Gerard, to be fair) has made following FC Cincinnati a goddamn chore. I want him to have one shitty day as punishment. I’d want a camera shoved in his face right after the firing to ask how it feels to be a fucking failure. Why? Because his misery might make me feel better for about 10-15 minutes. But, objectively, that’s a shitty reason to can a head coach. It might improve MY mood, but it isn't going to improve the team. We're still going to be in hell.
Thus, frustration — there are 14 games left on the schedule and the team is just playing out the string until the time comes to fix things in the offseason. Taking down the banners, walking out of the Bailey, stopping the singing and drumming, or any of the other “fan protest” type activities isn’t going to change a thing or make a difference. The wheels are already in motion for a major overhaul at the club, they just can’t happen yet. And since this isn’t an Xbox or a PS5, there’s no button to “sim season” and get on with the business of not sucking. We’re all collectively just stuck in this hell, waiting for the remaining games to be played and for the season to wind to a conclusion. Shout as much as you like, rage as much you want, the one thing none of us can do is make a clock tick faster.
Al Pacino ends his speech with the question ‘What are you gonna do?” That’s up to everyone here — and nothing I say is gonna change what your bullshit tolerance is when it comes to this team. If you’re fed up, and if what’s happening is actively making you unhappy, by all means — the door is that way. But, I’d suggest, there are a few reasons to stick around. Chief among them: no matter how heavily a new GM or new coach decides to remake this squad, there is still likely going to be a core of players who carry over to 2022. Even though this team has been at producing non-shitty results, there are still some high-quality players on the roster. Guys like Acosta, Brenner, Cameron, Matarrita, Barreal and a few others can absolutely play in this league and could be the core of a much-improved squad under the leadership of smarter, more MLS-savvy people. Do you want them ending the season thinking the fanbase gave up on this team? Or do you want them walking out of the Teak for the final time this year thinking “We owe this city / fanbase so much more than we gave them this year?” Your call, but I think I know where I stand on that question.
So maybe we’re not really in hell — maybe we’re in purgatory. Either way, it fucking sucks. It’s infuriating to go to game after game where nothing gets better and nothing changes. But, it isn’t going to be that way forever. God willing, the guy walking to the podium as the new GM in a few weeks won’t have a goddamn Dutch passport and can start the process of fixing things next year. And the sooner we all accept that this shit is just gonna be bad until then, the sooner we can all relax, get drunk and sing for the guys on this team who will hopefully have more competent leadership in 2022.
We can be ready for when this team finally crawls out, inch by inch.