Where the Hell is Real?
Where is Hell is Real? Where is the rivalry? It’s missing. It’s nowhere to be seen.
In an era of footballing banter on the internet, there is nothing between Columbus and Cincinnati. I say nothing between them because Cincinnati fans have, generally speaking, been down to talk smack to and about Columbus. Yet nothing from Columbus fans.
Two years ago FC Cincinnati fans staged a fake jersey burning as Columbus fans just to get something going. That was a year long effort of making a fake Columbus Crew fan just to feel something. And there was nothing. Well, apparently MLS league offices had to make phone calls to Columbus and Cincinnati worried that violence was going to occur. So that was something. But Columbus fans? They couldn’t care less.
The apathy from Columbus and its fans is exactly why Anthony Precourt decided to find a new city to plant a team. Columbus fans were given one of the best coaches in American soccer, playoff teams, some of the best players in MLS, and still couldn’t be bothered to show up. What owner would look at a fan base that draws less for a playoff matches than regular season matches and think “I’d like to put down a measurable portion of my net worth into something these people will enjoy?” You need only look at the art, music, and excitement Austin has shown from their MLS team to know Precourt was right. It’s a give and take, and the fans in Austin are trying.
Are Columbus fans?
There’s a reason why when Columbus built their new stadium they built it to be small, just 18,000 seats, and it’s not expected to sell out many games. The Crew brand in Columbus is so tainted as a minor league brand that the new ownership, the previously beloved new ownership in Columbus, knew they had to create a new identity to bring in any new fans. Even with all of the “Save the Crew” energy they never came close to selling as many season tickets as “STC” had delivered pledges.
Seriously, the savior ownership group of the Columbus Crew immediately changed the logo and team name after winning a championship. Is there a more perfect story that summarizes the Columbus Crew so succinctly? Yes there is, they won that championship in front of a mostly empty stadium. That’s the Columbus Crew legacy. Great on the field product, and nobody to watch it.
Since its clear the small town of Columbus has no intention of supporting their minor league soccer team, we we have left are the die hards. The ultras. The people that makes this sport fun in this country. Or at least they would make it fun if they were able to be fun. If you are able to track down a Columbus Crew fan, which can be difficult, you will not find them to be funny. They lack the sarcasm and self deprecating humor that a fan base develops in USL. They lack the imagination to be creative when insulting your team. It makes “banter” online feel mean, teasing someone without the capacity to defend themselves. Maybe that’s the great troll turn in all of this.
But these same fans lacked the ability to develop a single tradition that could be carried over from the old Crew stadium to the new one. They moved their end of match song to the beginning to be like Liverpool, they shamelessly stole Portland's goal celebration (which also waters down Portland's thing, so they've killed two birds with one jackhammered stone), and I guess were jealous of FC Cincinnati's march and decided they needed to copy that too. Did their supporters not come up with something that happens every game before this year? Their management seems keen on killing off any whiff of what their team used to be, and remaking their fan culture in the image of Soccer Moses.
I am not asking for street fights and for this to be an ugly rivalry. I would like this to be fun though. Maybe Friday will provide an entertaining environment in OTR with Crew fans and Cincinnati fans joking and shit talking. But in all likelihood Crew fans will stay in their tiny corner of a bar they’ve carved out, get in, get out, and hope nobody noticed them. God forbid someone crack a joke at their expense.
The Call is coming from Inside the House
Maybe the real reason why Hell is Real has lost its luster is there are enough people in Cincinnati that have a passing loyalty to Columbus Crew that they lack the hate that makes a rivalry matter. In which case, this is Cincinnati’s fault for not making this more of a rivalry game. Because as we have seen with national media outlets and journalists, you can cyber bully someone into liking you, so I assume the same is true and you can bully someone into not liking you.
The point in all of this is to find someone who will get mad at this, so I can identify a Columbus Crew fan and know that there are people out there to be on the receiving end of jokes, memes, parody songs, and whatever else the Cincinnati fan base comes up with. Because if it’s all going to fall on deaf ears, we might as well pick a team at random and declare them our rival and hope they care. Maybe Philly wants a rival. Maybe Dallas?