By Landon Magee
The debate opened up last night on twitter; which professional sport should invade Nashville next? The popular thoughts in the south are, of course, an MLB or NBA team. Many people disagree.
It seems like a week doesn’t go by without hearing Nashville’s praises in one article or another. The New York times labeled Nashville as the nation’s “it” city. Forbes has christened it “Nowville”. It is in the top twelve metropolises for growth by percentage of population. A good number of which are college grads. Nashville is getting younger, hipper, and more progressive with each passing day. Nashville needs a team whose fans can display the personality of the city. And that falls right down the alley of the MLS.
Reason #1 – Competition
Does anyone know how many states border Tennessee that have an MLS team? Zero. The closest MLS team to Nashville is in Columbus, Ohio. That’s quite a trek for anyone who wants to go see the highest quality soccer that the US has to offer. In comparison, the MLB has the Cardinals, the Braves, and the Cincinnati Reds, all of which are closer than Columbus. The NBA has the Hawks and the Bobcats, not to mention the Grizzlies who are in the same state. An MLS stadium in Nashville could potentially draw fans from twelve different states in the southeast with no Major League Soccer team.
Reason #2 – Stadium
The last 10 MLB stadiums built cost over 600 million dollars a piece. That figure dates back to 2001 so the number would probably be closer to 700 million today. Comparatively, the last ten soccer stadiums built for MLS teams average 113.7 million dollars. The cheapest of these stadiums was 40 million dollars. It will be much easier to find investors to build a soccer stadium than a baseball stadium. Fifth Third Bank already sponsers the Nashville Metros, let’s start with them. The Bridgestone Arena could host an NBA game tomorrow, but fighting the Predators schedule and competing with the Grizzlies would be too much of a hassle.
Reason #3 – Attendance
In 2012 MLS games averaged higher attendance than the NHL and NBA. MLS teams have 17 home regular season matches that stretch out from March to October. This gives fans plenty of time to schedule the games they want to go to, and makes it much more affordable. Baseball on the other hand has 81 home games a year. If I had the choice of being waterboarded for 81 hours, or paying for and attending 81 baseball games a year, I’d flip a coin.
Reason #4 – Happy Relationships
Hang with me here; this one takes some explanation. Everyone knows soccer is one of the fastest growing sports in the US. Why? Because the whole family can enjoy it. The complexity of football compared to soccer is overwhelming. Everyone hates watching football with the girl (and guy for that matter) who has no idea what’s going on but gives their two cents on every coaching decision as if they’re Bear Bryant incarnate. You want a happy relationship? Start watching soccer instead of football with your wife. You’ll both celebrate like idiots when a goal is scored and scream expletives when your team is scored against. And that is pretty much the extent of your knowledge of soccer, because you were raised in the south and don’t know how to analyze the sport either. Combined ignorance is bliss.
Reason #5 – Supporters (Fans)
This is the most important thing about soccer: The fans. They drink, sing, play drums, and whatever else they can think of that would be taboo at any other sporting event. This is where I think Nashville would shine. The creativity of the music industry would combine with the drunkenness of ex-frat boys and the ingenuity of the young professionals. Go to youtube and look up videos of the Timber Army (Portland’s band of supporters). Contrast that with sitting on bleachers in 100 degree weather next to a 94 year old man who is marking the pitcher’s stats on a legal pad. NBA games are no better. The game stops constantly: eight timeouts per game, the end of the first and third quarters, and half time. At each of these intervals they bombard you with strange promotions like shooting t-shirts out of a copier. If it isn’t that, it’s the Kiss-Cam, or the Dance-Cam, or season ticket holder special prize giveaways. With soccer games, you get two halves of uninterrupted sport for 45 minutes. Plenty of time for you to sing the five songs you memorized before you got hammered drunk.