I can still remember six years ago when the Cincinnati Reds were swept in the 2010 National League Division Series, their first playoff appearance in 15 years. That season had been incredibly important to me, I attended 33 games that season. 30 at home, three on the road. After two losses in Philadelphia, the Reds came back to their home, hoping to turn the tide, one game from elimination. I was there and felt the air get sucked out of the ballpark when Scott Rolen struck out. It was an emotional moment, the end of something truly special to me.
I still love the Reds, still follow them, always will. Admittedly though, I never made it down to the ballpark this year. This happened not so much because I’m a “fair weather” fan and this baseball season was abysmal, more so the amount of time I wanted to dedicate to investing in following sports. FC Cincinnati had captured my attention ever since the team was announced in the summer of 2015. I love the stories of upstart sports franchises, how soccer is growing in the United States, and specifically in regards to this sport: how the teams become part of the community. FC Cincinnati General Manager Jeff Berding spelled it out in many of his interviews: the fans who follow this team aren’t just soccer fans, they’re fans of Cincinnati. So when the chance came up to join with fellow like minded people who deeply love the place they call home, I jumped at it. I was able to be Die Innenstadt member No. 3 (Dale Earnhardt, RIP). We started with small gatherings, but when we marched in Bockfest, the ideals of civic pride were reinforced: we carried banners of the team right along with the flag of our city.
It had been my cautious hope that the people of Cincinnati would provide this club with the attendance numbers to meet the league average. On occasion, maybe we’d get 10,000+ fans in attendance, a feat rarely achieved in the United Soccer League. As we waited for the home opener, we enjoyed the preseason at Xavier, crowded barrooms to watch away matches and then we brought 14,000+ into Nippert, the start of blowing attendance projections out of the water. Rival fans called us “plastic” and criticized FC Cincinnati’s ambitions even as we made the 1.5 mile climb up the Ohio Ave. steps from Rhinegeist to the stadium, but things were just getting started. We found a wonderful home at Mecklenburg Gardens, bolstered by the fantastic staff and the city’s German heritage. On away days, we filled up Rhinehaus down in the urban core, where another great group of hospitable employees took care of us as our city grew with the addition of the streetcar on 12th street out front. Over the past decade, Cincinnati has grown so much with a renewed energy of civic pride and the team on Nippert’s pitch has joined with and promoted that cause. It's beautiful.
It feels like more than just one season. In such a short amount of time, Die Innenstadt has brought together so many people from so many different places. We’ve organized for charity, to host overseas visitors, to pack busses to Louisville, and to support our team - always cheering them off even when we didn’t like the score line. It’s the people of Cincinnati who helped propel this club to where it’s at and it’s the members of Die Innenstadt who have helped make this such a memorable year for me. To everyone who marched with us, cheered with us, banged on a drum, helped create a TIFO /two-stick, clinked their beer glass, and who proudly wore a scarf emblazoned with “Juncta Juvant:”
Last week, when the final whistle was blown, I didn’t feel the air get sucked out of a stadium like I had in 2010. There was a brief moment where I thought: wow, it’s really over, and then the cheering started. The Bailey erupted in applause and vocal support for the team that fought hard all season long and the franchise that defied everyone’s preconceptions. I was more than proud to join with everyone, to turn around with the megaphone and sing: “We Love Ya” once more. Mitch Hildebrandt threw up his gloves into The Bailey. Both myself and Bob went to catch them, Bob emerging victorious. He turned to me and handed me one and we hugged. Who knows if I ever would’ve met Bob had it not been for Die Innenstadt? And on that note, how many of the other 500+ members would I have met, had the chance to share a beer with, to converse with, and to create memories with?
I’ll never forget it and I'll always treasure it.
It’s not over though. Just as we all stayed to keep cheering on the team as they exited the field, how we all went back to Mecklenburg together and sang to Jimmy McLaughlin and hear the words of Jeff Berding: Die Innenstadt was re-energized. It’s only a few months to March, till we get to do this all again and cheer on our team as well as our city. Stay tuned.
Stand with Die Innenstadt.
Stand with Cincinnati.
Stay tuned in the near future for some info on offseason events.
Also, I need to say a huge thanks to Tom Niehaus who has edited all these posts for me and put up with me all year long. He's the man and another great friend made through Die Innenstadt.
Ronny Salerno is a founding member of Die Innenstadt as well as an author and photographer who appreciates history and Waffle House coffee. He also is one of the guys with a megaphone, apparently that's called a "capo," but he's not quite that ultra.
Tom Niehaus is an awesome guy who edits these posts for him and offers creative contributions.