When Hell Was Real, But Felt Like Heaven


Some reflections from DI member and Bailey drummer Bob Brumberg following an Open Cup victory over Columbus Crew SC. Photographs by Jason Paugh.

I’m not sure I still believe it happened. I mean, I know it happened because I was there. But something about it didn’t feel real. The next day came with that special buzz, and I had to pinch myself a few times before it sank in.

It was real. It happened. We beat Columbus.

A supporters' march spanning multiple city blocks eventually translated into a crowd of 30,000+

A supporters' march spanning multiple city blocks eventually translated into a crowd of 30,000+

With probably the best atmosphere FCC has seen at Nippert, Cincinnati toppled not just any MLS side, but one that this fan base has wanted a crack at since day 1.

And this was not a reserve Crew side. By all measures Columbus ran out a top starting 11, featuring the likes of Federico Higuain, Will Trapp, and Justin Meram. Gregg Berhalter seemed to want the win just as much as Alan Koch, but this night belonged to Cincinnati.

Unlike many people I know, I did not grow up a Columbus Crew fan. I’ve never seen a match at MAPFRE. I was relatively new to soccer in 1996, having just discovered my enjoyment for the sport during the ‘94 World Cup. I never really caught on to MLS... even to this day. And I really don’t know why. I eventually began following the Chicago Fire because A) I love Chicago and grew up a Cubs fan due to family living there and B) for a number of years I worked as a firefighter. But even that was casual support. So this match did not carry the emotional baggage as it did for a number of FCC fans.

I’m fairly certain people sitting at the Mason Applebees enjoying loaded potato skins and phony ambiance could feel the ground shake when Djiby’s header went into the top corner. For the next 25 minutes (plus like 17 minutes of stoppage time...good grief), I tried to contain my anxiety. Every sports fan has felt it...waiting for the other shoe to drop. Every Crew possession seemed to last forever. I held my breath with every shot. Towards the end, the noise level around Nippert rose gradually.

They knew what was coming. 30,000 people reacting with every tackle, foul, and shot. Around 80’, our Thunder Clap echoed around Nippert. When the 4th official raised up 6 minutes, 29,000 people disagreed while the other 1,000 in yellow and black held tight to the whatever hope was left.

A large faction of Columbus Crew fans made the trip down.

A large faction of Columbus Crew fans made the trip down.

I didn’t think that final whistle would ever come. I pessimistically waited for the dagger, the equalizer that never came. Higuain’s shot over the bar at 90’+5’ seemed to happen in slow motion. After another eternity, it was over. I don’t like tossing around terms like ‘biggest win in franchise history’ but it's hard to argue against it.

Mitch got worked all night and kept a clean sheet. Tyler Polak played the match of his life. Alan Koch outsmarted Gregg Berhalter. Jeff Berding bought the beers.

‘Emotional’ is an understatement when describing the win. There is a picture out there somewhere of me clutching my drumsticks, eyes closed, and an ear-to-ear smile. I could have floated home (or to Skyline). The magic of the Cup.

Something else occurred to me Wednesday night as I watched the magic unfold. To this point, I’ve been pretty indifferent to joining MLS. I’ll support this club regardless. For me, higher tickets prices and tighter restrictions on supporters aren’t exactly a selling point. But watching Wednesday it hit me: we could be playing these clubs every week. David Villa, Kaka, Schweinsteiger all at Nippert. And that’s not to mention whoever FCC brings in. Who knows what names would wear the Orange and Blue? Plus the chance to show off this city at a whole other level!

So now you’ve got me. I am officially excited for the prospect of MLS. Let’s have that bid Don. Tell Newport to get the shovels ready (trigger warning...that’s an entirely different blog post).

Oh yeah, Charlotte and Charleston. Two draws bookending a historic win. Charlotte felt like a loss, Charleston felt like a win. Both were only worth a point. But I am beginning to see this club gain traction. I am by no means a tactical mind, but the formation rolled out for Columbus and Charleston seemed to work pretty well. Maybe we’re starting to see a turning point. And not a moment too soon.

Regardless, it will be hard to forget that feeling on Wednesday night. Despite waking up sore from head to toe, exhausted from the heat, a little sick from too much Skyline, and mildly hungover, we beat Columbus.

Hell is Real, but Wednesday, June 14th, 2017 felt like Heaven.

Words by Bob Brumberg, a DI member and Bailey drummer. 

Photographs by DI member Jason Paugh, except for the first photo. That one was by Ronny, Steve, or Alan (but definitely not Geoff).