[Editor’s Note: Jeff Milby is The Mane Land’s Louisville City FC correspondent and will provide weekly coverage of Orlando City’s USL Pro affiliate this season. We’re excited to have ‘boots on the ground’ in Louisville to bring you this coverage.]
For a sports fan, as in life, it’s the tough moments that shape who you are. It’s the gut-punch losses that leave you feeling empty, used and beaten. The games that you rehash over and over with your friends saying, “What if…?” Every sports fan has their own list of heartbreaks. They are the reasons we keep coming back, to right the list of wrongs.
I wouldn’t be the sports fan I am today if it weren’t for Dwyane Wade triple-doubling his way into the national consciousness and beating the team my 11-year-old-self thought was unbeatable. I can remember the sheer rage that overcame me when Edgar Sosa spoiled what would have been improbable last-minute comeback with an absolute dagger of a shot. And I won’t forget how I didn’t move off of my couch for an hour after the USA couldn’t quite shock the world by coming back to equalize after Belgium went up 2-0 this past summer in Brazil.
These moments mean so much because we love our teams. We love to see them win and, maybe even more so, hate to see them lose.
I grew up in, and still live in, Louisville, Kentucky. Like most Louisvillians, my sports education came (if you haven’t already noticed) in the form of college basketball. Devoid of any major pro sports teams, it is unequivocally a college basketball mad city. So naturally, my favorite sport growing up was basketball. But when the 2006 World Cup began, a funny thing happened. I started watching soccer. I didn’t know any players, managers or teams. All I knew was what I saw. I saw the drama of the thrilling Italian run through the tournament and I was filled with excitement for a sport I knew nothing about. After Zidane’s headbutt and the World Cup’s ending, I made it a point to not forget what had captured me that summer.
Fast forward to 2010 and I was an out-and-out fan. My nights were spent reading anything I could find on the beautiful game. I was learning the history and the minutia of my newly adopted sport, and I couldn’t get enough. The FIFA video game series became my newest unhealthy obsession, and I began to talk soccer with anyone I could find (which often meant half Spanish-English conversations with the Mexican kitchen workers at the restaurant where I worked).
However, besides the USMNT, I never adopted a team. The closest MLS team was in not-so-close Columbus, and I never really felt obligated to arbitrarily align myself with a club. I relished the sort of objective love of soccer that living in Louisville afforded me. My affinity for the underdog meant that I certainly had teams I rooted against (Manchester United, Real Madrid) and there were teams I had sympathy for (Everton, Portland Timbers), but I never took in a team as my team.
Now I do have a team that is my team. The newly minted Louisville City FC kicks off next spring and I’m terribly excited for it. It is Louisville’s first foray into legitimate professional soccer.
Will it be a success? I have my reservations. Soccer is seen as the sport of red-headed step children among mainstream sports fans here. But there is also a burgeoning soccer fan base, with examples such as myself to show for it. Can coach James O’Connor and the future Dom Dwyers of the world win Louisville’s collective heart? The club has MLS aspirations, but it must survive the rigorous and trying test that is American third division soccer to get there.
In the coming months, I’ll bring you the answers to these questions in this space. I will also bring you all the coverage of the Orlando City boys that are sent up our way. As I alluded to, we could have the next Dom Dwyer developing right here in the river city. Who knows?
The only thing I can say for certain is that now I have a soccer team to call my own. And I can’t wait for that first gut-punch loss. This is gonna be fun.