Last year I bought a season ticket to Nashville SC‘s inaugural season in Major League Soccer. I mean, I had to – soccer is a sport and experience I’m very passionate about, and having a pro soccer team right here in Nashville has been a dream of mine since I moved here in 2006. This despite never really believing it was a realistic thing to wish for – the only team we ever had played in front of an audience of maybe 5 behind a prison. Not kidding. And the startup Nashville FC that I was an original founding supporter of was so grass-roots that to even dare to imagine something like this… well…
Let’s just say I felt the idea of me being a gigantic rock star was far more likely.
But there I was, February 2020, with my then-almost-6-year-old daughter, watching our first home match along with 60k+ fans!
To try and describe the Joy I felt would be an extreme disservice to that Joy.
All of this was really happening! A dream come true!
Then COVID hit.
Talk about taking the wind out of my sails.
It was rough watching the season be put on hold. Rougher still once the MLS Is Back tournament started in the summer, having to see our boys sent home from “the bubble” because a few of them tested positive for COVID. (Similarly, my alma mater’s D1 hockey team won their conference this year for the first time since before I graduated, but couldn’t go to the NCAAs because their coach tested positive).
I’m a very social person. I like being around people. I like experiencing big things with people. It’s part of why I want to perform in front of people. I like providing experiences, and I like being a part of them as well.
For me, not being able to go to the soccer games was representative of everything that made COVID so suffocating for me. I was very lucky – none of my family got sick (apart from my sister, who is a nurse); no one close to me passed – so I don’t mean to trivialize this. Everyone’s experience is/was different. But being forced away from people, away from those experiences, and not getting to have those huge communal gatherings, was hard. My wife’s the same – it was hard for her too.
It was kind of like an international restraining order.
Yes, I got to defer my season tickets to this year. And I did get to go to our one home playoff game and the first few home games this season – but all of those were limited attendance. You weren’t allowed to go near anyone or gather beforehand… I was almost afraid to look at another person. And I couldn’t take my daughter – seats were limited and I couldn’t add another ticket like I had initially planned when I had purchased the season package.
In a way, I see that visual of myself in a stadium watching a soccer game surrounded by…. no one… as indicative of my experience.
And I longed – as many have – for things to open up again.
This past weekend I got my wish. The entire lower bowl of Nissan Stadium was opened back up, we weren’t required to wear masks, and we could tailgate beforehand again. Like old times!
I was able to add my daughter and my nephew to my ticket, so we all got to experience a fantastic and exciting game along with 22k+ fans shouting, chanting, dancing, and screaming (usually at the referee).
But that’s not the thing I loved the most about that night.
The thing I loved most was seeing people I hadn’t seen in a while. Seeing their faces. Seeing their smiles.
I enjoyed hugging!
I loved seeing others doing the same. I watched people who hadn’t seen each other since COVID began as they hugged, caught up, wiped a tear here or there… People were coming together to experience something huge — it was more than a game and more than just a reunion… it was, I think, representative to most everyone there as a return to normalcy.
I hope that normalcy sticks. I hope those hugs and smiles and laughter can continue.
I hope this is just the beginning.
In the meantime, be safe. Keep smiling.