In the movie “The American President,” Andrew Shepherd – the title character – delivers an impassioned speech during a news conference.
At one point he says, “America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You’ve gotta want it bad, ‘cause it’s gonna put up a fight.”
It’s a terrific movie speech and truly resonates, especially in the current political climate.
But I’m not gonna to go there (that’s what Twitter is for). Instead, I want to hijack that excerpt and apply it to association football:
“Lower division American soccer isn’t easy. Lower division American soccer is advanced supportership. You’ve gotta want it bad, ‘cause it’s gonna put up a fight.”
Indeed it will.
If you’re a fan of Major League Soccer, you probably don’t spend a lot of time worrying about these things.
You go to an Atlanta United FC match at palatial Mercedes-Benz Stadium, do a couple of Viking Thunder Claps, enjoy your one price, all-you-care-to-drink cola, and you’ve been part of the experience.
It’s franchise soccer and if that’s what you like, that’s what MLS is providing.
If, however, you enjoy the kind of football built from the ground up, you have to accept the fact that you’re almost always on shaky ground.
Thanks to Greenville Football Club, I was finally able to realize there is much, much more to see in American soccer than what I see on television and big stadiums.
A lot of people are unaware of the lower divisions because they aren’t exposed to them, and I used to be one of those people.
But then Greenville FC came along and it opened my eyes to other clubs and other leagues.
It reintroduced me to the Atlanta Silverbacks and led me toward the paths of clubs such as Asheville City SC, Motorik FC Alexandria and Unity F.C.
And even though I don’t have a luxury box at Finley Stadium, I’m now an owner of Chattanooga FC. (Come to my house and I’ll gladly show you my yard sign and certificate).
That wouldn’t have happened if GVLFC hadn’t happened.
But again, if you cast your lot with grassroots soccer, things will often get muddy.
On Tuesday, Greenville FC officially announced it was taking a hiatus from the National Premier Soccer League this year.
There is the hope it will return in 2021 – whether in the NPSL or some other circuit – but it still comes as a blow to supporters who’ve made the club an integral part of their summers.
But hey – things are tough all over.
The Silverbacks, rebranded as Atlanta SC, went from the NPSL to the National Independent Soccer Association and now seems to have basically just disappeared.
Go to its website and, well, it doesn’t have one anymore.
Other clubs across the country come and go, of course, breaking the hearts of those who follow them yet rarely rating a mention in the national soccer conversation.
Look, it would be a lot easier to step away from it all.
I support Celtic FC and also enjoy following Manchester United and Borussia Dortmund. That gives me a lot of soccer to enjoy spread out over a lot of months.
But it’s a helluva drive from my house to Glasgow.
On the other hand Sirrine Stadium – the most recent home of Greenville FC – is just a couple of miles away.
Local soccer isn’t sexy, but it’s real. There’s a reason the world’s game is ultimately rooted in small communities.
So wherever you live, seek out the men and women who play for the clubs near you.
Buy a ticket.
Buy a shirt.
Buy into the dream.
It’s “gonna put up a fight,” but one day – if you’re lucky – you might just see that the struggle was worth it.