This isn’t likely to be a meaningful rivalry any time soon (on the field, that is) – Nashville is headed to MLS, whereas Chattanooga looks set in the NPSL at least for the time being – but to discount that Tennessee’s largest and fourth-largest cities do indeed have a rivalry of sort would be unwise.
Certainly, there’s reciprocation on Nashville’s end, but it’s primarily one-sided, and primarily relating to Chattanooga’s insistence that Music City is not indeed Soccer City.
“Your place has had a lot of soccer, therefore it is bad at having soccer, whereas our place has had soccer for almost a decade, and just one of them, therefore it is good at having soccer” is to a large extent a self-roast, but that’s neither here nor there (as an NSC partisan, I can admit the “sold out” on the NPSL version of NFC is still funny – the only funny part of the graphic though).
So, in any rivalry, one side stereotypes the other’s fans. What are the stereotypes each way in this one?
Chattanooga fans say Nashville fans are:
- Johnny-come-latelies to the soccer world (see above for continuation of self-roast)
- “Less authentic”
- Headed to big, bad, evil MLS
Nashville fans say Chattanooga fans are:
- Passionate in the way someone like Rocco Commisso is passionate (which is to say “pretending to be authentic but caring only about one’s own interests”)
- Jealous of an incoming MLS team – or at least what that indirectly says about the merits of each city
- Crazy about lower-division soccer in a way that’s not productive
To a large extent, both sides’ insults are true, or have a grain of truth to them, but they’re exaggerated for the rivalry effect. That’s what rivalries are all about. In the grand scheme, though, this doesn’t have the makings of a nasty rivalry. There’s fun banter between supporters’ groups, but it feels more like the Atlanta United rivalry (which was a little spirited, but mostly good-natured) than the Cincinnati one (which might lessen in tone from the Cincinnati end when their MLS franchise is announced – for now there’s quite a bit of vitriol).
From my standpoint, there’s plenty of room for folks to support (not in the traditional soccer sense) both clubs: they play a friendly Saturday, but once NSC moves to MLS and restores its PDL team, and Memphis joins USL (presumably at the expense of its U-23 team, at least in the short-term), the state of Tennessee will be covered with various levels of soccer at the professional, semi-pro, and elite amateur levels. That’s a good thing. We can work together to improve the state of the state.
So, when the teams take the field Saturday evening, a call to reason: cheer on the teams, cheer against the other side, but keep it civil. In a lot of ways, we’re all in this together.