This Hell is Real Means More

Cincinnati Soccer Talk podcast co-host Bryan Weigel’s opinion on Saturday night’s Hell is Real match.

As I was standing in the concourse last Saturday prior to kickoff, my son and I were watching the dying moments of Columbus and Orlando. The Crew were up a man and beginning to turn the tide against City. Around us, fans walking to their seats kept peeking at the screen, giving comments like, “Hope we play the Crew”.

I was actually surprised how many people wanted the path to MLS Cup glory go through our rival.

Our neighbors to the North put in two extra time goals and with a Yerson Mosquera winner at the death, the second truly meaningful Hell is Real was imminent. Cincinnati would once again be the battleground for a HIR elimination match.

FCC fans have always been able to claim the original HIR victory (thank you, Djiby) and have annoyed our Black and Gold (let’s be real, it’s yellow) counterparts. But this matchup offers significantly more than trophy implications and the in-state bragging rights.

Hell is Real is not your traditional rivalry. The bitterness of foe and the hatred of circumstances past aren’t there (yet). There will hopefully be no fights between fan bases. Tons of banter between friends, family in some cases and on social media. But it mostly stays in check.

It’s almost an internal family rivalry. Like say brothers who went to XU and UC.

I don’t know about you, but I have cousins in Columbus and surrounding areas. Whoever comes out victorious on Saturday will likely be reminding the other at Christmas on who the greater team is, quite often.

Heck, several of us were even Crew fans of some kind before the lord and savior Gary was introduced into our lives. My college roommates are huge Crew fans, one of my brother’s best friends is a Crew season ticket holder, and my neighbor is a Crew fan (from Columbus). I don’t hate them, but I want to be able to hold this victory over them for the next decade like we have with the original game in Nippert.

Sure, Columbus has creative material about wooden spoons, and Cincinnati claims that Crew are one Ohio law away from not having a team. Yes, Cincinnati had tremendous support with crappy results. Yes, Columbus struggled at the gate in spite of two MLS Cups, three Supporters’ Shields, and one U.S. Open Cup. At the end of the day, there has been an air of superiority (probably deserved) from Crew fans.

I want FCC to “join the elite”. The pathway to being elite is now enhancing this rivalry.

I want the rivalry to escalate to one of the best on-field rivalries in the league. This rivalry was almost snuffed out and now has the chance to join the pantheon of legendary matchups in the league. Sorry El Traffico, this is the BEST RIVALRY in MLS.

I want to tattoo the sting of losing to FCC in the Eastern Conference final to Crew fans (even my extended family). Every time I see them, I want them to have a tinge of pain from Saturday. Not a fierce pain, but just that reminder that FC Cincinnati bested them at the highest level possible.

While we love our Crew-loving friends and family, there is not one reality where I will not be heartbroken if things do not go our way Saturday. I expect them to rub that pain into us as well!

At the end of the day or a decade from now, few will remember/care that Miazga was egregiously suspended or that Crew SC had a revolving door of defenders throughout the season. This result will just stick.

This is THE GAME. I want all 25,313 (200 Crew tickets) Orange & Blue loving crazies to make as much noise as possible for 90 minutes. I hope this will be like the intensity of the NYRB USOC Cup match from 2017, where not one person sat down for 120 minutes.

Up the Garys, Up the Foosers, Cincy til the End. VAMOS. Onto the Cup. Be Loud. Beat Columbus. MOST IMPORTANTLY, Go FC Cincinnati!

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