Basketball and Soccer Don’t Overlap Often, but It Doesn’t Mean We Can’t Learn
Admittedly, one of my dreams was for Hammering Down to become a network to talk about every single sport in the Birmingham area. I have always enjoyed basketball and when the Squadron were announced, I was immediately interested. Well, I finally got the chance to attend a game and my immediate thought was to try and see what we can take from basketball and apply to soccer.
Much like Protective Stadium, Legacy Arena is a little too big for their hosts. Home to 18,000 potential customers, the Squadron wisely cut that capacity in half for roughly 10,000 seats. One major difference?
Other than a couple of places that say at the BJCC, there is no question who the hosts are. The bright red, gold, and blue radiates from the arena. The banners, the complete overhaul in the stadium that EVERYTHING says Birmingham Squadron.
How does that different from Protective Stadium? Both are owned by the BJCC, so they should be similar, right? Walking around the stadium, all you may know about the stadium is that it is the Home of UAB Football and the USFL. Only if you walk to the Club Seats will you find one single Legion FC badge. Once inside the stadium, you’ll see the singular “Home of the Birmingham Legion FC” in the smallest print possible on the main stands.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand. UAB Football is their biggest money maker. I fully understand, but even during February-August when Legion FC are the primary tenants, it is still UAB’s facility, loud and clear. What is my solution? Frankly, I don’t know. Maybe some more presence on the outside of the stadium. A little bit more will go a long, long way.
OH. And the socials like to completely forget we exist. The stadium doesn’t seem to care about us. Dear Lord I cannot wait to get out of there. It’s not as bad as people say it is, but it’s also not a good situation. Example A. This tweet where TWO concerts are pictured but not a single Legion photo.
Another big thing to me is the hype video for the Squadron. It screamed Birmingham. Everything about it was Birmingham. Legion’s hype video was, well, hype. It had the production value. It had the highlights from the year prior, but it wasn’t Birmingham. In the Squadron video, they had iconic locations around Birmingham included. In-between highlights, they showed another iconic spot that drove home that this was Birmingham’s team. That obviously had a lasting impact on me, because I’m here talking about it.
Actual Gameday Experience
The teams running in was honestly electric. The lights going down, the air raid siren going off with music going in the background was honestly so much fun.
Some of the videos I got were awesome. The atmosphere was surprisingly fun for maybe, 200 people? A big reason for that is that all the fans were put in certain spots. Protective Stadium certainly tried to concentrate the fans in one area, but with a stadium that large, even a little bit of space gets magnified.
That said, it wasn’t perfect. I know that the teams needs to make money, but if the fans were allowed to come down and really get as close to the action as possible, it would be amazing. The closer you get, the more you appreciate what you’re watching. The pure speed of the game is mind blowing. It’s something I appreciate about Protective, the closer you get, you are right on the action. So much closer than we ever were in BVAA Field.
Seriously, though. It was a ton of fun! The chants of, “Squad Up!” was fun, but it also made me really appreciate Hammer Down as a calling chant. Squad Up is just.. awkward.
It was a fun experience. The people who go have a great time. Much like Legion fans, the people who go are very dedicated. I would love to see more crossover between the two. If the two organizations could work together and have a Legion night and a Squadron night, it could be a slam dunk (obligatory basketball joke). We saw the Legion x Barons night be a success. I would love to see Legion x Squadron.
The Media Side…
The media side of this was honestly incredible. Pre-Game, I received a 31 page media guide that told me EVERYTHING. Even if you don’t know anything about either the Squadron or the Legends, who they were playing, you would before tipoff. I knew both teams’ records when shooting .400-.499, when making more free throws, when winning 50%+ rebounds, records on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, etc. It is an insane amount of information that I know about the Birmingham Squadron and Texas Legends. I wish this kind of information was available for USL fans.
I would love to see Legion really make more of the brand BIRMINGHAM. We see the tiny Magic City on the red shirt, but that doesn’t really make it Birmingham. None of the hype videos are really BIRMINGHAM. It’s Legion, which is cool, but it’s not Birmingham. I know the team is active in the community, so it’s not that they don’t care, but I just wish they would embrace it a little more.
Overall, 10/10 would recommend.