The first sporting event I can recall attending was a Columbus Crew (no SC at the time) game.
I was nine years old and my entire soccer team got tickets as part of the kids’ association. The pack of 40 or so people — parents and siblings included — sat in the bleachers at Ohio Stadium and watched the city’s newest attraction play soccer with a descending clock and hold a penalty shootout after regulation time…just for the hell of it.
In its earliest days, Major League Soccer loved its gimmicks. They felt it helped sell the game in the United States, but really, quality play and quality franchises take care of that. The Crew led the way for many clubs that came after, and as a charter member of the league, served as part guinea pig and part innovator in what was a new frontier for sports in America.
And it’s an absolute rotten shame what’s become of it.
MAPFRE Stadium has its warts, I get it. But the U.S. National Team moves mountains for a chance to play its biggest games here. They want the home field advantage of playing in Columbus, which makes me think the first soccer-specific stadium in the U.S. isn’t as dilapidated as we’re led to believe. It’s not the downtown arena that Anthony Precourt is holding the city over a barrel for, but it’s suitable, reasonably located (for the time being) and can serve its purpose while the city and club work toward a solution.
If that were his intention at all.
And, sadly, it doesn’t appear to be.
Full disclosure: I consider myself a moderately-connected fan, avid fan of Crew SC. I went to their rebranding party, I went to their “For Columbus” kit unveiling at City Hall and I’m a season ticket holder. Summers at the stadium (and drinking at 4th Street beforehand) have been one of the more enjoyable parts of my mid and late-20s living in Columbus; I’m bummed as hell that it feels like those are being ripped away.
I can’t help but think back to how John H. McConnell handled his own situation 20 years ago.
Residents of the City of Columbus loudly opposed using taxpayer dollars to build Nationwide Arena. But it seemed as though all parties understood how important an NHL team was to the future of downtown Columbus, and rather than let the dream die, Mr. Mac helped build the arena himself. After writing a check to pay an expansion fee, a check to fund most of the costs associated with starting up a team, and so on. He believed it was the right thing to do.
I’ll never forget what former Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock said about Mr. Mac, in a 2008 story that ran in the Dispatch shortly after his passing:
“You’re not going to meet a more genuine man. His word was his bond. His legacy is all over the arena and the city. There’s a right way to do things, and that’s how he did everything. We have an obligation now to follow that.”
"His word was his bond."
I hope Precourt understands the importance of Crew SC to our city.
If I talked to three different people about the Blue Jackets right now, I might get three different perspectives.
A: They’re good, and this is what good teams do.
B: They’re probably good, but I haven’t seen enough.
C: Too much luck and too much Bobrovsky to believe it.
The truth lies somewhere between A and B, but after last night’s dismantling of the Winnipeg Jets, I’m starting to latch on to Option A. The Blue Jackets played their No. 2 goalie (who had a rough go in Chicago) and crafted another dominant win, going 2-for-2 in both Minnesota and Winnipeg. Not exactly Arizona or Ottawa we’re talking about.
Now at 5-1-0, this Blue Jackets team has amassed more points through six games than any in franchise history. They've won games behind both goaltenders, without the aid of their talented power play, and are a legitimately good puck possession team with one stinker (Carolina) on their record. And they won that game.
Not a prediction or thought today, but merely an observation: I hope The Last Jedi lives up to the hype and delivers the best locations in Star Wars history. Canto Bight has me ridiculously excited.
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