Dayton Dutch Lions fans are annoying, or at least the ones who were at Crew Stadium on Tuesday night were. While most of them were no doubt either related to some of the players on the team, or just fans of brilliant orange uniforms, their vocalizations of support were essentially non-existent for the first 75 minutes of their game vs. the Columbus Crew. Within a span of 5 minutes, however, these mild-mannered Nederlovers transformed into raucous bad-asses intent on rubbing their surprising victory in the face of the stunned Crew fans sitting nearby. One male teenage fan turned back to look at some bewildered Crew fans and said, rather emphatically, to give his team the respect they deserve. Many more (mostly female) fans were content to yell the words “yyyyyyeeeeaaaahhhhh!!!!!!!” or “aaaaaallllllrrrrrrriiiiiiiiggghhtt” as the Lions made their way towards the stands.
If I’m being fair, I guess these reactions were only annoying if you were a Crew fan trying to process how, for the second year in a row, a third-division side came into Crew Stadium and knocked Columbus out of the contest that now bears the name of their founder, Lamar Hunt. And while fans were rightly stunned, players were dumbfounded. The locker room looked like I assume it would look if every single player who had been on the field was greeted in the tunnel by a junk-punching elf. Few people were standing upright, many had towels on their heads, some were simply laying in their lockers or on benches, motionless, trying to catch their breath.
Meanwhile, coaches were seething. Robert Warzycha has never been more intense - in the interview room, at least - in the three years that I have been covering this team. He said that fitness wasn’t an issue. He said that the team on the field was good enough to hold a 1-0 lead. He said the result was unexpected. All of that sounds very normal, but the cold delivery hit like an arctic freight train. I imagine his disposition wasn’t much sunnier when he addressed the team.
Mark McCullers was seen walking into the Crew locker room after the game. The opposite of Warzycha, he tried to give a couple of quick smiles or greetings as he passed by reporters in the hallway between the exterior doors to the locker room, and the locker room entrance itself. His disposition was not a surprise - as GM of the Crew, McCullers has always struck me as someone who views his job to be building a successful franchise, while simultaneously not being a jerk. Just an educated guess here, but I doubt the smile stayed on his face much longer once he passed through the second set of doors. One can also surmise that Mr. McCullers’ presence in the locker room after a shocking loss wasn’t a happy coincidence.
By contrast, the scene around the Dayton Dutch Lions locker room was jubilant. While I waited for Sam Fahmi, Massive Report’s intrepid photog, and Patrick Guldan, our dapper editor, to finish off their postgame duties, I witnessed countless DDL personnel embracing and jubilantly crying through barely contained grins. With all of the orange, tears, and fist-pumping, it looked like an episode of Jersey Shore. Fortunately, we were spared any fighting. Or smushing.
Finally, my colleagues emerged, and as is our tradition, we stood and shot the breeze for a few minutes in the Crew Stadium parking lot. Near the production trucks towards the corner of the VIP parking area, we spotted a limo, running, with headlights aflame. Also present but much less visible was a minivan, buried in among the various press mobiles parked in the lot.
As we talked, some of the Dutch Lions (I never really bothered to learn their names) wandered into the night, decked out in team training apparel. We watched in amazement as they made their way...to the minivan. Over at the limo, some higher-level Lions team officials (again, I never thought I would need to know their names), still punchdrunk from their postgame celebration, wiped their bleary eyes, and assembled in the waiting limo. One of these officials even thanked us for coming out to the game (“Um...you’re welcome?”). As the limo revved its engine, I saw more players piling into the minivan.
It looked as if we might get to see that perfect made-for-TV movie moment, where the team officials have a moment of clarity, open the sunroof on the ‘sine, and wave for the players to join them for a cliched champagne-pop. “Leave the minivan, take the Stroopwaffels”, says Jimmy Smits, as Famke Jannsen gets a tear in her eye. And, scene.
Nope. Instead, the players drove into the night packed like sardines, while their bosses ate caviar. Both probably had a pleasant ride home.
I wonder how they’ll travel for future Open Cup games. Maybe the Crew can loan them their bus...