The 2012 Columbus Crew soccer season is just three days away, and I’m worried. I know: me, worried. What is the world coming to?
The Crew opens this year’s campaign away to Colorado, in the same stadium where last year’s came to a crashing, if somewhat predicted, halt. The Crew needs to walk out on to that field and make a statement - to the Rapids, to the league, the fans, the sponsors and everyone else with an eye on the game - that things are different in Cowtown this year.
I’m nervous because of everything that has happened over the winter. The Crew and Hunt Sports Group have gone out and done what everyone said they needed to do: they brought in talent, they brought in sponsors and they improved their television presence.
The only things that haven’t been accomplished from GM Mark McCullers’ four-year plan are to sell naming rights to Crew Stadium and improve the season ticket base to 10,000. I’m not really worried about those two, I think that a little bit of success on the field this year will bring both of those next year.
Here’s where I’m worried, if that’s the right word: The Crew is no longer a second-thought sports team in this town. They’ve fought and clawed and scratched to get the attention of the general populous and now they’ve got it and I’m concerned that they A) won’t know what to do with it, or B) will waste it completely.
Maybe I’m a little apprehensive because of the example set by the Major League Hockey team across town: Piss off general population by taking tax money to save failing arena, make big player moves during the offseason promising the on-ice performance will make everything hunky-doory, fail miserably (epicly? massively?) on-ice, trade away star players and piss off remaining stars until they want to leave too, finally get their act together and win games four months too late, after all of the fans are talking about OSU spring football.
I mean, sure, the Crew hasn’t convinced the local government into a stadium bailout, but the rest of the story line is eerily similar. The Crew has done more in this offseason than in any in recent memory - both on and off the field - to foster conversation among the masses. Remember when Jeff Carter came to town back in July? Everyone and their brother was suddenly going to be a hockey fan. But then, after six weeks of losing streaks OSU basketball became the hottest ticket in town again. Jeff who?
So that’s the battle the Crew needs to fight: Don’t waste the good work done over the winter. The players need to go out and win games to keep the soccer families coming to the fairgrounds on Saturdays, and the front office needs to convince them that it’s a way better time to come to a soccer game than go to the movies.
In the eyes of the casual observer, Milovan Mirosevic and Olman Vargas don’t mean squat, as long as it’s fun to come watch them play.