As I gaze upon the concrete jungle that is the Crew Stadium parking lots, I find myself zeroing in on a rather large individual who is vaguely familiar. Like a moth to a flame, I am intrigued and start heading across the vast space. As I draw nearer, I recognize that it's "Dancing Kevin", of Blue Jackets and Crew notoriety, here to unleash who knows what heinous glitterized catch-phrase on the unsuspecting supporters of the beloved Black and Gold.
As I slowly peer around the bumper of a parked car, who do I see standing next to him? Yes, it's none other than Columbus' favorite Kiwi, Duncan Oughton. With this being broadcast nationally, he's out of a job for the evening. I await my chance to pounce on the unsuspecting glitterazzi.
And then, a sight that has burned itself past my retinas and into the cerebral cortex of my very soul. I cannot unsee it. For there, emblazoned on the belly of Dancing Kevin and juxtaposed with a happy Kiwi, I see the phrase "YEEAAA BUDDY!" positively screaming for attention.
How apropos this is. I allow the photo op to run its' course, before diving in to find out what makes this fan travel from the Rockie Mountains of Colorado to the 'Bus. "I grew up in Dayton", he says. "It's a great place to be from, but I did my eighteen and got the f*ck out". At this point, he starts laughing maniacally. He continues with, "home is Columbus. I grew up in Dayton, but Columbus is home."
He blames the origins of his painted belly on his girlfriend, Melissa. "It's totally her fault. She wanted to get on the Jumbotron at a Blue Jackets game and I said a fat guy dancing will get you on the Jumbotron. So, she got up and I pushed her out of the way." the rest, as they say, is history.
He's been a fan and supporter of the Crew since game one in 1996. He was at the first game and fell in love with everything about the Black and Gold. "I bleed Crew." With ties to Columbus, he says that he has plans to eventually move back to Columbus, sometime in the not too distant future. I had to wrap this up, as it was getting more bizarre as supporters started crowding around the Glitterized One. I asked him if could say only one thing to the team, what would he say, and to whom? "Oduro," he says with a glint in his eye, "get the shot ON GOAL. You're fast, but sometimes, it's okay to pass it off." He then runs through the crowd to grab another beverage (adult-type, one each), laughing all the way.
By this point, I have to meander my way to the warm confines of the pressbox to watch this match and try to make sense of it all. The Crew dominated possession throughout the first half, and well into the second. With as many shots as the Crew players had on goal, you'd think that they would have been up 3 - nil at the half. Alas, they couldn't seem to get their shots on target. While set-pieces have been good to them in the past, they didn't help in this match. In the 80th minute of play, Tim Cahill scored for the Red Bulls, unassisted. To this point, head coach Robert Warzycha had made a grand total of zero substitutions. His first sub would come on the pitch at 86'.
I sat there, totally dumbfounded as to why he would wait that long to make a substitution. I could not comprehend what was going through his mind to wait that long. I mean, I'm not a head coach of anything, but I do kind of "get it" that you might want to make a change a bit earlier in the match. I actually wondered out loud what his response would be when asked why he waited so long. This was answered a short time later. Was I prepared for what he would say? Was anyone? While the post-match press conference with the head coach was a "normal" one by all accounts, there was one gem he uttered when asked about waiting until the 86th minute to make his first substitution. "Basically, sometimes you have to roll the dice." Yes, he really said that sometimes you have to roll the dice.
Did I miss something? I must have hit my head on something substantial so as to render me unconscious for a majority of the match. Did I really just hear him answer that question with THAT? At this point, I immediately passed out. I came to my senses with some help from our Staff Photographer, Sam Fahmi. Spalshing cold water in my face, he said "get your sh*t together, get in there and interview some players. You've got a job to do." I snapped back to a semblance of professionalism before stepping into the dressing room. Thanks Sam, I owe you one. A 1 - nil loss at home will almost always lead to a somewhat quiet room, of that, I was certain. This night was no exception. Eddie Gaven, a normally quiet guy, was a bit more subdued than usual. "At the end of the day, they were able to put one in and we didn't put ours in. It's really just that simple. It's tough, but that's soccer. They scored their goal and that just took the wind out of our sails. At that point it was so late in the game...", he trails off. The reaction was the same from Andy Gruenebaum. "It's definitely tough (losing at home). But, that's not the first time it's happened and it won't be the last. Soccer can be a cruel sport like that." At this point,
I knew I wouldn't get any different reaction from anyone else in the room. So, I followed Sam outside to the pitch to tape the Final Kick. How the hell would I spin this loss for the supporters? there was no way i could sugar-coat this loss, as it made no sense. Most head coaches would have made their subs in the 60-65th minute to spark something. Not so with Robert. He calmly played his fiddle while the Crew got burned for a goal. I also got the word that the "Man of the Match", Danny O'Rourke, was with the trainers in the rehab room and would not be available to be interviewed on camera.
Such is life in the world of professional sports. It couldn't be any weirder than this, of that, I was sure. It was time to cut my losses and get the hell out of Dodge. There was a beer with my name on it and daylight was fading. So, here's hoping that the Crew don't get tossed by the Rapids next week. Until next time, Stay Massive my friends.