Brian McBride's induction as the first member of Columbus Crew SC's Circle of Honor was a weird night for me. This was before I stepped out of the stands and into the press box and began covering the team. Back when I was simply a passionate fan who had followed the organization since 1996.
To give readers the proper experience of my night, I'm going to have to open up about some things. I'm also going to have to take you all back a little bit.
McBride played soccer at St. Louis University in the early 90s and I was born and spent the early portion of my life in St. Louis. My dad, a massive soccer fan, used to take me to SLU soccer games and though I was young, I have fond memories of being there.
I don't remember McBride playing specifically, but I remember my dad talking about him later and how excited he was when he was drafted by the Crew in 1996, after my dad moved to Columbus. It was a major reason why my dad bought season tickets for the team that first season and an early factor on how we became fans of the Black & Gold.
Throughout McBride's eight years with the club, he was hands down my favorite player. I still have jerseys from my early club soccer teams with No. 20 on the back and that was no coincidence. During portions of games, my dad and I would watch McBride exclusively, looking at what he did off the ball, his subtle communication with his teammates, and how he timed his jumps and rose above defenders to be so dangerous in the air.
Anytime the Crew had public appearances, my dad and I were almost certainly there. McBride was often not available, but when he was present, we made sure to wait to talk to him.
After McBride left for England, we still closely followed Brian's career. Despite my love for Manchester United - something that came from my dad's appreciation for David Beckham - we made sure to never miss a Fullham game when they were on television.
In the early spring of 2008, while I was at college, my dad passed away. Although I'd moved on to the Supporter's Section - R.I.P. V-Army and Legion '04 - and we didn't sit together every match, Crew games had always been our thing. The first game without my dad in the front row of section 107 was tough, but it led to a magical 2008 season that I know my dad watched from a special place.
Although he never saw the Black & Gold win an MLS Cup, my dad also never had to see McBride wearing Chicago Fire red. He didn't have to watch the former Crew legend score goals for one of the team's fiercest rivals, something that ate at me during McBride's three years with the Fire.
The Eastern Conference Final that year was such a mixed bag of emotions for me. Watching No. 20 celebrate the go-ahead goal in red was sickening, but watching Chad Marshall head home the equalizer over McBride just after halftime was miraculous.
That, combined with Eddie Gaven's winner several moments later, culminated my favorite game in Crew history. Not only because of what it meant in going to MLS Cup, but because it was against the Fire and specifically McBride.
Three seasons later, three days before my 22nd birthday, McBride was back on the Crew Stadium field, this time being honored. I didn't know how to feel that night. I was a huge fan of McBride and what he did for the Crew, Columbus, and U.S. soccer but it was impossible to forget his time with Chicago.
When the video montage played of McBride's career and fellow teammates talked about him with such glowing remarks, I remembered the things my dad used to say and how he also admired McBride. It reminded me that soccer was his job and going to the Fire was just his chance to return home.
As Brian waived to the Nordecke and walked off the field with his family, I applauded. This was about his career with the Crew and his time in Columbus and that's what was important on the night. It was also what my dad would have done.
Three years late, when McBride returned to Columbus for Frankie Hejduk's enshrinement, I got to speak to the former striker in the locker room and hear him talk about that night. He discussed Hejduk and what he meant to this club, but also what he remembered about his induction.
After he finished with the rest of the media, I spoke with him one-on-one and told him about watching him play in St. Louis and what I fan I was of his during his career. He could not have been kinder and has since spoken with me again about the club.
I look back on that night against the San Jose Earthquakes and honestly couldn't tell you the score of the game (0-0, I looked it up), but I remember every moment of the halftime celebration.
In my mind, McBride is the greatest player to ever put on a Crew jersey and although he also wore a Fire kit for some time, he is a Black & Gold legend and was deserving of being the first player inducted into the Circle of Honor.