In any genre of literature there are the defining works. Your Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire's, your War and Peace's. It is only fitting that the defining work of the "Books about Columbus Crew SC" genre (an admittedly small genre) is about the defining season of the team, 2008. A Massive Season by Steve Sirk is the match by match story of the most successful season in Crew SC history. When we decided to launch the Massive Report Book Club, there was really nowhere else to start.
For the uninitiated, Steve Sirk is a writer with the Columbus Crew. His column, Sirk's Notebook, has been a staple of Crewdom for years, delivering a unique combination of humor, stats, and inside look at the team. Last year Steve was kind enough to exchange some e-mails with me for a Word on the Street article, which can be found HERE. This book is a reprinting of all the Notebook's from the 2008 season, along with recaps of the road matches (Notebooks being usually home-only affairs) and some added, expanded content. It is a chronological journey through the greatest season in Crew history.
It would be easy for me to write an entire article devoted to the great moments, memories, and stories documented in A Massive Season. There are many, both happy and... less so. But I feel it'd be doing you, as a reader, a disservice. So much of what makes A Massive Season such a seminal work is Sirk's unique prose, his humor, and his insider-outsider prospective. If I were to recap all of the stories they'd lose something in translation. He was there for it all, the good, bad, and ugly. He tells the stories better than I can. I will, however, give you some highlights, because this would be a very short article, otherwise.
And there are a lot of good stories, that's for sure. It truly was a magical season, and for those of us lucky enough to have been there, this book is like a wonderful trip down memory lane. Stories tend to grow in the retelling, and with no season in Columbus as storied as 2008, it's natural that events from that year have acquired a certain shine about them in the years since. This book, however, is free of that. It was written as the season was unfolding, and lacks any nostalgia, any rose colored recollections. That's not to say it's unbiased, as Sirk is admittedly and unashamedly a Crew fan, and it's not to say that there wasn't a feeling of "something special is happening here". Steve knew it. We all could feel it. It shows in the book. From the highs of the team's nine match unbeaten run to the lows of losing three straight, including two to bottom of the barrel sides, the book includes it all.
Perhaps the highest of the highs are the two most important matches in Crew SC history, the Eastern Conference Final at home against the Brian McBride led Fire, and the final against the Red Bulls. They are here in all their glory. The final, in particular, is a highlight, with behind the scenes commentary of the week leading up to the big match, including Sirk's phenomenal description of the complicated "dance" members of the Crew press box had to do to keep Dwight and Neil's view unobscured while still seeing the match for themselves. Sirk's recaps of those legendary nights are a wonderful reminder of just how special a time it was to be a Crew fan.
That's not to say that this book is for "old school" Crew fans only. Far from it. The Crew have been through a major transformation the last couple of years, with new ownership, a rebranding, and a new direction leading to another MLS Cup final run, this one less successful. In that time the team has understandably picked up many new fans. For them, this book is a history lesson, a look at what came before. It is a look in to the past, giving "I was there" context to names like Moreno, Schelotto, and Hesmer, who they never got to see for themselves. The 2008 season, and the players on that team, were (and remain) a vital building block of this team's history and identity. It also dispels some popular rumors, particularly about the formation of the Nordecke, always a topic of much debate.
It also recounts some less than magical moments from the Championship season. For those who weren't around, the chapter about the friendly match with West Ham United will be a particularly interesting read. I was there live and saw the ruckus as it happened, but didn't know the details until I later read Sirk's Notebook for the match. His feet on the ground reporting is impartial, informative, and (as always) entertaining. He also documents a lesser known low point of the 2008 season, the flight home from Toronto on September 14th. Again, it's a story that you're better off reading in Steve's own words, but suffice to say that the Massive Champions of 08 were close to being remembered instead as MLS's own Busby Babes. It was a story that didn't get much press at the time, due to its traumatic nature, and I'd wager many fans, newer and long term alike, still don't know all the details.
To me, however, some of the best moments in the book are the smaller moments, in the grand scheme of things. Thing's like Danny O'Rourke's streak of bad luck in the box, and his recovery from it, really show what kind of heart that team had. The saga of the Crew's in house Fantasy (American) Football league and Duncan Oughton's annual Intro-Dunc-tions shed light in to the behind the scenes personality of the squad, and boy did they have personality.
I asked Steve what A Massive Season meant to him, and what it means to him now looking back on it. He said: "It's always going to be a special book to me because it was my first one and it chronicles a very special year in my life. It's something I wanted to do for myself, the team, and anyone who cares about the Crew. In some ways, I'm sure it's overkill, but I wanted to preserve it all so I didn't lose any of those memories. The fact that Crew fans still enjoy reliving that season, or new Crew fans can learn about those Massive Champions for the first time, it's definitely satisfying. You always want something you make to have meaning for someone. That season meant a lot to so many people, so I'm glad that I (and many others therein) could contribute to the Crew community's collective happiness in some way."
And that's really what it boils down to. A Massive Season is the perfect book for a Crew SC fan, be they newcomers to the team during the MLS Cup run of 2015 or 96 originals. Regardless of if you're reliving the magical season of 2008 for the 100th time or just discovering it for the very first time, if you consider yourself a Crew SC fan, you should read it. It is available (more or less exclusively, according to Steve) on Amazon. Go buy it. You won't regret it.
Or, perhaps, first you should tune in to the Massive Report Podcast that will be recorded (and likely posted) on Monday the 23rd of May. Steve will be joining us on the pod to talk about all things Crew SC, and especially the 2008 season and A Massive Season, in conjunction with this article. He will also be helping us announce a very interesting giveaway...
Leave your comments, questions, recollections of 2008, and any other recommendations you have for the Massive Report Book club in the comments below, or reach out on twitter to @MassiveReport and @krislandis, using the hashtag #MRBookClub. Make sure to check out the podcast for details on the giveaway, and keep your eyes peeled for the announcement of the next entry in the Massive Report Book Club.
Stay Massive, friends.