I’m not a Cleveland Browns fan. I wasn’t there — nor did I care that much — when Art Modell moved the Browns from Cleveland to Baltimore ahead of the 1996 NFL season.
I’m not a Columbus Crew SC fan... at least not any more.
When I got into the sports journalism world and began covering the team in 2013, and full-time in 2014, my fandom turned into a profession.
If Crew SC won, it was about the story. If Crew SC lost, it was about the story. I noticed more and more that the joy or pain of victories or defeats was no longer there the more I did it.
That was until Monday, when murmurs began to reach my professional ears that Columbus was set to lose its Major League Soccer franchise — Major League Soccer’s first franchise — unless a stadium was built.
After doing my due diligence and reaching out to sources which were only confirming what was coming — eventually reported by Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl — the fandom that was buried deep after more than four years came back.
I remembered the early days of the Columbus Crew. Brian McBride, Doctor Khumalo and Bo Oshoniyi. I remembered being in Ohio Stadium for the first time and thinking of it as a soccer palace and not a college football stadium. Losing to the hated D.C. United.
I remembered the hiring of Greg Andrulis and sitting next to him at a dinner as a kid. He stood up to give his speech and — not to brag — but began it by naming me and applauding my knowledge of his team and its tactics.
I remembered shortly after freezing my ass off as I watched Freddy Garcy win the team’s first trophy at Crew Stadium, defeating the MLS Cup champion LA Galaxy. What a night that was!
The 2004 season came flooding back to me and the 18-game unbeaten run that saw the Crew win its first Supporter’s Shield and give me the first real hope I’d had of watching this team, my team, win MLS Cup. Thanks Tony Sanneh.
V-Army and the Legion and the friends I came with and made during that season are memories I still cherish until this day... even if they’ve lied dormant. My love, no matter how many times he fixed his socks, of Kyle Martino. I’m glad he’s still gracing my television with his presence.
And then there was 2008. What a year it was! Chad Marshall over Brian McBride may be my favorite memory in sports. I almost didn’t go to MLS Cup in Los Angeles. I was a poor college student who had already been to California once a few months prior. But a friend talked me into it and, with new credit card debt, I was there.
I watched Guillermo Barros Schelotto capped off the greatest individual season in Crew history — don’t @ me — with three assists at the Home Depot Center. I was on national TV in the middle of the second half, standing on the edge of the row, chanting like a mad man. I was also at the bottom of the supporter’s section when Frankie Hejduk — not Schelott, Dom — brought the Philip F. Anschutz Trophy over. I kissed that trophy and reveled in the moment.
To me, that season was more than just a championship season. See I lost my father, the man who introduced me to soccer, to the Crew, the year prior. Hours in the car talking about that team and he didn’t get to see them lift the Cup with me. But I did. And every goal they scored that season, as the team made a Massive run to the championship, I pointed to the sky in the hopes he was watching from somewhere.
The next few years were a blur. Supporter’s Shield and overall decline under Robert Warzycha, a man who I admired as a player and would soon listen to as a coach during his postgame press conferences.
And then came Gregg Berhalter, and with that, I was full-time media and I thought my fandom was gone.
But, as I sit here with tears in my eyes, remembering all these memories that, assuming this relocation occurs, won’t grow, I realize the fan never left. Sure, I had a job to do, but this team was the first team I ever cared about and you don’t forget your first love.
I know there are other Crew fans out there that have similar stories and similar memories. As I told someone on Twitter as the reactions were coming out, it doesn’t matter if you’ve been a fan since 1996 or 2013. This news hurts nonetheless.
Really there wasn’t too much of a point to this article, except to tell you that me, and those of us at Massive Report, hurt just like you when we heard our team might be taken away.
We do a job, some of us more professionally and seriously than others, but tonight I realized the fan never leaves us and this pain is real. We endure together.
In the words of my friend and colleague Kris Landis, one of many people I would not know with this team, stay Massive.
Editor’s note: Please excuse any journalistic issues with this story. It was written by a fan.