Welcome to the refreshed Massive Report! To celebrate the new look and feel of our sports communities, we’re sharing stories of how and why we became fans of our favorite teams. If you’d like to do the same, head over to the FanPosts to begin. We’re collecting all of the stories here. Come Fan With Us!
I haven’t always been a Columbus Crew SC fan.
My roots as a fan of soccer grew in the same way many of my generation did — thanks to the fertilizer of a World Cup in our own backyard in 1994, when I was in some of my formative childhood years as a malleable prepubescent being.
Those seeds began to flower in 1996 with the birth of MLS, something I was vaguely aware of until, while in Tampa Bay for a wedding, my family stayed in the same hotel as the Metrostars. Rubbing shoulders with Tony Meola and seeing Roberto Donadoni spill a tray of food while waiting for the elevator — these were the guys I had seen on my TV two years earlier during the World Cup.
That moment of happenstance opened some vortex in my life through which I fell and have never climbed back out.
I was still years away from crossing paths with the Crew, though (they were, of course, still “the Crew” back then).
Living in South Florida, I dove in to MLS with the introduction of the Miami Fusion in 1998. Conveniently, the team did not actually play in Miami, but much closer to my home at Lockhart Stadium in Ft. Lauderdale. I attended my first soccer match in person, and somewhere I still have a Fusion jersey stashed away.
I graduated from high school in 2000 and ended up in college in Ohio. My sports interests took a backseat for four years of college, preoccupied as I was with other things, and during that period the Fusion folded.
I emerged from my college bubble in 2004 with no team to root for and Columbus an hour and a half away. So I got flex season tickets and the rest is history.
I only ever spent time at then-Columbus Crew Stadium for two seasons — 2005 and 2006 — and they were, perhaps, the lowest period in the club’s existence. We’re talking about a time when those of us in the North End — predating the creation of the Nordecke — chanted the name of the club’s golden hope, Jamal Sutton, who was, you might remember (probably not), tearing up the reserve league.
I got to see Robin Fraser and Simon Elliott and, of course, Frankie Hejduk. I got to see the start of Eddie Gaven’s stint in Black & Gold, and the drafting of Jason Garey (who replaced Sutton as the great hope for desperate, goal-deprived fans). My favorite Crew player at the time was Mario Rodriguez, a guy most people don’t even remember (and he was a bright spot at the time).
Mostly, I got to see struggles. Those two years were the second- and third-lowest attendance seasons the club has seen. There were no playoff games. There were 31 losses — the most of any two-year span since the club left Ohio Stadium.
It was a transition period. The success of 2004 was gone, the coaching carousel was swinging, and the core of the team that went on to have success a few years later was still just starting to arrive in Columbus.
I left Ohio in 2007 to pursue job prospects, just in time for the Crew to find their footing again. In fact, I haven’t been to a game in Columbus since. But the club has remained with me.
I haven’t always been a Crew fan, but I always will be.