For Columbus Crew SC’s home opener, I was able to enjoy the game as a fan for the first time since the 2015 Eastern Conference Finals. Columbus ended up drawing 1-1 with the New York Red Bulls, but I’m going somewhere else with this piece.
I want to acknowledge the atmosphere and sights of this particular game. A game in which, just a year ago, many thought would never happen. But when I approached the parking lot of MAPFRE Stadium to begin the 2019 season for the Crew, the fantasy of this game became a reality.
As I maneuvered my way through crowds of people, my gut told me that this game was not like many other home openers. It was more special for the city of Columbus. One might dare say, more important than hosting the 2015 MLS Cup final.
The parking lot was filled with fans donning Crew gear from head to toe.
The story writes itself from that perspective.
Yes, it was a pretty sight. Almost like waking up on Christmas day and seeing the toy you bugged your parents about sitting under the tree with a red bow tied to it.
Another pretty sight was when the gates opened completely, and the 60-plus people that were standing in line cheered, and we were all able to walk in unscathed in 30 seconds. This was not the case over the last year or so, when — for one reason or another — lines to get into the stadium took upwards of 30 minutes at times, making fans late for kickoff and providing bad optics to those watching on television.
Chills, I tell ya. Chills.
There was a time when I was walking to my seat where my mind wondered, “Is this a dream? This can’t be real life.” I personally, didn’t think this day would come. And if the result of Save The Crew had been different, it wouldn’t have.
As the team took the field for warmups, you could see the joy and happiness on the players’ faces as they were greeted with a “Glory To Columbus” chant. Fans were relentless during the first half, with most of the stadium choosing to stand and cheer. As was I, as I soaked in the vocals and instrumentals of the Nordecke.
What about the goal? Man, never been so happy in my life. To cheer with friends and inhale an excessive amount of yellow smoke was a great feeling.
Throughout the game, I kept looking around the stadium. Fans in masses with their eyes glued to the pitch was impeccable. For 17,000-plus to battle for parking as the Arnold Classic was being held on the other side of 17th Avenue in the Columbus/Linden Area, shows the true dedication that Columbus Crew fans have. Even if they came straight from the Columbus Blue Jackets hockey game that was held earlier in the day.
There were also many changes made inside the stadium, but that is a whole other story in itself.
The best part of this special game, was the end. I’ve never seen so many fans stick around the stadium — or walk out of the stadium — singing the unofficial Columbus Crew anthem of Africa by Toto.
A frigid afternoon turned into something that was made possible by two families, the Edwards and the Haslams, both of which were on hand to take in this unique occasion. This season opener of a match wasn’t just your normal game day. This season opener, was a special one. One that saw many people cry tears of joy, embrace others with long hugs and even toast a cold one with the boys and gals that were mingling along.
The narrative that Anthony Precourt once tried to write vanished within one game, by one massive group, cheering for one team.
You may think that this game was something special, but believe me when I say that this season will be something special. This game was not supposed to happen. As a writer that was able to soak in the sights and sounds first hand, Columbus does soccer and they do it very well.