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96 Stories: How Tanya Carman fell in love with her future husband and the Crew in one night

A true love story.

Tanya and Matt Carman
Tanya Carman

For the next few months, Massive Report is going to share stories from Columbus Crew SC supporters. Everyone has a story to tell, and all stories are unique. They involve friends, family and events that shape not just lives but fandom. Check back throughout the remainder of the season for more stories on how the Crew became a big part of the lives of real people.

A first date is often the beginning of a story. The length of these stories can range from haikus to epic novels, and each is unique. But the first date holds a special place in the tale. There can be a lot of planning to make it special or just test the waters with the traditional awkward dinner, followed by the latest rom-com at the ole cineplex.

On a beautiful July Sunday in Columbus, Ohio, there are countless options for a romantic encounter: a picnic in Goodale Park, a dinner overlooking the Scioto River or a walk in one of the hundreds of parks and small towns surrounding the capital city. There’s a warm breeze in the air, it’s a little muggy, but it isn’t a bother. After all, there are countless questions running through a new couple’s heads:

“Is he having a good time?”

“Does she like me?”

“Why isn’t the defense tracking back?”

“Oh god, are those supporters fighting!?”

“Are the police going to get involved!?!”

“Did I make a huge mistake?”

The 2008 Columbus Crew friendly against the English Premier League’s West Ham United holds some kind of place in the minds of Columbus supporters, but to Tanya Carman, it was the introduction to a large piece of her story. This story now includes marriage, kids, soccer and more soccer.

“I became hooked,” Carman said. Not just with the man who she would decide to spend the rest of her life with, but the sport of soccer and the Columbus Crew.

Tanya Carman grew up in a sports-centered household, watching American football, and even tried her hands at some youth soccer. But the National Football League was the focus. “It wasn’t like I didn’t like (soccer), I just understood pro football more.” This love led the Columbus native to Northeast Ohio where she worked at the Pro Football Hall of Fame and took classes at Kent State University.

Life brought Tanya back to Columbus and on one fateful evening, she went to a date’s house to play some Mario Kart. This night was not important because she threw the perfectly placed green turtle shell. At her date’s bachelor pad, she met the date’s roommate and decided to jump on Facebook the next day to find him, and find him she did. That man was Matt Carman.

Matt Carman spent his adolescence around sports too. The high school baseball player, who graduated in the same class as Crew president Tim Bezbachenko, was an avid Manchester United fan and supported the Crew since the beginning in 1996. Matt chose that Crew-West Ham “friendly” as the best place to start his next chapter. Asking Tanya to a match for their first date made sense. How did Tanya respond? “Yeah, sure.”

“It was a good excuse to go out, see something new and get some beer,” Tanya said when reminiscing about when she was first asked out. It was a double date, bringing along her friend and her friend’s boyfriend.

July 20, 2008: the first date. Matt opted for the Premier League Manchester United kit since the Crew were playing West Ham United, of the Premier League.
Tanya Carman

“We didn’t sit down for the whole first match. We would walk around a bit. We went by and sat in the Nordecke,” Tanya said.

While they did not get into the fray when a group of West Ham United supporters got acquainted with the northeast corner, they were close enough to snap a photo or two. Fighting aside, she saw how the supporters culture of soccer differed from American football.

“This is different, I like it,” Tanya remembered thinking.

Flip through the pages of the Carman’s story and there will be a wedding, three kids and lots more soccer. This family does not only have season tickets for the Crew, watch all Manchester United matches and have a child playing the sport but Tanya also helps run a league and both her and Matt referee the sport. She is a self-proclaimed refereeing dork. Not only does she get photos with her family and Black & Gold players, but with the officials.

Tanya and Matt Carman meet referee Corey Rockwell.
Tanya Carman

“It’s a lot of fun,” Tanya said about being a referee. ”There are some downsides with unruly parents that you’ll have but (refereeing) gives you a greater appreciation of the game.”

That appreciation connects directly to their visits to MAPFRE Stadium, where moments of supporters shouting at referees became eye-opening to the Carmans.

“You’re sitting thinking, ‘that’s the right call,’ but you don’t want to get into arguments with the fans,” Tanya said.

One thing supporters and the Carmans cannot argue with is the love of the club. When the Save the Crew campaign kicked off, Tanya and her family were like many others and jumped in to help. They got involved in the “Fill the ‘Fre” campaign as the leader of “McBrideville,” with their season tickets being in the section directly under his place in the Circle of Honor.

To Tanya and her family, it was about getting people out to the stadium and helping explain to the community the Crew’s importance.

What does the Crew mean to Tanya and her family?

“To me, it’s Columbus,” she said. “Being the first team in Major League Soccer is really meaningful for the league and soccer in America. The fact that we saved our own team means a lot. It’s definitely a family thing. I can bring my kids to games and put them in the Nordecke.”

So, what about football? The Carmans household is split between Matt’s Cincinnati Bengals while Tanya still watches the Cleveland Browns, but admits that it’s more to support the Haslam family. “Soccer is my all-time favorite. We’re a soccer family now,” she said.

Tanya and her son meet former Columbus Crew SC goalkeeper Zack Steffen.
Tanya Carman

When looking back on the stories of our lives, there are of course going to be highs and lows. July 20, 2008 brought its own set of challenges. The Crew found itself on the wrong side of a 3-1 result and the supporters’ culture ran into a speed bump, but that day means so much more to Tanya Carman. It started two enduring love stories: with Matt and soccer.

Today, Tanya said that her love of soccer and the Crew has eclipsed that of her husband’s love of the game, a love that he helped start. For their 10-year anniversary, Tanya found the perfect memento online to buy for her husband: a Columbus Crew-West Ham United scarf from that first date.

A fitting 10 year anniversary gift from Tanya Carman to her husband Matt.
Tanya Carman

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