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Review: Accidental Heroes, an outside view from the inside of saving the Crew.

Pete McGinty’s new book takes a look at the 360-day Save The Crew movement

SOCCER: NOV 21 MLS Conference Finals - Toronto FC at Columbus Crew Photo by Jason Mowry/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

To say that Oct. 26, 2017, was an exciting night for Columbus Crew SC supporters would be an understatement. Endeavor Brewing in Grandview was filled to the brim with Black & Gold supporters, to watch the MLS Cup playoffs knockout round against Atlanta United. An important match not only because of the competitive implications but a contest 10 days removed from Grant Wahl’s infamous tweet making it public that the Crew’s then investor-operator Anthony Precourt was trying to move the team to Austin, Texas.

People passed around a jar for donations to support the Save The Crew movement. Stickers were given away and the taps didn’t stop flowing. A crowd that didn’t need much more motivation to cheer on the team got a shot in the arm when FOX’s Rob Stone walked in, there to cover the upcoming college football game. Another mystery guest, as mysterious as Frankie Hejduk can be, was soon no longer a hidden supporter in the corner after an official unveiling made by jumping on a table and yelling at the television, which lifted the room to another level. It wasn’t known at the time, but those two wouldn’t be the most important guests of the evening.

David Miller and Tim Myers were invited by STC outreach liaison Darby Schaaf to the watch party. An invitation to meet members of the newly formed group that would go on to help save the Crew. Miller would run communications for the grassroots STC team, leaking stories to the media and coordinating interviews with outlets around the world. Just over two weeks later, Myers had thousands asking “What’s the Truth? when he unveiled a 33-page report breaking through the broken record “business metrics” narrative.

Miller, Myers and 17 others are the focal point of the new Save the Crew book, Accidental Heroes. It isn’t centered on television analysts, professional athletes or politicians. It’s about 19 people that leveraged different skillsets to protect their club, and more importantly their city.

“It’s not necessarily a sports book,” author Pete McGinty told Massive Report. “It’s more about a community. The relationship between the team and the community. The value and power of that bond.”

That bond comes in a variety of forms. On the surface, it’s evident that there is a connection between the story’s cast of characters and the city. Under the surface, in the weekly leadership meetings, friend relationships strengthened, husbands and wives worked side-by-side and complete strangers turned into family members. Accidental Heroes recounts these stories, as told by the people that lived them.

Each story came from interviews between McGinty and the 19 STC members. Compiling those stories began in the spring of 2019, six months after the Crew was saved. After 360 days of saving Columbus’ team became a full-time job, the emotions in the interviews were real and still felt fresh. McGinty recalls a number of times when the responses started with long pauses, to collect emotions or ending in tears.

The closest thing McGinty could relate to the Crew’s threatened departure was when the Cleveland Browns relocated to Baltimore, and he recalls a much different emotion.

“I didn’t cry when the Browns left, I was pissed,” The Northeast Ohio native said. ”Soccer is different, and Crew fans are different. What this means to Crew fans supersedes what happens on the field.”

This notion is best summed up by team member, and GCGBAG supporters’ group founder, Dave Foust: “It’s a religion.”

Members of the Crew, and #SaveTheCrew, church of supporters all come with different levels of experience in following the Black & Gold. Accidental Heroes includes stories that will connect a broad spectrum of supporters. From people that recently got involved with the team to those that kept refreshing their Twitter feed daily for a year to get updates on the failed move attempt and how they can help.

Stories like the rally on the steps of Columbus City Hall being unlawful, because of a permit snafu. A gifted Save The Crew jersey to club legend Alejandro Moreno shifting quickly from symbolic gesture to a team member rushing home to edit film of the exchange for an ESPN halftime deadline, getting it on the air that same night. Also, the raw emotions connected to being a punching bag for non-Crew supporters and Columbus supporters alike, even though they would end up benefiting from the team’s work.

A view from the Saturday.. errrm Sunday Save the Crew Rally, on October 22, 2017.
Sam Fahmi

Perception can be a dangerous thing. In those interviews for the book, STC spokesperson Morgan Hughes recalled targeted supporter responses of, “Oh, he’s out here being the hero.” McGinty clarified.

“That was not his drive. His drive was doing what he could to save the team for everyone.”

This book shares the struggles from members of the team that were not only out in the public spotlight, but the crucial behind-the-scenes leaders that made the entire movement tick. There are tales of complete lives interrupted for a common cause.

Spoiler alert, there are also tales of emotional celebration. Supporters that read Accidental Heroes will have a rush of those same emotions from the small victories throughout the campaign to the happy tears of the Oct. 12, 2018 announcement. It will elicit those memories of where you were, how you heard and who you celebrated with on the inaugural Save The Crew Day holiday.

Woven through the pages of this book are a few stories outside of the 19 STC leaders. From Dr. Pete Edwards standing with fellow supporters at the rally to getting on a plane and dining with the Haslem family a day after their NFL team, the new Cleveland Browns, won the team’s first game after 20 consecutive losses. This was a meeting that changed the narrative of keeping the club in Columbus.

There are also stories of relationships being founded between city leaders and movement. Doug Kridler, President and CEO of the Columbus Foundation – a philanthropic group of community-focused business leaders – was one. In the book, he explains that this movement was about much more than a sports team.

“By staying positive, they could help build the muscle memory of how we rally as a community, and how we can work for things such as quality of education, or pre-school care, or infant mortality,” Kridler said.

What you’ll get when you read this book is a blueprint. A blueprint of how regular people that truly care about a cause, and aren’t supported by large trust funds, can mobilize to reach a common goal. It’s the shift from, what the book calls, old to new power. It’s a power that supporters will recognize throughout.

One major note about Accidental Heroes is how it stretches past the 19 STC members. STC didn’t happen without thousands of Columbus, and non-Columbus, supporters doing what they could to help. There’s often a comparison done when asking supporters what they did to save the team. A genuine humbleness that often comes in the form of, “I didn’t do anything big.” Save The Crew doesn’t happen if no one shows up to the rally that started it all. It doesn’t happen without supporters canvassing businesses. It doesn’t work without supporters supporting. That is an emphasis of the book.

The book is available Friday, Sept, 4. When you buy a copy from the author’s website, 10 percent of the sales go to the Community Assist program that was born through the Save The Crew campaign to provide free tickets to underserved, refugee and immigrant children.

Tell everyone you know.