For fans of the Columbus Crew, the first home game of the season is one of the most wonderful times of the year. Known as “Crewsmas,” the week leading up to the game is marketed by the team as “Black & Gold Week,” with various events taking place all over Columbus, Ohio. On matchday, fans meet at the stadium for a sunrise toast to the new season and the excitement for the return of soccer can be felt right through the final whistle.
While many of these events are focused on fans in and around Columbus, Crewsmas is also celebrated across the globe as the diaspora of Black & Gold fans come together, whether in person or through the internet, to watch the Crew return to MLS action. These fans form their own unique community. For them, Crewsmas is not only the beginning of the soccer calendar but a chance to reconnect with and continue to grow this community away from Columbus.
For some fans, being far away from Columbus may mean being the only Crew fan in their area. For Twitter user @SouthCrewlinaSC, it is a “one-man support(er) group here in SC.” For him, Black & Gold week meant showing off his Crew spirit, dressing in black and gold and watching Columbus home openers of the past. While he’s hoping to connect with other fans in the South Carolina area and watch future games at a local bar, Crewsmas for him meant staying home and queuing up the game on ESPN+.
Like so many Crew fans, @SouthCrewlinaSC found a sense of community online, through Twitter and other means while supporting the team from afar. What’s more, for fans like him, the season opener is a time to preach the good news of Black & Gold fandom to a community of unbelievers.
This is the approach Stephan Sharp took back in 2018 when he founded Mile High Massive, the supporter’s group for Crew fans in the Colorado area. For him, the season opener is a chance to grow the community he started. Last year, the Colorado supporter group averaged three-four fans, as many in the area are Colorado Rapids fans, who came out to watch a game, but for Crewsmas this year they had eight-10 Crew fans who showed up to Stoney’s Uptown Bar in Denver.
The first game of the season for Mile High Massive is a chance to reconnect with other Crew fans and begin preparing for the Nor On Tour trip to Colorado to watch the Black & Gold take on the Rapids in August. Sharp believes building and growing the supporter’s group is important because, “It’s nice to have a sense of community, even if we are 1,200 or so miles from Columbus.” For him, the group provides a place for Crew fans new to the area to “feel right at home” and continue that sense of community they may miss away from Columbus.
The draw of the Crew’s first home opener in the new stadium was too much to keep some displaced fans away. Twitter user @Massive317, a Black & Gold fan living in Indianapolis, Indiana, always tries to make the drive over to the stadium for Crewsmas. For him, Crewsmas meant a chance to not only see the team, but also to meet up with friends and enjoy his community back in Columbus.
The appeal of the new stadium and a return to normalcy allowed Ryan Sullivan to make the trek down from Cleveland to watch the Crew in person once again. Sullivan was able to catch up with friends around the Lower.com Field before sitting in the Nordeke. As he put it, there’s “no place I’d rather be!”
However, some Crew fans in Cleveland opted to stay and watch the game at Iggy’s Bar with the supporter’s group, The Crewland. A group of about 17 fans gathered to watch the first match of the season, a good group for a community that averages around 10 fans for home games since many Clevelanders elect to make the trip to Columbus. For away games though, the group will average 25-30 fans who “come out to enjoy the game and our team.”
For the co-founder Nick, they were excited to get so many fans out to the watch party this Crewsmas. He was very encouraged by the turnout and hopes to keep the momentum going as they get more of the group together during the next away match. He noted that, “Cleveland is a very fertile area for soccer fans” both young and old alike, and he enjoys the chance to grow the community, not only for those who decide to stay in Cleveland on match day, but also at other soccer games in and around the Cleveland area.
For Crew fans, whether at Lower.com Field, or around the country, Crewsmas is a chance to again gather with their community and celebrate the common factor that brings them together: Crew soccer. There’s a reason the name harkens back to the holiday spirit, to folks coming together to visit with loved ones and celebrate an important event together.
While the 4-0 opening scoreline against the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday was certainly the perfect ending to their Crewsmas celebration, as Sharp said, “it was just nice to have Crew soccer back.” Whether watching at home, in a group at a bar or in a stadium of 18,939 fans, the Crew provides a community for people around the country to connect with and enjoy their favorite team.
Crewsmas may be over, but the spirit of community and celebrating with one another will linger throughout the rest of the coming season.