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Cleveland’s Infamous Art Could Reframe #SaveTheCrew’s Abstract Landscape

Once again, we’re not done yet.

Cleveland Browns fans recall (with a few four-letter words) their teams’ infamous owner Art Modell who moved the Browns to Baltimore in 1995, then becoming the Baltimore Ravens. Like Crew SC owner Anthony Precourt (DNA test between Modell, Precourt and a snake is still pending), a flashy new stadium was demanded by Mr. Modell in northern Ohio. Without diving deep into “The Move,” the city of Cleveland was devastated and rightly pissed-off at its sleazy owner. So, how do Art Modell and the Cleveland Browns from the mid-’90s connect to Anthony Precourt and Columbus Crew SC in 2017?

Earlier today, State Rep. Mike Duffey (R-Worthington) became the latest central Ohio political figure to throw his support behind the first club of MLS. Rep. Duffey requested that Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine exercise his legal authority and expertise in the latest public attempt to #SaveTheCrew.

Here we go.

“The basis for the action, he said, is a 1996 law that says no owner of a professional sports team in Ohio that uses tax-supported facilities or gets public financial assistance can move out of town unless the owner gives six months advance notice and gives the city or local individuals who reside in the area the opportunity to purchase the team.”
–Jim Siegel, “Lawmaker wants to use law passed after Browns move to block Crew from leaving,” December 6, 2017, The Columbus Dispatch

The article continued.

“Duffey says Crew SC qualifies as receiving taxpayer-supported facilities because it is paying a below-market rate to lease state land for parking, the stadium sits on land that is tax exempt, and the state in 2009 provided $5 million for parking upgrades at the Ohio Expo Center, where lots just south of the stadium and are used by Crew SC fans.”
–Jim Siegel, “Lawmaker wants to use law passed after Browns move to block Crew from leaving,” December 6, 2017, The Columbus Dispatch 

Will this work? Maybe. There is a degree or two of uncertainty as to whether this kind of injunction would keep the Crew in Columbus but the silver lining may be with the famous misery of Cleveland Browns fans.

Bet you didn’t expect to ever read that sentence, did you?

“The Move” is not local history but famous NFL and sports history. The city’s then successful professional football team, coached at the time by this guy named Bill Belichick, was taken away by its owner more than 20 years ago. That tragic memory lives on and defines that city, the current Browns team and this state’s professional sports identity all while residing alongside St. Louis and other cities that have had their beloved teams ripped away from them by immoral owners. Relocation is worse than any loss on the field. It’s a wound that never heals. And I also can’t name anyone who has said that Art Modell made a sound, morally right decision.

The Cleveland-to-Baltimore move remains an ugly black eye for professional sports.

Ohio has been given a second chance to make things right for one of its iconic professional sports teams but will they take it? Will Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine understand what’s really at stake in this battle to #SaveTheCrew and that this issue extends far beyond Columbus, the beating heart and earned soccer capital of American soccer, to small market clubs everywhere?

Given all the lies, deception, sabotage and manipulation (ie – Crew SC’s “business metrics”) by Crew SC owner Anthony Precourt and his firm Precourt Sports Ventures, Crew SC President of Business Operations Andy Loughnane, and MLS Commissioner Don Garber, there is no gray zone in the situation regarding the Columbus Crew SC and its threatened move to Austin, TX. Zero. There is a good side and a bad side. Plain and simple.

This clear-cut distinction between #SaveTheCrew and Precourt and Co. completely strips away any benefit of the doubt for the latter. Scrutiny and possible punishment for Precourt and Co.’s deceitful and manipulative actions and motives could get its day in court. Still, another proud local community willing to do whatever it takes to keep its sports team through inspiring support and several legitimate offers to buy the team and/or build a new downtown stadium with land and funding options could be left out in the cold again.

Or, would the soccer gods (and a few legal mortals) combine to score a last-second victory to change the sports relocation debate forever?

If so, talk about a stern turn for the ages.

#SaveTheCrew 

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The Crew Had One Goal for Tonight

All they needed was one, just one goal.

Columbus Crew SC fell 1-nil to Toronto FC in Canada tonight in the second (and decisive) leg of the 2017 MLS Eastern Conference Final, thereby preventing the black & gold from hosting an MLS Cup for the ages. Admittedly, as a Crew fan from the beginning, it’s difficult to find the words in this trying moment. The chances were there for that critical one away goal, but Justin Meram and Ola Kamara couldn’t place the ball in the back of the net.

That one goal was right there…

By the way, huge props to the next USMNT goalkeeper Zack Steffen for another fantastic penalty kick save in the 26th minute.

And in predictable snake-like behavior, MLS Commissioner Don Garber claimed he was “stuck in traffic” so he didn’t have to answer questions live on FS1 regarding his active participation in the deception, sabotage and attempted removal of the Crew from Columbus. Without diving deep tonight into the ongoing shameful acts by Crew SC owner Anthony Precourt, Crew SC President of Business Operations Andy Loughnane, Precourt Sports Ventures President Dave Greeley and MLS Commissioner Don Garber, I have just one thing to say right now:

The #SaveTheCrew movement is not over and will continue far beyond this MLS post-season. The efforts behind the rallying cry “We’re not done yet” will not yield because if Columbus ceases to be home to a professional soccer club, then so goes the identity and beating heart of American soccer in its capital city.

From Zero (Goals) to Hero in 90-120 Minutes Flat?

Soccer games rarely go according to a script, unless that script is manipulated by a deceitful owner and complicit league commissioner. The Columbus Crew SC tied Toronto FC nil-nil in the first leg of the Eastern Conference Final in front of a capacity crowd last night, dispersed inside and outside the stadium.

As attendees have shown via Twitter for the second consecutive Crew playoff game in Columbus, and the second home game post-Anthony Precourt’s maddening Austin announcement, uncharacteristically long lines of fans trying to get into a purposefully (and shameful) reduced number of entrances into the stadium before kickoff again proves the owner of the Crew will stop at nothing to sabotage his own club’s local support on prime time television. Sitting in my seat after arriving more an hour and a half before kickoff, the three gentlemen who filled my row in section 128 to my left several minutes into the match excited, yet visibly pissed off. Immediately after sitting down next to me, one of these guys said there was still a crazy large number of fans trying to get into Crew Stadium through an unusually long bottleneck formation. He said he’d never seen a backup like this at Crew Stadium…ever. I proceeded to say “Precourt’s acting like an asshole again” and he replied, “Yeah!”

The game on the pitch had its fair share of kickball and poor passes, yet there were half a dozen quality moments that nearly redefined the outcome as a raucous and triumphant 2-nil victory for the Crew against the 2017 Supporters Shield winner Toronto FC. Now, those two goals weren’t scored. That’s the reality. However, Harrison Afful, Justin Meram and Ola Kamara and Co. certainly had chances. If they had scored, the 21,289 fans would’ve erupted (possibly in a literal sense).

A nil-nil result is not the best result, nor is it the worst for Columbus. Not conceding an away goal was a major plus last night. Still, a goal or two for Columbus would have been insanely good. Once again, that didn’t happen, so we must move on to reality. Now, if Columbus scores an away goal and wins or ties 1-0 or 1-1, the Crew will shock the world and move onto MLS Cup. But with Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco back for the second leg (Toronto FC’s offensive firepower), at least one goal will likely be scored for the Canadian side, if not two under reasonable expectations. The positive news for the Crew is their style is offensive-minded, therefore, expect the final third crew in black & gold to be ready to counter and attack, attack, attack.

That one away goal for the Crew could be their ticket to host MLS Cup. Two goals for the Columbus would, barring the unthinkable collapse of the backline and the incredible Zack Steffen, deflate “the greatest team in the history of MLS.”

That’s the best, or most likely, case scenario on the pitch.

Off the pitch, an ongoing PR nightmare for Crew SC owner Anthony Precourt and MLS Commissioner Don Garber might be the only solution to change the stalemate calculus for #SaveTheCrew at this point. In the age of social media and 24/7 news, that’s possible. Once again, the drumbeat against these snakes must keep getting louder and more visible to the powers that be in MLS who have influence above MLS Commissioner Don Garber. And by “powers that be,” I mean the big money men and women who sponsor and fund MLS, including owners who might still understand the difference between right and wrong.

If the Crew can pull-off an Eastern Conference Championship, then Columbus would host MLS Cup because of a higher regular season point total compared to the Western Conference Final teams Seattle and Houston. The 2017 Crew has been called “a team of destiny” and the chance to host MLS Cup would be fitting for this wild script that’s been unfolding throughout the past couple months.

Imagine the Crew hosting MLS Cup with a sold-out Crew Stadium on the biggest day and stage for MLS with chants locked-and-loaded with vocal support by 20,000 or more deeply passionate fans ready to further publicly highlight the deception and sabotage of its host owner and MLS Commissioner for all of MLS to see…

If last night was any indication, Columbus isn’t done yet. Not even close. This Crew, on-and-off the pitch, won’t stop working.

P.S. Michael Bradley’s 2017 tour as an ungrateful, entitled a$$hole continues after he commented on the Crew’s potential move to Austin as a sound decision, as well as that Crew Stadium is essentially unworthy of his presence during a post-match interview last night. What about the amazing atmosphere of Dos-a-Cero, Mr. Bradley? This coming from a player who led the USMNT’s supremely pathetic campaign in which they failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup next summer. Although, now it’s like father, like son in terms of former USMNT Head Coach Bob Bradley and USMNT captain Michael Bradley each being responsible for throwing an entire World Cup cycle down the drain (2010 and 2018).   

Moreover, if the Crew end up hosting MLS Cup, you can guess who will be invited to sit in the owner’s box beside Anthony Precourt, Andy Loughnane, Dave Greeley and Don Garber. Columbus and U.S. soccer fans won’t soon forget what’s happened this year, as well as who said what.    

#SaveTheCrew 

The Empire Strikes Back at Its Own Crew

The Empire (MLS Commissioner Don Garber and Crew SC owner Anthony Precourt) issued a statement in response to their first meeting with Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther and the President and CEO of the Columbus Partnership Alex Fischer (the Resistance) that took place yesterday in New York.

Precourt Sports Ventures and Major League Soccer met this afternoon in New York City with Mayor Ginther and Alex Fischer, at the request of the city, in anticipation of being presented an actionable plan and a legitimate offer that would advance efforts to improve Crew SC’s long-term ability to operate and compete in Columbus.  Both PSV and the league entered the meeting with open minds, no demands and a complete willingness to listen and entertain concrete ideas or a meaningful proposal from the city’s representatives at the meeting. 

We were extremely disappointed that no concrete offer or proposal was presented and then told by the City of Columbus that it would not communicate with us past today.

Precourt Sports Ventures made a clear commitment to Columbus four years ago by purchasing 100 percent of Columbus Crew SC.  In the meantime, despite successful efforts to reinvent the brand and improve the Club, market challenges for Crew SC in Columbus continue to mount. 

Despite the city’s refusal to make a real offer and its decision to cease conversations, we remain open to a productive dialogue if the City of Columbus reconsiders.  Columbus Crew SC remains focused on our quest to win MLS Cup.

The following are just a few reactions to a statement that would otherwise be comical if the truth wasn’t so infuriating.

Reaction #1: Anthony Precourt of PSV and Don Garber have been working together to take the Crew out of Columbus for around four years. Their sleazy mission has not changed. That being said, honesty is not the strong suit of Mr. Precourt or Mr. Garber, so phrases like “open minds,” “no demands” and “clear commitment to Columbus” fall on deaf ears. The Empire has no integrity in this situation, so that’s the starting point with their statement that was released yesterday.

Reaction #2: The “market challenges for Crew SC in Columbus continue to mount” is quite a charge to make considering the ongoing sabotaging efforts by Mr. Precourt and PSV as reported just weeks ago.

“It seems Precourt’s story behind the proposed move away from Columbus rests heavily on a lack of sponsorship interest locally, but anecdotal evidence points to exactly the opposite, and also points to manipulation of sponsorship prices,” Columbus executive and soccer fan Anthony Olejniczak told me. “Those disparate accounts need to be reconciled with evidence.”
–Laura Newpoff, Columbus Business First reporter, “Columbus Crew sponsors say deals have gotten pricier”

And Mr. Precourt has not disproven these assertions.

Reaction #3: “Columbus Crew SC remains focused on our quest to win MLS Cup” is, to put it discretely, a line of BS. When #SaveTheCrew is the leading marketing force producing what’s projected to be a sell-out for this Tuesday’s game against Toronto FC, coupled with acts of deception throughout the fast few years, the only reason why Mr. Precourt and PSV are rooting for an MLS Cup champion are so Austin will be happy with a stolen team that’s won its second MLS Cup. Another curious component in that sentence is “our quest.”

After formally telling Columbus that he’s actively looking to move the Crew to Austin last month, he made sure to make this telling correction via Twitter, as reported in “#SaveTheCrew is What We’ll Do.”

Then this.

Put you all in, not us.

— Anthony Precourt (@APrecourt) October 19, 2017

The words “our quest” by Mr. Precourt is yet another line of BS.

What’s next?

Hopefully, a Crew win against heavy favorites Toronto FC in Crew Stadium this Tuesday night on ESPN at 8:00 p.m. on prime-time television. After this match, which will hopefully be a win, there need to be lots of stories by major outlets detailing the inspired playoff performances of the Crew in light of off-field speculation. The drumbeat must get louder every day for the foreseeable future.

On a bright note, it seems highly improbable there will be no next meeting in the coming weeks and months, especially considering this magical playoff run isn’t over in 2017 and since the Crew is guaranteed to remain in Columbus for the 2018 season. There’s time. Part of this effort, however, does require the Crew to keep winning.

The games on the pitch aside, another nervous component for #SaveTheCrew fans is keeping this story on the front page of the news and building proof for reporters locally, nationally and internationally to cover the extensive and deliberate deceit by Crew SC owner Anthony Precourt. Mr. Precourt’s choreographed “business metrics” that project a negative picture in Columbus has misled and is misleading some of the most influential power players in American soccer for the purpose of supporting his mission as the owner, which is to rip the Crew out of Columbus.

As Lee Corso would say, “Not so fast, my friend!” Now amplify that sentiment by twenty thousand people who will be rockin’ and rollin’ next week in the first soccer-specific stadium in the United States, cheering on their team’s playoff (and long-term) survival.

No broad support for the Crew in Columbus, Mr. Precourt, and Mr. Garber? Tune into ESPN this Tuesday at 8:00 p.m. ET. I’m guessing there will be a sell-out crowd and a customized chant, courtesy of the Nordecke, written just for you two. If you thought “Dos-a-Cero” made for intense soccer environments…

#SaveTheCrew