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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 Beautiful Game’s Russian Blemish?

 

2018 world cup poster

(The official poster for the 2018 World Cup in Russia spotlights former Soviet goalie and esteemed Ballon d’Or winner Lev Yashin, courtesy of FIFA World Cup’s Facebook page)

And the 2018 World Cup groupings are…

  • Group A: Egypt, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Uruguay 
  • Group B: Iran, Morocco, Portugal, Spain
  • Group C: Australia, Denmark, France, Peru
  • Group D: Argentina, Croatia, Iceland, Nigeria
  • Group E: Brazil, Costa Rica, Serbia, Switzerland
  • Group F: Germany, Mexico, South Korea, Sweden
  • Group G: Belgium, England, Panama, Tunisia
  • Group H: Colombia, Japan, Poland, Senegal

Way Too Early Predictions of the Group Winner & Runner-Up are in bold.   

Instant Reaction: There’s no “Group of Death” and the 2018 World Cup in Russia will showcase a seemingly underwhelming collection of the (supposedly) best 32 national soccer teams in the world. Without any matches even occurring, one of the major stories related to next summer’s competition is the group of prominent nations that won’t stepping onto soccer’s biggest, brightest stage.

Slightly Longer Reaction: Despite some of soccer’s most notable nations and their leading star players and, in some cases, burgeoning international soccer brands noticeably absent (the United States with Christian Pulisic, Italy with Gianluigi Buffon, Netherlands with Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder, Chile with Arturo Vidal and Alexis Sánchez, Austria with David Alaba and Wales with Gareth Bale), a World Cup provides the ideal opportunity to elevate the sport’s next big name who presently flies beneath the radar focused almost exclusively on Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Manuel Neuer. Think back to 2010 and 2014 with Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben of the Dutch and Uruguay’s sniper and FIFA’s 2010 World Cup Golden Ball winner (tournament’s best player) Diego Forlán.

Who’s going to deliver a World Cup performance akin to Diego Forlán or Arjen Robben? Watch out for Poland’s Robert Lewandowski, France’s tank Paul Pogba and its talented youth movement, Argentina’s Paulo Dybala, Brazil’s speedster on the flank Douglas Costa and Germany’s Joshua Kimmich and Thomas Müller, for starters.

*Also, keep an eye on the fundamentally sound players for Japan regarding ball control. Trust me.

Insanely Early World Cup Final Prediction: How about Germany vs. Argentina, a repeat of the 2014 World Cup Final that so the Germans lift soccer’s greatest trophy? I may go back-and-forth several times in the next few months for giving Germany or France the advantage in a potential game to reach the final that would be determined by a razor-thin margin, as of right now.

When was the last time a World Cup Final featured the same two national teams in consecutive cycles? Glad you asked. It was 1986 and 1990 between, that’s right, Argentina and West Germany. Argentina won in 1986 and West Germany hoisted the golden trophy to the soccer gods in 1990. Furthermore, West Germany was the runner-up to Itlay in the 1982 World Cup.

Crazy Early and Stressful World Cup Champions Prediction: Argentina (see paragraph above for intriguing precedent occurring again)

More importantly, this could be Messi’s last best chance to win a World Cup for his legacy (he’s 30-years-old), which could be the special “it” factor for Argentina against its toughest opponents in Russia next summer. Cristiano Ronaldo (will be 33-years-old next summer) has that incentive too, but Portugal’s squad may or may not be equipped to string together a magical World Cup title run.

We’re only a couple weeks six-and-a-half months from the thrilling, world-class opening June 14 match of the 2018 World Cup in Russia that will feature global superpowers host Russia and Saudi Arabia. Remember that slightly underwhelming dynamic surrounding this World Cup mentioned earlier in this blog post?

There’s just no concealing it.

Disney’s Latest 3-Episode Renewal

Yes, yes and yes!

FYI- There’s a very specific and awesome reason why the word “yes” is written three times.

The good news is that The Last Jedi looks visually stunning with a bold, daring story. The better news is that we are only a little more than a month away from the highly-anticipated theatrical release of The Last Jedi, written and directed by the aforementioned Rian Johnson.

A quick refresher on Rian Johnson’s work on Star Wars: Episode VIII.

Looks like beloved Spielberg producer and Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy red read between the lines with Rian Johnson and The Last Jedi. Now even more than before, the fate of Episode VIII needs to be great.

And hopefully with less Dr. Seuss-style rhyming.

Breaking AP News: He’s an A$$hole

Heartless, conniving and only out for himself without any regard for people not worth millions of dollars.

Fitting with the times we live, Crew SC scumbag owner Anthony Precourt has all but finalized a deal to move the Charter member of Major League Soccer (MLS) away from America’s soccer capital in Columbus, OH westward to Austin, TX in 2019. There’s even a report that Mr. Precourt will be in Austin tomorrow. And the only way to prevent this disgustingly greedy and despicable move is, according to Precourt, for Columbus, OH citizens to fork over the money for a new stadium closer to downtown…or else! 

When Anthony Precourt arrived with his venture capitalistic mojo, it was presumed that he would use this business mentality to take the Crew to the next-level. Apparently, his plan all along was to buy an MLS club (the very first one in league history), concoct a contract with a sneaky escape clause (he wouldn’t move the club in 10 years unless that destination was Austin, TX), pretend to care about fans and, behind their backs surely support the registration of two names for an MLS club in Austin.

Earlier this year, Major League Soccer registered “Austin FC” and “Austin Athletic” as trademarks. MLS executive vice president Dan Courtemanche told the Statesman that Austin would not be considered for one of the four remaining expansion slots but did not respond to a question about relocation.
–Kevin Lyttle, Austin American-Statesman, October 17, 2017

Then there’s this.

On the call, the Crew owner said no one from the city had stepped up with a “serious” offer to keep the team in Columbus.

That was disputed by Alex Fischer, CEO of the Columbus Partnership, an organization of top city business leaders.

“We offered to buy, literally, 50 percent of the team,” Fischer told me.
–Laura Newpoff, Columbus Business First, October 17, 2017

And this.

“No investor presented an offer,” Precourt said. “We must begin strategic alternatives to secure long-term vitality.”

Again, Fischer disputes that.

“We won’t let emotions override our primary resolve” for the team to remain in the city, Fischer said. “We have specifically asked the owner to propose to us what would work.

“He hasn’t done that yet but we would hope and expect he would. In the meantime, we stand with the members of the team and fans who are very emotional today. We share that emotion.”
–Laura Newpoff, Columbus Business First, October 17, 2017 

Does Anthony Precourt remind you of anybody?

The Columbus Crew has won championships (Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, MLS Cup and three Supporters’ Shields). Columbus Crew fans have paid their hard-earned money and supported the club since its debut in 1996 against D.C. United in the Horseshoe. It was a momentous 4-nil win for the Crew. And I should know as I was there with my dad. Fans in Columbus pack the stands beyond capacity to cheer on the red, white and blue with unrivaled pride. Crew Stadium has hosted the most memorable games against That Team Down South (my trademark is still pending) with many iconic “Dos-a-Cero” victories.

If there are business struggles with the club, it’s Anthony Precourt’s job to fix them. Period! That’s why he’s paid a huge salary and has the prestigious title of owner of a storied MLS club. That’s why bought an MLS club, right? To support the club and its city? Wrong. 

He’s supposed to care, but he doesn’t.

He doesn’t care about the dedicated fans spanning several generations who will no longer have a professional soccer team to cheer for, support and make cherished memories with Columbus and its iconic Crew Stadium. He doesn’t care about the stadium workers who will be out of a job. He doesn’t care about the storied history of soccer in Columbus, OH, ranging from the Crew to the USMNT to its elite youth club soccer programs. He doesn’t care about Lamar Hunt’s amazing mission and success story in bringing MLS to Columbus. He doesn’t care that he pretended to admire this city and its people. He just doesn’t care.

The problem with all that is that everybody in Columbus cares. A lot!    

It’s actually quite difficult to express all my feelings in a single blog post, but this is a mere start (at 1,000+ words). There are more than 20-years of emotions and memories to reflect on, including my trip to Los Angeles to watch the Columbus Crew defeat the New York Red Bulls in the 2008 MLS Cup.

After waiting for more than a decade, with superstars like Brian McBride (MLS’s first overall pick), Brad Friedel and Stern John and many others have proudly sporting the Black & Gold over the years, the Crew finally hoisted the MLS Cup in triumphant glory! I was with my parents and it was truly a surreal and amazing moment. Unforgettable.

The Columbus Crew were, in fact, the MASSIVE champions of Major League Soccer.

I remember the joy, the celebration and the feeling of being a champion because every fan of this club feels like they are part of it, right there on the pitch with the players. And the players and coaches make (made?) sure the fans felt that way. Being a fan of the Crew is a unique experience. We have always been one with the club and the club has always been one with the city, regardless of the no-nothing suits of MLS (cough cough Don Garber) and no-nothing big city critics.

As I mentioned, I watched the Crew win its first MLS Cup in the Home Depot Center in Los Angeles. And while that stadium is newer than Crew Stadium, it looked and felt like every other cookie-cutter MLS stadium you see being built around the league these days. It’s generic. There’s no great story or lineage there. It’s not unique. Now, the Crew winning MLS Cup for its city and its citizens was unique and special. Moreover, Crew Stadium is the first soccer-specific stadium in the United States of America. The USMNT’s best accomplishments are defeating That Team Down South (my trademark is still pending) by “Dos-a-Cero.” Crew Stadium has hosted multiple World Cup qualifying matches, MLS Cups, an All-Star game and women’s World Cup games. Columbus, OH has earned the title as THE soccer capital of the United States.

Columbus’s story is a perfect encapsulation of America’s soccer story in that nothing comes easy and it’s constantly viewed as unable to rise to the occasion. And yet, when that moment arrives, guess who is there to stand tall and deliver unforgettable results with passion, skill and memories unlike any other? That’s right: Columbus.

Columbus’s soccer story is America’s soccer story; one of an underdog that rises to be a champion.

If that first ballot, hall of fame a$$hole Anthony Precourt can’t see that, well…once again, he doesn’t care.

History will show that Columbus’s soccer story has been proud, distinguished, innovative and unrivaled whereas Anthony Precourt’s soccer story is one of failure, deceit, sleaziness and deliberate tragedy that can be found in the gutter of American sports alongside the USMNT that failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

Somehow, someway, the Crew and its fans need to rise to its fiercest challenge ever:

Extinction.

Much like the Crew’s original logo, it’s time to put on the hard hats and for the city to get to work.

P.S. Want to buy a soccer club, Les Wexner? With a net worth of $5.7 billion, you could continue to support and define the evolving story of Columbus in the only way you know how: 

With massive intent and delivery.