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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 First (Meeting) WAS the Worst

Today’s first meeting in New York between Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther and the President and CEO of the Columbus Partnership Alex Fischer (the Resistance) and scumbag MLS Commissioner Don Garber and scumbag Crew SC owner Anthony Precourt (the Empire) resulted in what can be described as a major bummer. Here’s the statement from the Resistance:

“We met with Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber and Columbus Crew SC owner Anthony Precourt in New York today. It is clear the MLS and ownership did not come to the meeting willing to commit to staying in Columbus. We know this is heartbreaking for the dedicated fans in Columbus and across the country who have shown unwavering support for the Columbus Crew SC.

“We are disappointed and frustrated. We were united in putting all options on the table, with the expectation in return that the MLS and ownership would cease pursuing moving the team to Austin. Great American cities do not get into bidding wars over sports teams to benefit private owners. Garber and Precourt were not willing to do that today.

“Once the league and owner are committed to Columbus, we stand ready, willing and able to support the team’s success.

“On November 21, standing alongside the best soccer fans in the country at MAPFRE stadium, we will be cheering Black and Gold onto victory. Glory to Columbus.”   

Reaction #1: The fact the meeting today was held in New York was a bad sign from the beginning. It does, however, clarify to the follower and non-follower of #SaveTheCrew that Mr. Garber and Mr. Precourt are forever linked as the two evil forces who have been plotting for four-years to rip the Crew from Columbus through lying, deceitful practices. Since this mess started with secret, backdoor deals, talks to #SaveTheCrew should not have been held behind closed doors, especially in any city other than Columbus.

Reaction #2: The phrase “We are disappointed and frustrated” made its way into the good side’s public statement, which reveals that Mayor Ginther and Mr. Fischer were not savvy enough and/or ready for the first round of the epic fight to keep the Crew in Columbus. Mayor Ginther and Mr. Fischer understand the process for normal business deals, but this is not an ordinary business negotiation. Normal business language won’t cut it, inside and outside of meetings. I’m on their side, but their current tone is feeble in the midst of an inspiring run by the Crew that gives them an upper-hand in the debate. Were they prepared for this kind of fixed meeting by the Empire? Do they have a long-term strategy we don’t know about? Hopefully.

And then there is “Once the league and owner are committed to Columbus, we stand ready, willing and able to support the team’s success.” Well, the Empire is clearly not committed to Columbus or even basic human decency, that’s the problem! Patience is a virtue, but ignorant and do-nothing patience is nonsensical. Strong, effective persuasion has to be part of the #SaveTheCrew business solution. What happened?

Reaction #3: I still believe this is just the beginning of the fight to keep the first and most important club in MLS in the soccer capital of the United States of America. The latter part of that statement is true and I can write a dissertation on that assertion. That aside, if the social media era has proven anything, it’s that an ongoing PR disaster can move mountains (cough cough United Airlines). #SaveTheCrew and its media allies have and must continue to reveal, well, the mountain of lies and deceitful practices from Mr. Precourt and Mr. Garber to the most visible and most consequential audiences for maximum exposure and impact. The facts are on the side of #SaveTheCrew. At a certain point, these facts will reach a boiling point and that’s when the right change can and hopefully will occur.

Columbus Crew outsiders and skeptics in an equal measure may consider the grassroots guerilla marketing campaign to #SaveTheCrew to be admirable, but ultimately all for naught because its opposition is the duplicitous partnership of a powerful business firm Precourt Sports Ventures and institutional force Major League Soccer (MLS). Fair point. The odds aren’t great and the deck is stacked against Columbus and integrity. And yet consider this movement that grew from a hashtag just a few weeks ago is driving a city of passionate fans dressed in black & gold towards a sell-out first-leg of the 2017 MLS Eastern Conference Final for the host Columbus Crew against the top-seeded Canadian visitors from Toronto FC despite a cold forecast. What if Crew fans deliver an electric, sold-out atmosphere and the Crew players deliver another magical playoff win as quintessential small market underdogs?

That would be another massive statement on national television post-Austin news last month.

Determined people with a positive, unified mission have a proven track record of taking down goliaths if the right tact is developed and utilized. #SaveTheCrew has shown great tact and is evolving and growing stronger by the day at the grassroots level.

So, am I saying there’s a chance to keep the Crew in Columbus after another two-faced and staged meeting set-up by the Empire? Yes. A seismic change in strategy in reaction to this devastating development is necessary, but it’s possible. #SaveTheCrew wouldn’t be the first unthinkable upset in soccer history but it would be one of the greatest and most significant. The identity of Columbus and similarly small market soccer clubs, as well as American soccer, is at stake.

And that’s not a game we can lose.

#SaveTheCrew