This past weekend some friends and I attended the Columbus Crew vs. Colorado Rapids at Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. The following is a recount of the day’s events for you; the SDEE reader.
Six of us piled into the Toyota Highlander, braced for what we knew would be slightly less than comfortable three hours of interstate driving. There was a mandatory stop at Sheetz to buy gas and snacks. We discussed the theory that Jim Davis (Garfield artist/author) is actually a miserably pessimistic, human-race-despising, gloommonger. This is evident by covering up the word bubbles and reading the comic backwards. It can be done with most comics, try it out sometime. Discussion shifted from new phones and old TV shows. At least we had the foresight to plan a good lunch.
Lunch at City BBQ
When you can decide, go with the sampler. Right, Matt?
One last thing; one of the pleasant Latina workers sent her manager over to ask if Josh played for the Crew. I mean, two of us were wearing jerseys, and he did have his hair pulled back in one of those silly rubber band thingys…We decided to go with it. I caught her trying to sneak a quick photo of him/us and offered to take one for her. I just hope she’s not heartbroken when she realizes Josh peddles for Aflac, and hasn’t played competitive soccer for 10 years. Nice folks from the Gahanna City BBQ, if you’re reading, please send that photo.
Time to Kill
With the skies still gray and two or so hours to kill we had to make a decision. What to do? What to doooooo? Walking around campus was out (rainy and class isn’t even in session). The mall was out (didn’t really need anything, didn’t want to feel like a mallrat). So when you’re in a new city, the best place to kill some time is always a local watering hole. And I knew just the place; Bier Stube on High Street near OSU campus.
Chris, nervous. Bartender, shape-shifting.
Understandably, the group was a little apprehensive when I said, “Slow down, turn right down this alley.” The place is archetypal dive bar with sports on the TVs, cheap drinks, and an amazing juke box. As there are no windows in the entire place, Bier Stube is one of those places where it’s kinda hard to tell if it’s open. As luck would have it, it was. We met the bartender, Jen, and she was more than happy to pour a few pitchers for us while she opened the joint. She teased us about “rolling six-deep on Saturday afternoon”. Whatev, Jen. We had the whole place to ourselves for about 20 minutes before some other thirsty Columbusians joined us. Several AmberBach and Bud Heavy pitchers later, it was time to scoot. Kick Off was approaching, where had the time gone?
ahh, that's where.
After some haggling with a convenience store clerk, missing our exit, and parking, it was time to tailgate! Josh and I headed over to the Crew Supporters Union tailgate to purchase the tickets we had reserved in the raucous portion of the stadium. The MLS first timers were impressed with the amount of people in the parking lot and their enthusiasm. The fans were all very friendly. There is a whole “this isn’t mainstream but it’s still awesome” camaraderie among those gathered to eat, drink, and watch soccer. We headed to what looks like a mini Heinz Field.
Strolling towards the gate. Full of Red Stripe and BBQ
The supporters section in Crew Stadium is called the Nordecke. Pronounced "Nord-eck-eh", it's a German translation of the term "the North End" and pays tribute to Columbus' German heritage. I would estimate 3,500 of the 16,000 fans in attendance are concentrated in the Nordecke. We sang and chanted in both English and Spanish. The chants were simple but catchy, and we started to feel like Europeans or Central Americans. I enjoyed watching the new Crew fans in the group truly embrace the entire atmosphere. Just six minutes in, Crew midfielder Eddie Gaven drew a penalty which was promptly converted by Guillermo Barros Schelotto.
Bedlam...Crew lead 1-0
Joe and Matt, our third Crew match.
The Rapids tied the game in stoppage time. A lapse in the back line sent us to half tied at 1-1. The supporters were losing our momentum to be honest. The Rapids were having the better of the possession. Jason Garey capitalized on an errant pass and blasted a shot past the Colorado 'keeper to give the Crew a 2-1 lead. The skies opened back up, the rain turned the crowd giddy. Nobody scurried for cover. The chants ramped back up and the songs got louder. The beer, after all, never stopped flowing.
The rain came, and no one left.
Super-sub Steven Lenhart came on in the 77th minute, and took only 3 minutes to tally the third Crew goal of the match. He hammered home a Chad Marshall header which was, of course, all started by a service from the diminutive Argentine, Guillermo Barros Schelotto. Soaked but delirious our taunts rained down on the visitors; "You Came a Long Way Just to Lose" sung to the tune of "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands" and when victory was eminent and we were 2 minutes into injury time, "One More Whistle (Clap, clap, clap-clap-clap!)".
3 points to the home side. Victory made it all worth the effort.
All credit and thanks to Matt for soldiering through a long drive home. I crashed from a drunken exhaustion, sleeping for the final two hours.
We've already discussed a trip back to Crew Stadium, probably for a playoff game. I'll admit, it's not the English Premier League or the German Bundesliga, but MLS isn't a bunch of jokes either. The fans make the atmosphere that will bring in more fans. The players aren't spoiled superstars, they're trying to make it in the competitive world of professional football. Make it out to an MLS game if you've never been. Oh, and stand with the supporters group.