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Passion and Pride

March 28, 2008

The Crew Supporters Union and Hudson Street Hooligans supporters clubs hosted a rally for the team and the upcoming 2008 season at Ruby Tuesday (the bar not the national chain restaurant). It attracted the die hard soccer audience you would expect, but it also had distinguished guests from the Columbus Crew. General Manager Mark McCullers and Head Coach Sigi Schmid were in attendance to recognize and show their appreciation for the passion that the supporters bring to the game. This, coupled with an article in the Dispatch yesterday about the growing fan support, made for a perfect evening to celebrate being a Crew fan.

It was a great event. I really liked the effort the team management made to connect with the core group of fans. It was impressive to see top management come and share a beer with some of the rowdiest and passionate Crew fans around. I especially liked Mr. McCullers buying a couple rounds of beer for the Crew fans in attendance. Thank you, Mr. McCullers. One thing that became abundantly clear of the course of the evening; there are many people who share that passion for soccer and for the Crew.  I heard it in the conversations I had with some of the Crew front office staff. These are people that care. I saw it in the yellow and black clad fans that came for a beer and some soccer talk. It is apparent on the walls of Ruby Tuesday’s basement that is lined with Crew memorabilia. It will be readily apparent on Saturday when 2500 Toronto fans travel to the stadium tomorrow to watch an away game. It is exciting to see more people getting involved and excited about soccer and the Crew in particular.

This was also a great time to meet some new people. While not a member of any of the supporters groups, the Crew Union and Hooligans made me feel welcome. Blake Compton, one of the leaders of the Hooligans, was able to acquire one of the new supporters scarves. The scarves look great and are a deal at $15. I also has the chance to meet the writer behind Crewture. Ryan Kozlowski drives in from Pennsylvania every game to watch the team. The Crew did not have a fan’s voice on the web other than Big Soccer; he saw a need and filled it. Ryan certainly brings an energy to his blog and it apparent in person too. We discussed fan rivalries (they mostly good natured, Toronto fans are pretty nice), the state of being a fan (people shouldn’t be so pessimistic), and what he hopes to achieve with Crewture (give a voice to as many fans that want to speak). I appreciated the words of encouragement and wish him the best of luck as he graduates college this spring.

I also have to show my appreciation to some of the front office staff that were so receptive to the supporters and the fans. Chris Keeney, the Vice President Ticket Sales and Service, took some time to talk to the supporters about smoke bombs (no fire please) and mere blogger like myself. I loved his idea of more video access of events like the supporters meet and greet and training sessions. I also cannot thank Chris Wilson, the Crew’s Customer Relations Manager, enough. This man makes sure I have everything I need to enjoy my time at the stadium. I certainly enjoyed the half hour discussion of the team and the league. He recounted his first experience at the stadium in February 2001 for the first U.S. v. Mexico game at Crew Stadium. It is nice to meet people who deeply care about the Crew, MLS, and soccer.

I came away from my experience last night understanding the growth of soccer in America a little better. I got to meet some soccer loving people in another soccer friendly bar with the support of the local team. While the sport may never be as big as football and baseball, I have a hard time imagining it returning to the dark days following the American Soccer League in 1933 or NASL in 1984. I am going to do may part to support the game this Saturday by joining my fellow fans as the Crew take on Toronto. Feel free to come out and join me. The more the merrier.

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