The Last Season?: The Birth of a Legend
Three letters on a message-board post. Someone can tell Billy Joel that's what started the fire.
“AAA.” That's soccer-message-board code for LEGIT, and also URGENT, and also HOLY S*** IT'S HAPPENING.
The post containing those letters went live sometime around 9 a.m. Friday, Oct. 6. Soon other message-board posters started spreading the news on other social media sites.
Within 90 minutes, its tremors were felt on Twitter, Facebook and Reddit, and, eventually among officials with MLS, Columbus Crew SC, the Columbus Partnership and Dee and Jimmy Haslam, the owners of the Cleveland Browns.
That's quite an influential post, and since it's how I initially found out the Crew could be saved, that's where I'll start.
After finding out from a friend that “AAA” is message-board code for rating how good and trustworthy a particular piece of information is, I rush to BigSoccer.com, a soccer fan site I've been a member of since 2004. Buried among some 34,000 other posts in a thread that stretched for nearly 1,400 pages, I find the post by the board's so-called IM, or Inside Man. He's suggesting Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam is going to buy the Crew, and since I'm a lifelong Browns fan, I'm incredibly conflicted. I want the Crew to be saved. But the Browns are, well, the Browns.
I go on a coffee walk to think things out, and grow more optimistic and amped. I want to high-five strangers. I'm starting to feel like I'm a few espressos deep with Frankie Hejduk.
#SaveTheCrew tweets an image with “Saved the Crew” and the caption: “We ALL did this. Together. #SaveTheCrew #SavedTheCrew” My head spins. I've become that little boy in the “David After Dentist” viral YouTube video, high on painkillers: “Is this real life?”
I hit refresh on three different tabs (i.e., Twitter, Big Soccer and Facebook) like a bazillion times. My fingers now ache.
I'm too antsy to work, my colleagues tell me. Relieved, I clear my schedule and rush to Endeavor Brewing in Grandview to be surrounded by other fans when I hear the news for the first time.
At Endeavor, I'm met at the doorway by a wall of people. Somehow I make it through the horde and get to the bar before 3 p.m., when the announcement is supposed to come.
I learn the announcement isn't coming. I offer cheers to some randoms near me and drink my beer anyway. Outside the news of no-news spreads throughout the patio. The jubilant mood remains unchanged.
Back inside, I take a picture of Crew SC defender Josh Williams at a table with fans. I also recall seeing Crew SC forward Adam Jahn already, along with former Crew forward Dante Washington. The enormity of the day so far hits me. This is bonkers.
It's not quite what we were hoping for, but finally, the official Cleveland Browns Twitter account releases astatement from Dee and Jimmy Haslam detailing their interest in buying the Crew. The crowd is already so loud it's impossible to tell if they know. But that does it for me. Content with the announcement, I head home, thrilled that in some small way my life can return to normal. On the way home, I notice I don't feel relieved or ecstatic or overly emotional, but rather content. The Crew is home among family, and the team will be for the foreseeable future. Just as it should be.