Cover: A diary of the final Columbus Crew SC home game
When this year's Crew schedule was released, I immediately circled the Oct. 28 game against Minnesota United FC on my calendar. (Or I would have if I still used a paper calendar.)
The afternoon start time, I knew, would be perfect for my two young daughters, both of whom still very much need to be asleep by 8 p.m. At the latest.
I also figured (rightly) that the last game of the year would be rife with potential playoff repercussions.
And though I could never say it out loud back then, I also knew Oct. 28 could have been the last Crew game, ever.
When news broke two weeks ago that the Crew would, most likely, be saved, the date changed in significance. Now we had a reason to celebrate.
A perfect storm, in other words, for dragging my whole family out to Mapfre Stadium during, well, a storm.
Here's how that went for me.
My youngest wakes up, which means I, too, am now awake. Before almost anything else — coffee, food, diaper check — I open my weather app.
The forecast is not looking good. I refresh the page again. Damn.
I wasn't going to let You Know Who stop me from bringing my family to this game, why let the weather? Come hail or high water, we're going.
Now to figure out a way to tell my wife.
My wife's awake. She's down for all of us still going to the game regardless of the weather.
We compromise on the 10:30 a.m. Legends game though, and decide to stay home for that one. Too long in the cold with little ones.
Though I'm bummed to be missing this reunion game between some of my all-time favorite Crew players, I convince myself that following along on Twitter will be almost as exciting.
I see John Clem's post-Legends game tweet: “This is the most fun MLS related event I've ever been to...” Instantly decide I was delusional.
My youngest is finally awake from her nap, so we load up the van and head to Mapfre Stadium.
We're parked and settled and bundled up. I get my oldest daughter's soccer ball and dribble around the mostly empty lot where we've parked.
Both daughters follow me and kick the ball around a little. This is, I realize in this moment, why I had kids.
The girls grow restless so we walk to the Mega Tailgate to say hi to a few friends and to fully expose the girls to the unique and lovely spectacle that is Crew tailgating.
My oldest points out another girl, this one maybe 10 or 11, dressed in a unicorn onesie and climbing onto the roof of a Jeep.
When the girl gets to the top of the Jeep, she puts on her mascot-style unicorn head and gives my daughter the thumbs up. I can feel the beams of joy radiating off of her.
Back at our van, I notice a man with a Save the Crew Community Kit, which isn't noteworthy by itself, of course. It was the name on the jersey that caught my eye.
Damn, I love Crew fans.
My oldest spots a bounce house inside the stadium, so I guess it's time to go inside the stadium.
Once inside, I immediately run into an old friend. We catch up while my daughter jumps herself silly.
The game is underway, and my oldest daughter leans in close to me, her arm wrapped around my leg and her head pressed against the fence separating us from the Nordecke.
Between edges of tifo that swirl in the wind, she watches the game, captivated. I try asking her a question, but it's useless.
I spot a hometown friend standing in the beer line when all around me the silence is sudden and eerie. Why isn't anyone cheering?
Ah, I've been told the game's been stopped for weather. Or more specifically, for lightning.
I immediately think back to 2014, when Stu Tudor, an off-duty firefighter, wasstruck by lightning in the parking lot before a Crew game.
We squeeze under shelter with thousands of other Crew fans, no end to the weather delay in sight.
We soon grow impatient with the crowd, and the kids are getting cold. As the minutes tick by, we realize the only possible solution facing us.
Heartbroken, we leave early and go home.
We get home, and when I realize the game hasn't resumed yet, I know we made the right call.
The game resumes, and as if pent up from the delay, the action bursts forth in spurts.
My oldest cuddles up next to me and watches as much as she can before bedtime routines begin.
Before going to sleep, I ask her if she had fun. She says she did and asks me when the next game is.
For once, I can smile not knowing the answer.