I almost feel like a fraud writing this as my story and experiences are relatively new compared to the fans who have been with the Crew since the beginning, and there are so many people who have loved the Crew for longer and better than I have. But I’m both happy and honored I get to share my story.
According to Facebook, my first Columbus Crew match was in September 2008. I was a Junior at Otterbein at the time, and the stadium was hosting a Greek Life Night as a promotion. I knew almost nothing about the Crew, aside from the fact they were a soccer team. I can’t even tell you who we played that night or what the outcome was, but my sorority sisters and I had a blast in the Nordecke. I attended more matches between 2008 and 2011, but my love for the Crew didn’t really grow until I met my husband, Stephen. He kept inviting me to matches, and wanting to be a supportive girlfriend I would almost always accept. Before each match, there would always be a tailgate. Stephen, and his friends, Kerry and Tyler, would invite out family and friends to attend. There was always a lot of food, drinks, and especially laughter. Someone, usually Kerry, would grab a soccer ball and to kick around, and he would always get a group of people to join in with him.
Before I knew it, I was hooked. The friends at the tailgate turned into family, and Stephen ended up proposing in April 2012. I gave Stephen the task of finding the photographer for our wedding, and he suggested Sameh Fahmi of Studio 79 Photography. Stephen had heard of Sameh through various Crew fans, and thought he would be a great fit with us. He can be found on the sidelines during each game, taking some amazing shots with his camera. He has also taken amazing engagement, wedding, and family photos for us. If it wasn’t for the Crew and for the fans, we would have never connected with Sameh, and I am so glad we did. Stephen and I got married in April 2013, and for a wedding gift, our friends got us his and her jerseys. It’s still one of our favorite wedding presents, and that’s when I realized how much the Crew meant to me.
Unfortunately, Kerry passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2014, but Kerry’s family and friends have been working hard to keep his memory alive. Kerry invited everyone to Crew games –his family, his friends, everyone. While not all of us can consistently make it to every game, those of us who can still get together to tailgate before each match. His Mom, Carol, has also put together a Pan Can night at Mapfre Stadium to raise awareness. Stephen and I also named our son, Owen Kerry, in his honor.
Owen was born in December 2015, the year the Crew headed to the MLS cup final. On December 6, which was 6 days before Owen’s due date, we skipped out of a family party to attend the final. While it wasn’t the outcome we were hoping, the atmosphere in the stadium was amazing. Stephen and I both were praying that Owen wouldn’t decide it was the day to make his grand entrance. I cried no less than three times that night. Was it my hormones? Probably, but I was just amazed. Amazed by the packed stadium in the middle of December in Ohio, amazed by the passion and the cheering for 90 minutes straight, and amazed by the passion and drive of the team.
Stephen and I now are creating so many memories with Owen. We take Owen to every match we can, and he loves the Crew. At tailgates Kerry’s mom, Carol, works on teaching him the chants. When we decide to kick a ball around, Owen will go chase it or try to kick it to one of us. He’ll yell “Save the Crew” or “Go Crew!” with me during the games. Owen had his first ever hotdog during one of our tailgates, and liked them so much he proceeded to eat two more during the match. One of his most prized possessions is a yellow Crew soccer ball purchased during one of the last matches that had a rain delay.
The Crew have brought so many amazing people in my life who have turned into family. Stephen. Sameh. Tyler. Kerry and his family. I can’t imagine my life without them in it, as they have helped shape me into the person I am today. I know there are many other Crew fans who can say the same thing, if you ask them. Being a fan of the Crew, it’s a true, authentic sense of community. It can’t be replicated, and I am so excited for the future.
I know there are so many more games ahead of us.
And I can’t wait.