A few days ago I started an off-season series related to MLS fans in Columbus who are dealing with the very distressing news that their ownership has threatened to move the team to Austin, Texas if they don't get a new stadium in downtown Columbus. That day we heard from an Army veteran and life-long Columbus resident named Alex talking about his memories of the team stretching back to his childhood.
Today we're going to hear from Jon, a gentleman I met during the 2017 season at the Broken Cauldron before an Orlando Pride game. He was here in town to see some of his favorite USWNT players, and he told me he would be back the next week to watch the Crew take on our MLS side. That was in August, months before we heard anything about the Crew's ownership threatening to move. It was actually in exchanging messages with Jon after that news broke that the idea for this series was hatched. Today I'll bring you his story.
Jon Robinson is 25 years old. He's been following the Crew since 2013 and has been hooked on them ever since. Besides his love for the Crew, Jon has a passion for aviation and he's currently studying Air Transportation at The Ohio State University.
As with all of these columns in the series, I urge readers to post links to them everywhere you see the #SaveTheCrew hashtag to help get out the word about these passionate fans and raise awareness that the MLS is starting to go in the direction of other major sports leagues in the country--they are threatening to move teams to pressure cities into caving to the demands of billionaire owners and millionaire players. As fans, we have to stand up against this nonsense and make them remember that no sports leagues would exist without generations of fans who bought season tickets and cared enough to attend the games to grow the leagues in the first place.
Lion's Teeth Blog (LTB): What is your best gameday memory as a Columbus Crew fan?
Jon Robinson (JR): There are two that stand out. The first one would have to be on November 8th, 2015. The Crew were in the playoffs and were facing Montreal Impact on the second leg of the Eastern Conference Semifinals after suffering a 1-2 loss in the first leg. I wanted to go to the game but the cost of tickets was too much for me at the time, so I planned to watch the game with a few friends at their house. It turned out that my mother got my sister, Emily, and I tickets to the game. We showed up to the stadium and discovered our seats were center field, three rows from the grass! The seats were amazing and former Crew player, Kei Kamara, scored one of the most beautiful headers I’ve ever seen just four minutes into the game. Emily and I were both standing and screaming that our star, Kamara, had done it yet again! The crowd was pumped early and the Crew was determined to win that night. We ended up winning the game 3-1 and advancing all the way to the MLS finals.
The second great memory was taking my 8-year-old cousin, Jack, to his first match--which happened to be against Orlando! Though the game ended in a tie, the kid had a blast! He was waving my city of Columbus flag every time I turned around, and he was yelling the Columbus and Higuain chants as loud as he could! He talked about that match for weeks and became one of my regular match partners in crime!
LTB: What is your favorite part of attending matches at Mapfre Stadium?
JR: MAPFRE Stadium has become my second home. When I met Ken at the Broken Cauldron before the Orlando Pride game, I told him that this was a very different pregame experience, drinking at the local bars/pubs, than what I would do at home before the Crew games. MAPFRE is located at the state fairground, maybe five miles north of downtown Columbus.
When you get to MAPFRE, you see a giant parking lot full of cars and everyone is grilling out, drinking their beers, and playing every tailgate game you can think of. This season I wanted to take it to a new level, so I purchased a three-foot wide camping grill to host my own tailgates. When I first bought it, the idea was to cook food and have some beers. This became a place where my regular group would get together not only discuss the game and eat but talk about life and all the things that were going on in everyone’s life. Along with my purchase of the grill, I also ordered a 15-foot portable flagpole to hoist up the Crew and an NWLS Chicago Red Stars or Washington Spirit flag under it! We have the look of our own little supporter group and I am very proud of it!
[Editor's Note: This reminds me of our Orlando City tailgates at the old Citrus Bowl in 2015 and 2016 when we would "grill the competition" most match days, creating menus around foods that represent the city of the visiting team. Fun times for sure!]
LTB: Describe the game, the player, or the experience that made you fall in love with the Columbus Crew and really identify it as your team.
JR: Watching Ethan Finlay in 2014 and 2015 really made me fall in love with the game. Not only is he pure talent on the pitch, but away from the game, he was one of the players that was always willing to go out of his way to talk to the fans and help the community.
[insert photo: Jon with Ethan Finlay, jersey signing]
LTB: Away from the pitch and the stadium, what is the importance of the Columbus Crew to your city?
JR: I think our players make a major impact in the city of Columbus. Our homegrown player and captain, Wil Trapp, volunteers at Columbus City Schools to help kids with their homework. Another thing that the Crew does that I think is wonderful for the community is the Give Forward Foundation that the Crew has set up. Brad Stuver, our back up keeper, and his wife, are almost always doing something with the Give Forward program to help better our beautiful city. Another example that really means a lot to me is our back up forward, Adam Jahn, decided that he was going to raise money for the Pelotonia Bike race on his own time. The race is a giant cancer fundraiser in the state of Ohio and all the funds go to The Ohio State University Hospital and the James Research Center.
LTB: Describe the pain you would feel if the Columbus Crew were to leave the city.
JR: For me, this team is my rock. In February 2015, my father, Dean, was diagnosed with spinal cancer and unfortunately lost his life to it in July 2015. I was put through a lot of stress dealing with him being in the hospital for most of the time. The Columbus Crew was my escape from all that stress and heartache. I would put on the crest every weekend and just enjoy the game and not have to worry about anything. After my father died it got even harder, but the team was always there for me to escape to. If the Columbus Crew does mover to Texas I’ll be heartbroken. Not only is it my rock, there’s a good chance it’s a lot of other fans' rock too!
LTB: What's a unique aspect of Columbus Crew matches that you would miss if the team were to leave the city?
JR: One thing I would miss is the energy from the Nordecke, our supporter section. They bring the energy every game they go to. This energy isn’t just at home games but travels with them to away games, too. I had the opportunity to go to the US Open Cup match vs Cincinnati--also known as the “Hell is Real Derby”! A friend who watched the game on TV told me that you could hear our Crew supporters over the Cinci fans.
LTB: Are you a member of a recognized Columbus Crew supporter's group?
JR: Unfortunately no, but I do plan on being a part of GCGBAG (Greater Columbus Golden Boys and Girls) next season, and many seasons after!
LTB: Do you have season tickets for the Columbus Crew?
JR: I had my season tickets for three years now.
LTB: Anything else you want to say about your love for the team?
JR: For all the Orlando City fans, first off thank you for being so welcoming when I came to Orlando in August. I had many of you come up to me before kickoff and shake my hand and wish me and my team luck. My beloved Columbus Crew means the world to me and I ask all of you to please help me and my fellow supporters as we save the Crew. I look forward to seeing all of you again in 2018! #SaveTheCrew