COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Never forget: this Columbus Crew SC soccer season was very close to not happening – and that’s way before COVID-19 even existed.
It took one of the most remarkable fan movements in United States sports history, a movement that has been documented in a new book entitled, “Accidental Heroes.”
“They just would not accept this is going to be the reality,” said author Pete McGinty. “They were going to save this team or die trying.”
It starts on Oct. 16, 2017 – a day that avid Crew fans will never forget. That day, soccer journalist Grant Wahl wrote on Twitter, “Columbus Crew owner Anthony Precourt is set to move the team to Austin, Texas in 2019 if downtown stadium can’t happen in Columbus. Story soon.”
Six days later, the “Save the Crew” movement began and changed everything.
“When they said they were going to move the Crew, they hoped that would be a fatal blow and it only made us stronger,” said Morgan Hughes, one of the founders of “Save the Crew.” “It just goes to show you that previous ownership, previous leadership had no idea who they were messing with. So why us? Because that’s what we do in Columbus. We’re the smartest city in the world, we’ve been recognized as such, and you just don’t mess with us.”
McGinty met Hughes in September 2018 and was immediately transfixed by his and the entire group’s determination to keep the Crew in Columbus.
“It’s remarkable how these pretty young — well, young to me — young kids put together this group and were able to stick together for a year, meet every single Monday evening and many times in between, and never waiver, always had each other’s backs and fight to the end,” McGinty said with a smile.
It was that fight, started simply by fans, that inspired McGinty’s book.
A lot has been written about how the Crew, the original MLS team, stayed in Columbus, but McGinty’s story focuses not on the business dealings or legal battles. Instead, he wanted to write about the passion and dedication of 19 die-hard fans and how they impacted the United States professional sports landscape.
“I really made it about them,” he said. “They really went through all five stages of grief, but they didn’t get to acceptance; they turned their anger into activity,” he explained.
“[It was] really emotional reliving it,” Hughes said. “I mean, I lived as close as you can from the perspective of this book and I still… there were tears, there was anger, there was elation, there was pride.”
That pride has not wavered; if anything, it has grown stronger and now taller as the new Columbus Crew stadium in downtown is being built – a physical reminder of what this group and the entire Crew fanbase achieved.
“Having the Crew build this capstone, this palace to American soccer, it’s not just a dream, it’s the realization of the dream,” said Hughes. “Where we came from with the latter part of 2017, it is the dream come true.”
“A group of humans that form a community collectively decided to change their world around them and when you do that and you do it together, there is no force that can stop you and that is the true lesson of Save the Crew,” Hughes said.