Columbus: No Dice? *UPDATED*

Shawn Mitchell of the Columbus Dispatch has been BURNING THE MIDNIGHT OIL - whatever that is - trying to track down something substantial in regard to the Las Vegas investors/Columbus Crew story that hit the interweb yesterday.

(For even more background, I highly recommend MITCHELLS'S BLOG which has lots of juicy and/or puzzling stuff)

Of course, as usual, the soulless suits who run Hunt Sports Group have nothing whatever to say about any of this.

The only thing that ever provided HSG with something like a pulse was Lamar Hunt, and now that he's gone their pathetically amateurish PR department is not only clueless but rudderless. But then you get what you pay for and Clark Hunt pays for crap.

So despite his frantic efforts, the only items of note that Mitchell was able to dig up were Crew GM Mark McCullers asserting that this really changes nothing and Paul Caligiuri claiming he was "misunderstood".

Caligiuri's role is particularly interesting considering that he is reportedly under a strict "non-disclosure" stricture, essentially meaning that he gets a whacking if he opens his mouth.

So why in the world he was talking to Sports Business Journal about a deal which is apparently highly speculative, a long ways from done and supposed to be a secret is a mystery.

Maybe Caligiuri just couldn't resist sticking it to Columbus fans for the years of abuse heaped on him at Crew Stadium over his "get me out of Columbus" lawsuit.

Now in fairness, it wasn't really Columbus he was pissed about, it was Sunil Gulati.

For those of you who don't know (and this blog is increasingly making me feel like some grizzled old greybeard), back when Gulati was the Deputy Commissioner of the league he was tasked with signing up USSF "stars", and none was bigger than Caligiuri, author of the "Shot Heard Round the World" which put the US into the 1990 World Cup:

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He says he told Gulati that he was willing to sign with MLS but only if he was assigned to Los Angeles. Otherwise, he'd stay in Germany.

So Gulati agreed, Caligiuri signed the deal and then MLS assigned him to Columbus. Needless to say, Paul felt that he'd been swindled.

So he sued MLS.

Now of course the problem wasn't really Columbus; he'd have done the same thing if he'd been sent to Miami or New York or anyplace, really, other than where he thought he had a deal for.

Nonetheless, "Paul Caligiuri is suing to get out of Columbus" was the storyline, and it went over with the fans about as well as it would have anyplace else. They were, to put it mildly, offended.

To put it less than mildly, the wanted him dead. Perhaps no player in league history has been subjected to the level of hatred, vitriol and outright abuse which poured down on Caligiuri whenever the Gals appeared in Columbus.

It became a tradition, one which I'm guessing Caligiuri didn't view with quite as much relish as did the Crew fans who made LA games a season highlight year after year: "Hurl Obscenties at Paul Caligiuri Day" might just as well have been printed in the schedule.

So maybe Paul just couldn't stop himself. He had this opportunity to give one back to Columbus and he couldn't resist.

In any case, one wonders how intimately involved with all of this Caligiuri really is at this particular moment in time. He's the Head Soccer Coach at Cal Poly Pomona and, last time I looked, it's the middle of the NCAA season.

One assumesthat he's sort of busy with other stuff at the moment.

Be all of that as it may, what we're left with is, as Mitchell describes it "A two line email" which simply says:

"Not much to say. I believe I was misunderstood and (the information) was wrongly stated."

Which is interesting, considering that Sports Business Journal, a respected and reputable media source, carefully used those pesky quotation mark thingies when relating Pauls comments.

The final word, at the moment, is from our dear friends at MLS Headquarters, who reluctantly dragged themselves away from gorging themselves on a pile of free gear the adidas rep just dropped off to say that they would have no comment because this is not "a league issue".

For a single entity league to claim that a commonly held asset is none of their business is as remarkable as it is ridiculous.

MLS wants everyone to think of them as a big time "major" American sports league, but REAL leagues that get taken seriously in America - like the NFL or NBA - don't get to cover their ears and holler "I can't hear you" when someone has a question they don't want to answer.

*UPDATE*

Columbus Crew General Manager mark McCullers released this statement on the team blogsite this afternoon:

http://blackandgoldstandard.com/?p=321