I didn't talk about the Columbus Crew sale in my Herb Caen-style tidbits post because I thought it deserved a little more reflection. I just did a GIS for "Precourt Sports Ventures," now the second most prominent PSV in the soccer world. I got to page six before I hit something that wasn't an article or blog post announcing the Crew purchase...and that was Anthony Precourt's LinkedIn page. PSV's main Internet presence, outside the Crew's homepage, is this Facebook account, which seems to be a whole lot of nothing and for all I know is a parody account. Anthony Precourt himself either is the victim of a parody Twitter account, or doesn't rate the coveted "verified" status. Just as a point of comparison, Sal Zizzo's Twitter account is verified.
So, uh, I'm just gonna ask - this fellow's been vetted, right? Being the son of a Really Rich Guy has had mixed success in MLS - Merritt Paulson and Antonio Cue come to mind, unless you also count Robert Kraft and the Hunt family...so, uh, again, mixed. Then again, Ken Horowitz and Jorge Vergara had nearly unimpeachable records of self-made success.
I was thrilled to hear that Precourt promised to keep the team in Columbus - although in the back of my head I hear Roger Smith saying "I haven't been entirely truthful with you, Francine." I realize this was all a million years ago, but Columbus was the original fan-driven MLS team. The Crew was the first professional (well, openly professional) team in Columbus...sorry, it has been brought to my attention that the Columbus Clippers do not field a team of volunteers. Okay, they were a pro sports team that didn't ship their players off to - okay, well, Friedel and Stern John and Brian McBride left for bigger teams, but - look, the thing is, they got nine thousand season ticket deposits when a lot of much larger communities looked as if they couldn't possibly care less. When their highest profile players turned out to be lemons - Doctor Khumalo was terminally washed up, and Paul Caligiuri was calling his lawyers and travel agents throughout 1996 - the team churned out the "Hardest Working Team" mantra, and won without stars long before Real Salt Lake. They also helped set the template of MLS success in non-traditional sports cities without a lot of existing pro competition - it's not that much of a coincidence that MLS' first stadium was built there.
Heck, in the first couple of years it was common for media to refer to them as the Columbus (Oh.) Crew, so people wouldn't think they played in Georgia or Mississippi or Wisconsin. They haven't come as far as the college football team that used to be known as Miami of Florida, but at least they don't have to specify which state they play in.
The league would probably forbid moving the Crew, for the same negative reason that Chivas USA languishes in Carson - that would take a market off the table for expansion, and expansion money in recent years has bought an awful lot of happiness for MLS. So until team number 24 takes the field, MLS will remain in Columbus. I hope it remains there for a long time afterward. Kansas City proved that even the most moribund of MLS 1.0 can enjoy a huge renaissance.
And if that rebirth is midwifed by someone with about as much traceable history as the Amish mafia, who am I to complain.
By the way, although only one team remains with the original owners, both the Hunt Sports Group and AEG have been with the league since the beginning, and remain with the league...just not with their original teams. Major League Soccer is weird.
Yes, I do think this is a more interesting story than Clint Dempsey. Great players have passed through MLS before, and they will again. The Columbus Crew have been one of the league's definitive fan-driven underdog cultures through two decades of roller coaster highs and lows, and the league has gone close to a decade without moving or folding a team. Traditions and institutions are built slowly, very slowly - I'm sure we'll all have time to dwell on Dempseymania, but twenty years of soccer is more meaningful to me than one week outdrawing the Seahawks.