Goodbye Old Friend(s)

Since Danny has taken up the cudgel and commenced to whacking away at FIFA lately, I'm confident that he'll be OK with me taking one of his favorite memes out for a quick spin as long as I promise not to ding up the paint and leave it with a full tank of gas.

With that in mind, it's only fitting and proper that we take a brief but respectful pause to say farewell to one of the last of MLS's original symbols, the Columbus Crew construction workers.

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When Anthony Precourt purchased the Crew from Hunt Sports last summer, the new owner's first order of business was a re-branding of the team. He discovered - along with the rest of us - that MLS uniforms are designed, reviewed and approved by the teams and the league by July for the following season.

Therefore, no changes were possible for 2014.

As a result the construction workers got a 12 month reprieve, but after a long and (on occasion) glorious 19 year career they're turning in their hardhats, getting a handshake from the boss and heading to Florida to fish for bass, clip coupons and bitch about how the kids never call.

Someone will certainly correct me if I'm wrong here but I believe that will leave New England's stylized Old Glory and DC's neo Nazi shield as the only remaining original MLS team crests, which is only fitting since both sides maintain anachronistic 1996-era relics which badly need replacing including, respectively, the owner and the stadium they play in.

Of course the construction guys were never even remotely appropriate for Columbus Ohio, an oasis of insurance companies, government offices and a gargantuan university in an otherwise unbroken sea of soybean fields stretching to the Indiana border.

Combined with the color scheme it always seemed like the designers had the place confused with Pittsburgh.

They also enjoyed some minor celebrity overseas. Supporters groups from outfits as varied as Dinamo Zagreb and Utrecht thought the boys projected the right image:

Courtesy of crew2112

Courtesy of crew2112


I've always thought it somewhat odd that nobody ever named the construction guys. Tom, Dick and Harry. Moe, Larry and Curly. I dunno, something.

For years rival team's fans occasionally derided them as The Village People, but that was so obviously a stretch that it never had a bit of bite. Three hard hat construction guys is a long ways from a porn stache, a biker porn stache, a blatantly racist depiction of a Native American, Eric Estrada and whatever the fifth guy was.

Not that it mattered to some people.

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Much more sincere was the attempt to butch the boys up a bit, but the result looked a lot more like a Soviet-era propaganda poster announcing a new five year hydroelectric power plan than a football crest.

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Precourt will reportedly keep the black and gold color scheme, redesign the logo and alter but not totally change the team name to include the word Columbus, as in Columbus Crew FC or some variation thereof.

Sadly, they're passing up the opportunity to rename the team PSV Columbus, which was literally the first thought every fan had when the team website declared that "PSV" was purchasing the team from "HSG".

It's way more legitimate for a team which is owned by Precourt Sports Ventures to call itself PSV Columbus than - to pick an example entirely at random - for a team in Salt Lake City to call itself "Real". All you're doing is replacing "Philips" with "Precourt" and you're mostly there. It's barely a stretch.

But the now-familiar, dreary "FC" or "SC" is apparently what they're going with.

(The smartest thing DC United ever did, aside from signing a Bolivian with a mean reputation named Marco Etcheverry, was to get the league to agree that no other MLS side could ever use the name "United". Elsewise I'm guessing that fully half the league would now have that word someplace in their name.)

Of course all of this may be of only marginal interest to fans of the other 9 OG's - I always include Chicago in that number, from which of course Miami was subtracted - and of no interest at all to fans of newer league members, most of whom believe that the league has no history which predates their entry and I'm OK with that.

Be a clueless turd, what do I care?

However, this is all part of a process which is one of the most significant milestones in all of MLS history, ranking right next to the Beckham Rule allowing DP's and the creation of the Academy System:

The Kansas City re-brand.

As most people know, a very few years ago the Wizards (Wiz, whatever) were a basket case. Even Lamar Hunt gave up on that market, and he never gave up on a damned thing. Dwindling fan base, indifferent results, lousy facility, KC touched all the bases.

If there was one thing that every MLS fan agreed on it was that the Wiz was on its way out of town. The only serious question was where it was going to end up.

But thanks to the (literally) heroic efforts of a small but absurdly determined group of fans, KC rose from the ashes, found new local owners, built a new facility, changed their identity, turned around competitively and became a shining example of what was possible with smart management.

If they're not teaching the story in Sports Management classes with the fervor of West Pointers discussing Dick Winters tactics in taking out those German 88's on D Day then Sports Management is even lamer than I think it is.

In fact, from the beginning Anthony Precourt has openly and unreservedly credited the KC example as the prime motivation behind his purchase of the Crew and his management thereof.

He started out wanting to simply buy in a bit to get his feet wet in professional soccer, but the more he looked at what was going on in KC the more convinced he became that the blueprint was recreate-able elsewhere and he told Clark Hunt that he had changed his mind: he wanted the whole thing.

Yes, one of the similarities between the two situations is extrication from ownership by Hunt Sports. I have the greatest respect for HSG, Clark Hunt and, of course, the late, lamented Massah Lamar. It isn't even remotely a stretch to say that without his confidence and commitment MLS would not exist today.

That aside however, the larger lesson was that of a tired, semi-moribund second tier market which, for whatever reason, was being openly mooted as a candidate for relocation suddenly turned into a dynamic, exciting fan experience.

And even though he's had to wait for the kind of full-bore, balls-to-the-wall re-brand he wanted a year ago, just the new mood has created an environment that people are beginning to notice. Attendance has moved steadily upward even before any obvious changes; here's The House Lamar Built during the Galaxy match a couple weeks back:

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(Note to those amongst us who play on green plastic: this is what a pitch looks like. Just saying.)

Of course it's way too early to declare PSV Columbus (what a great name) an unmitigated success, but the Crew-to-Las Vegas talk has pretty much disappeared.

Now yes, teams have been changing colors and logos forever. Nothing new there, even for MLS.  (Personally I still miss the old Rapids green unis).  The MetroStars, Burn and Clash can attest to the fact that it's not a magic bullet.

And it's still to be proven whether it has anything to do with HSG; someone buying FC Dallas and turning it into a league superstar would tend to end any question about that, but it's not going to happen, or at least not any time soon.

All of which brings us to Chivas USA.

Nobody can seriously question whether, league ownership or not, that team can go another year under the Chivas brand. That particular well is completely poisoned.

You have to bet that Don Garber would rather go back to running NFL Europe than have the league supervise a re-brand which, among other things, might very well need to be RE-re-branded when the team finally sells and the new owner doesn't think "LA Garbers" is a showstopper.

Among other things, we have to bear in mind what PSV Columbus learned last year: adidas has already designed, and the league has approved, all 2015 MLS uniforms. That means that someplace deep in the palatial, cavernous MLS offices in New York there's a prototype of what LA2 will be wearing next year.

All we're asking for is a little transparency here, Don.

The larger point though is whether MLS can use KC once again as the case example for whoever it is they're trying to gouge around $80 million (or more) out of for LA2.

If they can convince someone that this blueprint can be replicated in a huge, saturated, wildly competitive market like Los Angeles while playing at least short term in the SHC, maybe they've got a shot at keeping the team in town.

If not, you have to think Sacramento makes more sense, with an expansion team starting fresh in a couple years.

However that all turns out, please take a moment sometime this weekend to hoist a glass for the three nameless construction workers as they ride off into the sunset.

It's been fun, guys.

Thanks.