Nothing says "Major, legitimate, world class sports league" like a nationally televised semi-final playoff game where everyone knows that the owner of one of the contenders - along with the commissioner of the league itself - is hoping his team loses. Nothing even remotely like this has happened since Rachel Phelps owned the Cleveland Indians.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Don Garber, who has screwed the pooch so badly in all of this that they're going to start playing soulful Sarah McLaughlin ballads whenever his face appears on screen.
As for Fratboy McTrustfund, the man who, according to the Columbus Dispatch, tried to get the statue of Lamar Hunt removed from the plaza in front of the stadium, his unbelievably creepy hatchet man Dave Greeley emailed someone he thought was MLS communications gerbil Dan Courtemanche just prior to the Halloween game in Mapfre vs. NYCFC that "AP" had told him he would "never set foot in Columbus again".
However, Greeley subsequently told Fratboy that if he didn't show up for his own team's playoff game that his pretense of "even handedness" between CBus and Austin would collapse and everyone would see that the whole "just exploring our options" meme was nothing but a lie.
So "AP" went to the game, heard thousands of people lustily cursing his miserable ass for 90 minutes and, between that and having to watch the team he wanted so badly to see get crushed post a stunning 4-1 victory over a very good NYCFC side, he didn't seem to be having a very good time.
The question now is, will he be back on Tuesday to spend a few more hours in the city he has avoided like genital herpes for the last four years - but which he claims he is "open minded" about - or will he finally admit what everybody knows and he might as well stop lying about.
Either way, Precourt has to take second chair on the Liars Club dais to the man whose lips barely move when Fratboy speaks: "Call Me Soccer Don, That's, Like, So Cool" Garber.
Now I'm sure that you've read that the big problem in Columbus is attendance. It's being pushed behind the scenes every chance they get by the scurrying media peons at MLS as they feed simpleminded stooges like Taylor Twellman his talking points.
As an example, they point out that the Halloween playoff game in CBus only drew 14,000 people. Can you imagine? A playoff game. Just goes to show you.
Well, like they say, you can take your pick who to believe: them or your own lying eyes.
Here, for comparison sake, is the playoff game in Houston the previous night; MLS tells us that there were 15,600 people in attendance:
And here's "14,000" in Mapfre 24 hours later:
Now some people have suggested that they got the number - which not a single player, former player, journalist, fan or anyone who's ever set foot in the place agrees is even close to accurate (one player has said they all thought it looked like "a sellout") - by taking a turnstile count at kickoff since, unbeknownst to anyone, the "management" decided at the last minute that everyone entering the building had to be individually patted down and no, I'm not going to speculate as to why.
As a result, hundreds of fans were still waiting patiently in line to get a farewell crotch squeeze from PSV when the game kicked off.
Now in truth everybody knows that MLS lies about attendance. It's as traditional in The Soccer Don's league as terrible officiating. It's just that normally they OVERstate the turnstile count. In this case, breaking new frontiers of MLS lying, they've clearly UNDERstated it, either by simply making up a low number or by manipulating the timing of the count to suit themselves.
I only mention this because, as far as anyone can tell, Tuesday night's match is sold out. Has been for a week now. Go over to Ticketmaster and see for yourself.
Normally, the league and the team can't wait to issue releases proudly trumpeting a quick sellout, and in fact that's exactly what happened with the evenings' other game, in Houston.
But oddly, even though the game has been sold out for a week now, they've made no announcement at all regarding the game in Columbus. Only a very few people have been cynical enough to wonder out loud whether PSV is holding back a couple blocks of tickets so they can again screw with the narrative but I'd prefer not to think that.
Still, there's something else very puzzling going on:
Those of you who've been to Mapfre/Crew Stadium for big events (Crew Stadium: good enough for 3 national team games and an MLS Cup in the past 2 years but not good enough for "Frat Tony") know that when the regular seats sell out they put bleachers on the stage at the north end and on the patio to the south, letting them sell another 2500 or so seats. They've done it many times in the past.
But for this game they have not done so and refuse to say why, but it's not hard to figure out: setting attendance records at Mapfre does not exactly fit the narrative. You might think that the opportunity to pocket another $250,000 or so from the match would be of interest to a team supposedly struggling to turn a profit, but you'd apparently be wrong.
As long as we're discussing attendance, let's look at something that Andy Loughnane, the Crews's President of Business Operations, told a writer from Business Journal about a year ago:
“We set attendance records, both sellouts and overall season tickets and overall season attendance records, (in) 2014, ‘15 and ‘16."
But MLS keeps saying that attendance has been cratering, nobody was showing up and the players were getting lonely out there on game day, proving that Columbus "won't support" the team.
Actually, attendance did in fact go down this year, but the primary reason is that MLS and PSV arranged for it to happen that way.
The details are all located here, and it's eye opening to say the least; the team and the league quite clearly conspired to tamp down attendance.
One recent Crew player, who still has numerous front office ties, says that he knows "for a fact" that the team literally "zeroed out" the marketing budget, something any resident of Columbus already knew. No TV, no print, no billboards, no display ads, nothing at all.
It was so bad that a local outdoor advertising company actually created billboards promoting the Crew playoff run on their own because the team wouldn't do it.
Why, if you didn't know better you'd swear that PSV didn't WANT to sell tickets in 2017. Why would that be I wonder.
By now you've probably heard about the meeting in New York last week when the top political and business leaders from Columbus Ohio were finally granted an audience with Don 'Sir Lies A Lot' Garber and his organ grinder's monkey of a BFF, Anthony "Fratboy" Precourt.
Basically, the guys from Columbus had some serious offers to make - downtown stadium sites, millions in corporate sponsorships and an offer to purchase the Crew either in part or in whole among them.
They started the meeting by telling Garber and Precourt that they are committed to doing what it takes to keep the Crew in Columbus and, on that basis, asked them what was necessary to make that happen.
They got no answer.
Instead, displaying an attitude which Grant Wahl rightly characterized as "outrageous", MLS/PSV told them that they should just make an offer. Their view was that Columbus owed them something. This is what Precourt characterized, in a statement which the MLS comm shop released (under a PSV letterhead) before the Columbus contingent cleared the front desk on the way out, as "being willing to listen".
The meeting lasted all of 20 minutes.
Garber and Precourt didn't want this meeting to begin with. They thought they had this whole relocation thing pretty well figured out and when all hell broke loose they didn't know what to do, although one of the options they're NOT considering at the moment is "Not move the Crew to Austin Texas where they average 16 days a year over 100 degrees F.
It's like Qatar without the slaves.
Mostly, Don figures he has the cards, no one can stop him; Seattle majority owner Joe Roth told a supporters meeting that "it's not an owners decision" and "the Sounders have nothing to do with it". In other words, Don and his Monkey have all the authority they need to do whatever they want and what they want is to move MLS' original team to Austin and screw anybody who doesn't like it.
A lot of people are saying the secret here is that if MLS can do this to Columbus they can do it to anyone. It says here that's exactly the lesson Garber wants everyone to take away from this. Do as he says, don't tick him off, or you'll get the same.
Not long ago, two (or if they were feeling generous, three) guys could get together on the phone and give Garber his marching orders. He was not much more than a functionary who had to salute when Anschutz or Hunt walked in. No more.
Welcome to MLS 4.0: It's Don's league now.