Last night, the Columbus Blue Jackets played a relocated team, the Winnipeg Jets. As an Atlanta Thrashers fan, our own Fletcher explained his feelings about that match-up. The comments of those Cannon Blasts included some of us sharing our memories of the Browns being moved from Cleveland.
Little did we know that yesterday would bring the shocking news of Columbus Crew SC facing a likely relocation to Austin, Texas. In 2011, True North Sports and Entertainment Limited - created in Winnipeg in 2001 - purchased the Thrashers and immediately moved them to Winnipeg. When Anthony Precourt purchased the Crew in 2013, the deal said he could not move the team for 10 years, with one exception: a move to Austin. In August of this year, he created MLS2ATX which is billed as “a community of supporters working together to bring Major League Soccer to Austin, TX” but whose copyright is held by Precourt Sports Ventures.
The move is not official yet, but it’s obvious he wants out of Columbus. A group of local businessmen offered to buy part or all of the team. He turned them down. Neither Columbus nor Austin wants to use public funds to build a stadium, so any attempt at taxpayer blackmail will backfire. It’s on Precourt to build a new stadium if he wants one, and it’s clear he doesn’t want to do that here. Otherwise, he would have set that in motion already.
Neither of us attended as many Crew SC games as we would have liked over the years. Does that make us part of the problem? Sure, we catch games on TV when we can (thanks to the worst TV rights deal I can fathom - which Precourt signed off on in 2014), but we feel like we let the club and our city down by allowing this to happen. It seems weird, but waking up to news that a team we have followed for so long and spent money and time and made memories with friends who became family with is just ... gone. Overnight. We woke up, read the news, and felt gutted the rest of the day. Angry. Hurt. Heartbroken. And guilty. All of this emotion, hurt, and heartbreak ... over laundry.
Sports fans, at their most basic core, are a group of people watching adults (or, in some cases, young adults) play a game as we cheer for the laundry they wear.
It seems so ... strange, really, when you boil it down to that basic level.
We become sports fans for various reasons. The Columbus Blue Jackets are our hometown laundry, the team that we grew up watching on a near-nightly basis. We develop a deep passion for the team over the course of our lives: one can trace the team history through the course of life, the ups and downs personally as contrasted with the team's. Even if we move away, we follow the team as a connection to our home city or state. We adopt the team as a symbol of our city and of us. We wear the jerseys and we slap the logo on everything: shirts, hats, bumper stickers, even tattoos.
But, at the end of the day, it's the mark of laundry. Of a fleeting passion that can be snatched away so suddenly and so quickly. The drama surrounding the Columbus Crew has reminded us of that much.
This throws into sharp relief that we could all lose a favorite team at any time. It's been rumored about the Blue Jackets before, and that idea in light of the Crew SC news is just absolutely sickening. John P. McConnell is a Columbus guy, so it seems unlikely that he would want to move a team. Yet he is a businessman first and foremost, and he would sell or move if it made the most business sense.
We’re not going to give up rooting for our teams, but the luster, a thin veneer of ownership committing to communities long term and sticking through cities through thick and thin is gone. We realize it was naiveté on our part, taking for granted that people with more money and power and all sorts of other priorities would care about what the people who pour their heart, soul, and love into a team think about potentially ripping something away.
It's laundry. But it breeds a family among all of those who, no matter their background, share one thing in common: a love of the logo on the front of a shirt. Sports fans are a family, and will be long after the laundry is done.