Big news was breaking in the world of Major League Soccer last night and this morning that has even the always fierce Jon Busch pumped up. It seems that South Jersey will be getting their own team!! I don't need to tell you that this is absolutely mega. I grew up in South Jersey. I spent one week at a soccer camp that was housed at Rowan back when it was called Glassboro State. When MLS started I was saddened that Philly did not have a team. I could however not bring myself to cheer for the NY/NJ Metrostars as they were really a New York team. I chose Columbus Crew as my team. I have not regretted it one bit. But never in my wildest dreams did I picture South Jersey housing a team. Philly, maybe but South Jersey? Wow! So do I switch allegiances, leaving behind my beloved Crew? Quite simply, no.
I remember my first game at Crew Stadium. The Crew put three past a bunch of pompous hacks, goons, and general scum that for some reason was given the name Chicago Fire. A glorious 3-0 victory. I remember singing along with "The Night Chicago Died" when it played over the speaker towards the end of the game. Brother, what a night it really was. I remember knowing that I would be back. I remember driving out full of hope for a playoff game 6 weeks later, alone. After a loss I remember driving home alone. I remember still knowing that taking on a second job to finance season tickets for the next season. I remember the improbable 3-2 come from behind victory against KC with my Dad in attendance. I remember saying "Holy Shit!" in front of my dad more times in the final 30 minutes than any son should ever be able to say. I remember being there with 5000 other fans when they won The US Open Cup, their first trophy. I remember rushing the field afterwards and hugging Buschie, who you see pictured. I remember an 18 game unbeaten streak and the regular season title. I remember losing in the first round of the playoffs immediately afterwards. I remember all to well the misery of last year. I remember a call from Wilson at 6am telling me we had fired the coach. I remember new hope. I remember Stern John, Brian Maisenoueve,Brian McBride, Mike Clark, "Magic" Simon Elliott, Miroslav Rzespa, Freddy Garcia, Todd Yeagley. All Crew Legends, some for different reasons than others. I remember the moments I knew would always hate DC. I remember the moments I knew I would always hate Chicago. Road trips to DC, LA, Chicago, North Jersey, all to support the team. All to sing songs for our boys in Yellow. I will always have friendships with cats in Columbus who have turned out to be like brothers to me. That's not even half of it. That's not even 1/100th of it. Can I throw that all away? The history, laughter, joy, anger, frustration, and exaltation just because they put a team mere miles from where I grew up? No. Not a chance. I will continue to drive 3 hours to and from Columbus to support my team.
The team in New Jersey will succeed. It's a brilliant move for MLS. It taps a rich soccer hotbed in South Jersey that will see the team as theirs, a Jersey team. Yet, it taps Philadelphia as a media market as well. It's phenomenal. I am thrilled for Jersey, I am thrilled for their fans. The team starts play in 2009 according to reports. I wish it was tomorrow. I wish tomorrow I could walk in the stadium with my Columbus Crew jersey and see MY team beat my old hometown. I can't wait for the day.