Friday, December 15, 2006

Lamar Hunt

Someday soon, I will post about something other than death.

I heard the news yesterday that Lamar Hunt passed away. Earlier in teh week it was known that he was fighting on his death bed, and that the Hunt family was hoping for a miracle.

As a soccer fan it's hard to measure just what Lamar Hunt meant to the sport in this country. He was a true believer in the game and lost millions of his own dollars helping to get MLS off the ground. The fact that the league even exists right now just shows that we owe Lamar everything.

As a Columbus Crew fan, Hunt's influence is even greater. Hunt poured millions more of his own dollars to get Crew Stadium built. I remember watching the first game at Crew stadium on a TV on ESPN or ESPN2. It was tape delayed if I remember correctly, but I remember seeing a soccer stadium sold out, and IO couldn't believe my eyes. There was actually a stadium built specifically for a professional soccer team in this country. Since then, more stadiums have popped up for more teams all around teh country, but after attending over 50 games in Crew Stadium I can tell you it's still the best stadium and most important stadium in this country.

I was fortunate enough to meet Lamar very briefly many years back. I was at Crew Stadium, which was my home away from home those days and walking around before the game, proud as hell to be a Crew fan and proud as hell to be in that stadium. This was around the time when Oklahoma City was the rumored expansion team/target of MLS. Lamar was walkingbehind the North end of the stadium with two suits from Oklahoma. They walked for another view and lamar was just standing behind 137 looking out onto the field. I took the opportunity to just walk up to him and thank him for his stadium and muttered some other things. He smiled and we carried on conversation for a few minutes. Soon after, the Oklahoma suits came back over and Lamar says, "Hey, I want to introduce you to my friend Scot. He's travelled out here from indy for every home game this season and has gone to NY, DC, Chicago, and LA to follow this team as well." At the same time being friendly as hell and trying hard as he coudl to sell the game and the passion of teh fans that followed the game.

For years, many of us have refferred to Crew Stadium as Hunt Park. It's been as official an unofficial moniker as there is. When initial votes failed to fund teh stadium and when rumors swirled of teh Crew moving to Chicago Lamar put up his own money and got the stadium done in Columbus. It really is the house that Lamar built. We have Toyota Park in Chicago, the Home Depot Center in LA, Pizza Hut Park in Dallas, but somehow the naming rights to Crew Stadium were never sold. Maybe, it's beacuse it was already named in most of the supporters minds. Hopefully this season the Crew and MLS will make the name official and officially change the name over to Hunt Park. It's fitting, and it's the least that we can do.

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