Sirk's Notebook: Power Outage

Power outage, Danny O'Rourke returns and old friends reunite

Andy Gruenebaum

Photo Credit: 
Getty Images

It was a rough weekend for Central Ohio. Friday’s thunderstorm, which produced 85 mile-per-hour winds, knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses. Since this happened in the middle of a prolonged heat wave, the power outages were unquestionably uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous. Also, Jason Kreis was forced out into our malls, where passersby could witness him glowering condescendingly about having all of this inconvenience put upon him. Thankfully, the Columbus Crew provided a brief respite from the insanity, treating a near-sellout crowd to a 2-0 victory over Real Salt Lake.

With so many people in Central Ohio still without electricity, what better way to help them pass the time than a 6,200-word article that can only be read on devices that require some form of electrical power? I am nothing if not a humanitarian.

So here’s a little bit about the game, a lot about the power outage, and then a whole bunch of assorted silliness. Let’s start with the goals.

FIRST GOAL

The Crew took a vital early lead in the 16th minute. Sebastian Miranda sent a long ball over the top to Emilio Renteria. After trapping the ball, Renteria slipped, popped back up to his feet, and beat the RSL defense by dribbling to the end line, where he cut a low cross against the grain. His pass found Tony Tchani near the penalty spot, and Tchani clinically wrong-footed Rimando, hitting it back where Rimando had just come from as he moved across the goal mouth. It was Tchani’s second goal in as many games.

“I was just following the play,” Tchani said. “I followed the play and Emilio’s cross came to me at the right time and I just put it away. I am an attacking midfielder and Emilio is a forward. If he is on the wing, I need to be in the box.  I was there.”

Crew goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum said the goal was the result of Renteria adjusting his game based on the feedback and instruction following his previous efforts in such situations.

“Emilio did a great job of cutting the ball back and not shooting from that angle,” Gruenebaum said. “We talked about that. Last week, maybe he shoots that ball. This week, he cuts it back for Tony and it’s a class finish.”

SECOND GOAL

The Crew got another timely goal in the 44th minute. Chris Birchall sent a corner kick to the far side. Josh Williams deftly brought the ball down and then slotted a low pass along the edge of the six yard box. Eddie Gaven popped the ball off the bottom of the crossbar and into the net.

“That was all Josh,” Gaven said. “What an incredible touch off of a long corner. He takes it down, plays it across, and then I had the easy part. All I had to do was throw my foot at it. Luckily it went in.”

Williams has been notoriously unlucky on scoring off of his corner kick chances, so perhaps the assist is exactly what he needed to get his offensive game on track.

“Maybe that’s what I should do,” Williams said. “Instead of shooting, maybe I should get assists, because the goals aren’t happening. Either way, if I have a hand in a goal, that’s fine. I’m happy with it.

“The corner came in and I tried to go back post,” he continued. “I saw Saborio jump for it, and I knew he wasn’t going to get it. Borchers took a bad angle. I think he thought Saborio was going to get it. I saw it was going to fall to me, so I tried to get a good touch. Originally, I was going to shoot it, but my angle got cut off, so I tried to cut it across. Luckily, Eddie was there and kept it on goal.”

DEFENSE SHUTS OUT POWERFUL RSL

After allowing two goals on a pair of turnovers in Chicago, the Crew rebounded to shut out a powerful RSL side that entered the night ranked fourth in the league in scoring at 1.65 goals per game. The Royals only mustered two shots on goal, which barely eclipsed their average shots IN goal.

“We made a point to communicate in the back,” said goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum, who collected his sixth clean sheet of the season. “Communication led to some breakdowns in Chicago, so we made a point this week, starting from me, to talk the whole time. We were chirping in everybody’s ear the whole time, staying organized. From an organization standpoint, it was good. Josh, Julius, Seba, and Netzo…and actually everybody. Team defending was the best that it has been in a long time. We need to continue that to be successful.”

It was also a physical game, and Crew defender Josh Williams said he liked it that way. In fact, some of it was by design.

“We bumped runners a lot,” Williams said. “Those guys don’t like getting bumped, so we made a point to bump them and get them riled up a bit. Then the elbows started flying and we got some calls.”

No Royal gers more worked up than Fabian Espindola. After a heated battle with Julius James last year, the players renewed acquaintances on Saturday. Espindola was clearly agitated for most of the night, and he finally earned a yellow card in the 57th minute for dissent, before being subbed out in the 63rd minute.

“We didn’t talk to each other that much,” James said of Espindola. “He still kind of lost it today. We’re all passionate about the game, and he thought he was fouled, so he got all pissed off at the referee. So that’s what happened.”

One couldn’t help but notice James’ celebratory claps of joy when the referee showed Espindola his yellow card.

“I have fun,” James said, smiling. “I have fun, man. It’s a very passionate game, but there is a thin line between the passion and losing your head.”

DANNY O BACK

Another key to shutting down RSL was the return of Danny O’Rourke from a severe ankle sprain suffered on May 23 in Seattle. O’Rourke did what he does, and he did it well.

“Danny played great,” said Gaven. “He was all over the field, breaking up plays, switching the field, and doing all of the stuff that he does. It doesn’t show up on a stat sheet, maybe, but it’s so important for our team. He did everything tonight for us.”

“He has a lot of experience,” said Crew head coach Robert Warzycha. “He's probably not 100 percent fit, because he hasn't played since the Seattle game. He can manage the game, especially at the end of the game when you have to have somebody on the field with experience to step up and win the ball in the middle. He did that.”

“That guy’s a beast,” said a reverent Williams. “He’s just all over the field. If you’re playing against him, you hate playing against that guy, but you love having him on your team. I’m glad he’s on our team because I know he would be kicking the crap out of us if he was on the other team. As long as he’s kicking the other team, I’m fine with it.”

“See what happened when Danny comes back?” asked Gruenebaum. “He just wrecks stuff in the middle. It’s good to have him back. He looks great in black and yellow.”

DANNY SPEAKS

O’Rourke is notoriously silent and private while he is out injured. He focuses intently on his rehabilitation and never wants to jinx himself by talking about where he is in his recovery. Now that he has played a game, Danny reflected back on the injury in Seattle, where he came down from a header attempt and gruesomely rolled his ankle on the turf. Each replay was cringe-worthy.

“I thought my leg was broken,” O’Rourke said. “It snapped. I’d never done an ankle before, so I didn’t know that it pops. When I went down, Dilly ran over and was like, ‘Dude! It’s (bleepin’) BROKEN!’ Josh Williams was like, ‘Nah, nah’ and then Cole was freaking out.  So I was like, ‘Alright, there goes the season.’ But between Dave (Lagow), Brook (Hamilton), a couple of the guys I work with locally, and Dr. Edwards, I have the best support staff. So I just worked hard.”

The hard work paid off in an energetic 90-minute performance in his very first game back. One had to wonder how much was in the tank, but O’Rourke made it work.

“I didn’t know how long I would last,” he said. “I wanted to push myself. I wanted to challenge myself. Obviously, there are times where I had to play smarter and not really run around as much. I tried, when I wasn’t able to run so far, to be good about directing guys to get into spots. I talked a lot with Josh and Julius. It will take a couple of games to get back to full game fitness.”

For a first game back, especially if not at full game fitness, it doesn’t get much more difficult in MLS than trying to badger RSL playmaker Javier Morales. O’Rourke effectively hounded him, which limited the RSL attack.

“That was our goal tonight, to shut down Morales,” he said. “When you shut him down…obviously, we caught a break tonight since (Kyle) Beckerman was suspended. He’s their engine and he frees up a lot of spaces and gets a lot of balls into Morales, so we were fortunate not to deal with that. But if you shut Morales down, you shut down all of those through balls to Espindola and Saborio. I just did my job.  When he floated, I think Josh and Julius did a good job, and when he went out wide, I think our outside backs did a good job. It was an overall great defensive effort.”

PLAYERS APPRECIATE CROWD

A season-high crowd of 19.674 cheered the Crew on to victory. Not only was the crowd sizeable, but they were into the match. As the Crew walked off the field at halftime with a 2-0 lead, the team got treated to a standing ovation. The Nordecke buzzed as always, this time with the aid of yellow glow sticks that made it look like a swarm of lightning bugs had invaded the northwest corner. It was a great visual to go with the ever-present audio. Meanwhile, the west stands took great delight in razzing Espindola all game, and gave him a jeering sendoff when he exited the match. And on what should have been a difficult night for everyone, that symbiotic team-fan relationship seemed to spur both ends to keep on going until the final whistle.

“They helped us a lot,” said Tchani. “It was very humid out there.”

“Hopefully we were able to give some people some relief from the heat,” said O’Rourke, acknowledging the power outages. “It was a good game, a 2-0 win, and then some fireworks. If they keep showing up like that, hopefully we will continue to perform that way.”

Gaven knew it was going to be a special night well before kickoff.

“When I walked out for warm-ups, I thought, ‘Wow! This might be our biggest crowd of the year,’” he said. “It was cool. I think we were definitely able to feed off of their energy. The crowd was really into the game, which maybe killed their rhythm and gave us some extra energy. That was huge tonight.”

James appreciated not only all of the fans who came, but also wanted to recognize the Crew employees who helped make it happen.

“Our front office did a great job on getting people out to the game,” he said. “It’s an improvement from last year. It’s a good feeling to play in front of a crowd of that size. It’s been five weeks, so maybe people missed us. Hopefully we can keep getting crowds like that.”

And most importantly, the Crew took advantage of having a big crowd. In the past, it seems the team has squandered opportunities to show a big crowd a good time, but Saturday night, they accomplished their mission.
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“I think last year we had a huge crowd against Chicago and we lost 1-0,” said Gaven, referring to a ghastly performance that ended in a last-second defeat. “Everybody was bummed out, so to be able to play well tonight in front of a big crowd, and to get two goals, and to play a fairly exciting game was huge. Hopefully we start getting crowds like that week in and week out.”

PLAYERS AND THE POWER OUTAGE

Hundreds of thousands of Central Ohio residents were without power on Saturday as a result of Friday’s wind storms, and Crew players were not immune to Mother Nature’s fury.

“We still don’t have power,” Gaven said on Saturday. “Last night was a rough one because my son is young and he couldn’t sleep. But whatever. It wasn’t just me. It was everybody. For me, once you get on the field, you can’t worry about that. You just have to go out and do your job.”

Julius James had power, but the storm had a different effect on him.

“The storm was really scary,” James said. “I’m not going to lie.”

(Gruenebaum interjected, adding, “Julius called me, saying, ‘Hold me! Hold me!’”)

All joking aside, James said the storm truly frightened him.

“Being from the Caribbean, you’d expect someone like me to be accustomed to these storms,” he said. “Since I have been alive, Trinidad & Tobago hasn’t had to deal with storms with high winds like that. Thank God. People in Trinidad say God is from Trinidad because the hurricanes head straight toward Trinidad, but then they veer away. This time, I was very scared, man. I was just sitting at home like this. [He dropped his jaw and bulged his eyes out in terror.] I was looking for my candles, and then I was sitting right next to my candles. I was ready. I have two! I have two candles!”

Gruenebaum lost power, which he viewed as a learning experience.

“These are the times in life where you thank God that you actually like your wife,” he said. “If you marry someone and you don’t like that person, you’ll know it when the power goes out, because you just have to sit there and stare at each other. We enjoyed each other’s company, so it was good. That’s what I’ve learned.”

Midfielder Tony Tchani and his roommate Dilly Duka encountered a more bizarre set of circumstances.

“We didn’t lose power,” Tchani said. “We were lucky. We just lost water. That was the only thing.”

The ONLY thing? That seems like it would be worse!

“Those guys don’t shower anyway, so it doesn’t mean anything,” O’Rourke said.

But showering was not my concern. I was more concerned about, say, not being able to flush the toilet.

“Can you imagine that?” said Gaven. “I don’t know if that’s worse, or sweating because you don’t have a fan and listening to your 14-month old scream his head off. I think probably the toilet would be worse. At least we have water, so I can’t complain too much.”

Gruenebaum felt that losing water would be infinitely worse than losing power.

“You would be crapping outside and then picking it up like a dog,” he said. “They would have to stroll over to the park where those plastic bags are and then pick up their own crap. It’s embarrassing.”

I highly doubt that’s Tony and Dilly did, but at least we now know how Gruenebaum would handle the situation should he find himself in a similar predicament.

SALT LAKE AND THE POWER OUTAGE

Like most of us in Central Ohio, including many of the Crew’s players, Real Salt Lake had to deal with a lot of adversity on Friday and Saturday. Their hotel lost power, making for a sleepless night. The players had to spend much of the day hanging out at the mall at Polaris just to be someplace with electricity and air conditioning. Power came back to the hotel just as the team bus was departing for the stadium. It was hardly a normal road trip, and it undoubtedly took its toll on them.

“I just found that out,” Gaven said after the game. “I didn’t know that they didn’t have power at their hotel. Maybe that played with their head a little bit. I don’t know.”

To their credit, RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando and defender Nat Borchers said the lack of power and the day spent hanging out at the mall wasn’t an excuse when it was something both teams had to deal with.

“I’ve been on many teams where your uniforms don’t show up til late; you’re flight lands right before the game and you end up winning those games,” Rimando said. “Funny things like that happen. Maybe that was going to happen today, but it didn’t. It’s definitely not an excuse. We still have to go out there and perform and try at least to get a point on the road.”

“You’d like to make excuses, but you can’t in this business,” Borchers said. “We did everything we could to prepare physically and mentally for this game. They went through it, too.”

Gruenebaum empathized with RSL’s plight, having lived largely the same experience, although with the benefit of home field advantage.

“It’s tough when you’re on the road,” Gruenebaum said. “When is that ever going to happen? Almost everybody goes through their whole career without having something like that happen. It happened, and it affected everyone. It’s tougher, obviously, when you’re in a different city, and you don’t have the resources, like your own vehicle. It’s definitely a tough situation for them. But then again, we both had to deal with it. My preparation for the game was a lot different. I spent half the day in Kroger. We were trying to figure out if we wanted to buy, like, apples and granola, or do we want to buy donuts? I mean, is this just an excuse to eat bad and gain weight?”

So which was it?

“We went the healthy route, unfortunately.”

KREIS COMPLAINS, McCULLERS DEFENDS

If there was anything predictable about such an unpredictable situation that impacted over a million people, it was that Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis would find a way to play the victim. He did not disappoint.

“We wake up in the morning and the first thing we hear is that the game might be canceled or the game might be postponed or the game might get dragged out ‘til nine; we might get a flight out of Cincinnati,” Kreis said. “It’s not good enough. It’s not professional enough to be going the whole day, ‘Are we playing? Are we not playing? What are we going to do because we have no air conditioning in our hotel?’So the guys are going to sit in the mall. It’s just too much uncertainty and a little bit of a lack of professionalism the way things were handled over the last 24 hours.”

The Crew never considered postponing the game unless the power to Crew Stadium could not be restored. Crew players I had spoken with said that the game was on all day, and that they did their best to prepare given the trying circumstances that many of them were experiencing as well. Until given an official cancellation notice, wouldn’t that be the prudent way to approach the situation?

Crew President and GM Mark McCullers elaborated on some of the preparations that went into pulling the game off with only a one-hour delay.

“Before 10:00 a.m., we established that the stadium repairs and clean up from the storm were complete and that the stadium was game ready – it just needed power,” McCullers said. “We were in constant communication with AEP [the power company] as they were evaluating the situation. Obviously they were reeling with half of Franklin County without power.”

The plan was to play the game, and that an official delay and cancellation schedule would be provided in the afternoon if power had not been restored at that point. At 3:00, working in conjunction with the league and AEP, it was determined that the game would proceed as scheduled unless power was not restored by 5:00. At that point, the game would be pushed back one hour to a 9:00 start. If the power was not restored by 6:00, the game would be postponed and rescheduled.  The default position all day was “game on” unless power restoration deadlines were missed.

Power was restored at approximately 5:30, resulting in a 9:00 kickoff in accordance with the established plan. Later that night, AEP tweeted that fixing just two poles restored power to 6,000 customers, including Crew Stadium.

“Words will not do justice to the job our staff and AEP did to make sure our fans endured as little inconvenience as possible and, in fact, enjoyed a great experience,” McCullers said.  “How about removing standing water from all the field level LED cabinets and toweling off the circuitry by hand to minimize the chance of damage?  Remember, we didn't know (the LED boards) status until power was restored to the stadium around 5:30.  How about Sodexo getting electricity two hours prior to gates opening and being ready to go when they normally take 4-6 hours to prepare?  Sodexo served over 1,000 Limited employees a catered meal.  How about our ticket office staff going to Ohio State and using their Ticketmaster equipment to print will call tickets? The list goes on and on. I couldn't be more proud.

“All of which makes Jason Kreis' comments so disappointing,” McCullers continued. “A lot of people, including league personnel, answered the call to make sure this game got played and to minimize the impact on the fans and the teams under tremendous pressure and terrible conditions.  His remarks were out of line, insensitive, and unwarranted.”

Last winter, Kreis crabbed about the playing conditions of the Crew Stadium field during a CONCACAF Champions League match, which weren’t all that bad considering it was February in Ohio. He said he was told that the field would be covered, and he wanted to know why the field wasn’t covered like he had been told. He then assured the Columbus press that Salt Lake’s field would be covered and would be in great shape for the return leg the following week. When the Crew got out to Salt Lake, they had to play on a sloppy brown surface that was infinitely worse than the Crew’s field a week earlier, despite all of Kreis’ condescension and bluster.

Now that Kreis has decried the “lack of professionalism” in pulling this game off, one can only imagine, based on the vast chasm between his 2011 field comments and actual reality, what would happen if a state of emergency blackout hit Utah when the Crew visit next year. Maybe the game would be played in the dark by players carrying flashlights or wearing those miner helmets with lamps on them.

In the meantime, McCullers and the Crew have nothing to apologize for. Between the fans, the players, the front office, and many other unsung heroes around town, everyone came together to produce an exciting night of entertainment during an otherwise tense and difficult weekend in Central Ohio.

“As I've said many times, being Massive is about being part of something bigger than yourself,” McCullers said. “I think on Saturday, we were all Massive.”

MORE McCULLERS ON ATTENDANCE

McCullers offered a few more thoughts on the team’s attendance and the success of this specific match. He was pleased to hear the players acknowledging the crowd, as well as the front office’s work. And he was also happy that the players responded by sending the fans home happy. And the fans were surely thrilled to see more of themselves in the stands watching a winning performance. Everyone, except for Jason Kreis, came away happy.

“It's such a symbiotic relationship,” McCullers said.  “The players feed off the atmosphere created by the fans with front office support, and the front office staff morale is boosted by the team’s performance and enthusiasm of the fans.  This is where the club really can create synergy and inertia that can have a major impact on our results going forward - on and off the field.”

After a terrible 2011 snapped the Crew’s five-year run of increased ticket sales and ticket revenue, the club has rebounded strongly in 2012, bolstered by its publicly-stated vision of 10,000 season tickets, called Goal 10K. Through seven games, the Crew are averaging 14,141 fans per game, compared to 10,011 through the first seven home games in 2011. That’s an increase of 41.2 percent. The Crew finished 2011 at 12,185 fans per game, so they are well ahead of that pace in 2012.

“Our sales and marketing tactics are significantly improved under the leadership of Mike Malo and Clark Beacom,” he said. “Our sales infrastructure is much improved and our sales culture and approach is very dynamic.  I think Goal10K as a rallying point has been a factor. Our season tickets sales are up 35 percent over 2011 and we have sold more NEW season tickets this year than in any year since the stadium opened.”

The big crowd on Saturday was the result of a several factors, according to McCullers.

“For this game, we have stuck with the Red, White & Crew brand and concept for four seasons,” he said. “Our approach this year was to layer a number of promotions such as Night of Champions, Pepsi Crew Value Pack, Military Appreciation Night and others to drive significant attendance for marquee matches like Red, White and Crew. Our staff executed the plan brilliantly and my hope is that Red, White and Crew becomes a staple Independence Day event in the market. I think it will.”

McCullers said the Crew have some good crowds shaping up for the second half of the season. He also said that Saturday’s game showed what Crew Stadium could be like if the club meets its goal of 10,000 season tickets.

“When we achieve Goal 10K, crowds like Saturday will be much more frequent,” he said.

Now, on to some frivolity…

MUPPET BANTER

Here is a tiny sliver of the infinite, constantly-evolving banter when this particular reunion takes place. As Duncan Oughton stood in the doorway to the upper concourse, Brian Dunseth popped out of RSL’s broadcast booth, prompting this exchange…

OUGHTON: (leaning out toward the mini field on the west side of the stadium) “Look out children! Brian Dunseth is coming! Run away!”

DUNSETH: “Hey, you’re the one that has a little red dot on a map on the internet, so parents know where you are at all times.”

OUGHTON: “No, that’s just for farm animals.”

DUNSETH: “It’s for the sheep when you’re out with your Velcro gloves.”

It never ends. It never ever ends.

LIFE IMITATES ART

At halftime, as I prepared to head back to the other side of the stadium to grab more water, I asked Dunny if he wanted anything while I was over there.

“If you could please bring back coffee, that would be great,” he said. “I like my coffee black, like my men.”

I laughed at what I thought was an “Airplane!” reference, but the in the middle of the second half, wouldn’t you know it…

HOT IN THE BROADCAST BOOTH

The game was brutally hot for the players, but it was also a scorcher in the broadcast booths. At halftime, I happened upon Crew technical director Brian Bliss, slumped and half-sitting on a table near the door to the concourse. His body language was incongruous with the Crew’s 2-0 halftime lead, but it turned out that he was miserably hot in the suffocating radio booth, and was just trying to enjoy a little breeze.

Oughton, as always, found the most eloquent way to capture the sweat-soaked experience.

“I am never wearing this underwear again,” Oughton said. “I’m going to throw it out or burn it. That’s if I can even get it off my body. It might be melted onto me.”

Oughton was later spotted straddling an upward-blowing floor fan in the RSL broadcast booth.

O’ROURKE AND ELECTION FRAUD

As of this writing, Gruenebaum was in the lead in fan voting for the 2012 MLS All-Star Game. Danny O’Rourke maintained a healthy skepticism about the voting process.

“What’s the percentage of your all-star votes that are coming from the Gruenebaum family?” O’Rourke wondered. “That’s what I want to know. What’s the percent?”

“95 percent,” said Gruenebaum. “My mom, my dad, Lacey’s parents…”

“I bet if we checked,” O’Rourke said, “all the votes would be coming in from when you get home at 1:30 until Lacey comes home at 5:00. That window of time would have most of the voting activity.”

“I guarantee you that I have not voted for myself once,” Gruenebaum said.

“I believe you,” said O’Rourke with a sarcastic nod.

Team operations guru Tucker Walther saw through the smokescreen. “Yeah,” Tucker said, “notice that he said he didn’t vote for himself ONCE.”

“I know,” O’Rourke said. “I believed him because he has obviously voted for himself way more than once.”

This is now O’Rourke’s second allegation of election rigging. He has long maintained that equipment manager Rusty Wummel rigged the vote in winning the 2011 MLS equipment manager of the year award.

“That’s the Chicago way, you know?” said Wummel, a Windy City native. “Vote early and vote often.”

“Do you know what the criteria was?” O’Rourke asked. “Least amount of detergent used all year long.”

“Especially for Danny O’Rourke’s stuff,” Wummel added.

It seems that every time this subject comes up, Danny has a new reason for Wummel winning the award. Last time, it was that the award was bestowed upon the equipment manager that gave the players the least amount stuff.

“That’s still true,” O’Rourke said before launching into an impersonation of an angrily yelling Wummel. “DON’T GIVE YOUR JERSEYS AWAY! I ONLY HAVE SEVEN THOUSAND AND I NEED THEM ALL FOR THE END OF THE YEAR SALE!”

CREDIT TO WILL. AND ONLY WILL.

Despite leading the All-Star voting on account of his fantastic play this season, or possibly election fraud, Gruenebaum made a point to credit his longtime goalkeeping partner, William Hesmer, for the role he has played in Gruenebaum’s success. He noted that there were years that Hesmer deserved to be an all-star, and that the competition between the two of them has made each of them a better goalkeeper than they would have been without the other.

“A big part of this is with him,” the Hebrew Hammer said of the injured Hesmer. “I want to say that part of that goes to Will, but not Matt Lampson. I just want to stress that Matt has nothing to do with anything that is going on. He’s actually a nuisance. Every time I see him, it just makes me cringe. He’s just a terrible person. I want that on record.”

So what does the rookie goalkeeper do? After the Hammer learns from Hesmer, does Lampson try to teach him stupid stuff to make him a less effective goalkeeper? Like encouraging Gruenebaum to catch the ball with his elbows or something?

“It’s not about teaching,” Gruenebaum said. “It’s about off the field stuff. Let me try to think of a for-instance. We hang out a lot, and his girlfriend owns him. It’s tough to see a man of his size and stature just get owned by a girl that is five-foot-four, whereas, and you know this—you’ve seen it yourself—I own my wife. I put my foot down. We’re big into Game of Thrones, and I’ve got my wife calling me ‘My Lord.’ Matt can’t get his girlfriend to do that at all. Lacey calls me ‘My Lord.’ Like tonight, she will say, ‘Good game, My Lord.’ Or ‘My Liege.’ Whichever.”

The story hung in the air for a moment.

“And by the way,” he added, “that’s a lie.”

ALUMNI UPDATE: JASON GAREY…NOVELIST

Former Crew forward (and Massive Champion) Jason Garey, now with the NASL’s Carolina RailHawks, has added a surprising line to his resume—author. His first novel, “Geauxing Galt”, is now available on Amazon.com. A Kindle edition will follow within a few weeks. It’s a novel born out of not only Garey’s intense interest in libertarian politics and the environmental causes of his native Louisiana, but also out of the mundane existence that accompanied off-season hip surgery.

“After I had my surgery last year, I was bored out of my mind,” Garey said. “I had a lot of free time on my hands. I’m kind of educated in the world of politics, and I just started writing, and then a story took form. So then I thought, ‘What the hell? Let’s give it a shot. Let’s put it out there and let people ridicule me!’ Some guys decide to play video games. I decided to write a book.”

Garey, a self-described “Ron Paul guy” and a fan of the book “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand, said he composed a story set in the year 2020 revolving around a self-made oil driller from Louisiana. (He explained that the title “Geauxing Galt” is a play on both Louisiana’s French culture and a nod to the name of the main character in Atlas Shrugged.) The setting enabled him to draw upon his own experiences with the people, places, and issues of his home state. Once he started work on the novel, he also found extra personal meaning and motivation. He and his wife, Meghann, are expecting a baby boy in the first week of August.

“As I was writing, we found out that Meghann was pregnant, so I started thinking about what are the values that I would want my son to have? Not that I want him to be an oil driller, but I want him to be self-sufficient, confident, and to be able to take care of himself and his family. All of those kinds of things just started weaving themselves into the story. My love for fishing tied into it. My love for the outdoors and the marshes. There’s a part of the book that deals with the coastal erosion down in Louisiana, which you may remember is the stuff that I did while I was in Columbus. It’s all interwoven into this story.”

Garey acknowledged that a politically-themed novel would be divisive on its face, no matter which political philosophy the book espoused. Being a libertarian who believes in smaller government, he knows that some people will disagree with him. And he is fine with that.

“I know there are people who will vehemently disagree, but I don’t have a problem with it. I have pretty thick skin. People can curse me and tell me I’m an idiot and that I’m just a soccer player, and you know what? Maybe they’d be right. But it’s something I decided to do and I’ll stand by it. We’ll have to see what the marketplace thinks. It’s all about the free market and free enterprise. If people think it sucks, then I won’t sell any and that will be that. Then when I am 60, I can look back and say I wrote a book, and it was fun, and that I wish it had done a little better. [Laughs.] And if it’s good, then it will be rewarded.”

On a personal note, Jason and Meghann have not decided on a name for their son, although Garey assured me that he has unequivocally ruled out the name Duncan.

BALCHAN AND…

I couldn’t help but notice that right next to Rich Balchan’s locker was another locker belonging to a man with a very similar last name…

It turns out that the perpetrator was none other than the anatomically-jawed goalkeeper himself.

“I thought it would be a good idea,” Gruenebaum said. “You have to really strike against yourself before somebody else does it. That way it doesn’t hurt as bad.”

If the nameplate is correct, taking it on that particular chin would hurt extra bad.

DANNY’S FINAL COMMENT

As we wrapped up our interview at the end of a long day, O’Rourke glanced at the clock. It read 11:58.

“It’s past my bedtime, man,” he said. “You’re keeping me here past my bedtime. I should be in bed in two minutes.”

And with that, he went on his way. Somehow I doubt he made his curfew.

MUPPETS FOR LIFE

It’s always a special and hilarious time when former Crew teammates Duncan Oughton, Brian Dunseth, and Dante Washington get together. As I’ve said many times, I owe a lot to those guys for helping the Notebook become what it eventually became, so I’m always happy to see them reunited. But I could never be as happy to see them reunited as they are. TheCrew.com’s Cody Sharrett perfectly captured the trio in their natural state of perpetual laughter:

Upon seeing the photo, Dante tweeted: “Years of abuse I have taken from [Oughton] and Dunny. But yet we still remain friends. #muppetsforlife”

Questions? Comments? Think it’s frustratingly ironic that the trees I save by writing online have fallen on the power lines that bring you the electricity needed to read the tree-saving internet columns? Feel free to write at sirk65@yahoo.com or via twitter @stevesirk