Sirk's Notebook: Gbaum's IntroDunctions 2013

Andy Gruenebaum introduces the 2013 newcomers

Andy Gruenebaum

Photo Credit: 
USA Today Photos

Now in its 14th season, Sirk’s Notebook is an independently-written feature that often focuses on the irreverent side of the Crew experience. A local fixture, it has appeared on TheCrew.com from 2000-2003 and 2008-present. Any opinions expressed in Sirk’s Notebook are not necessarily the views of the Columbus Crew organization. Especially when he makes fun of other teams.

It’s that time of year again. Well, it’s actually past that time of year, and the usual star of this feature exiled himself to Canada mid-season and left no research notes behind. Alas, the show must go on. In the absence of Duncan Oughton, I am pleased to reveal that Andy Gruenebaum has picked up the mantle, committed himself to months of intensive study and observation, and will be telling Crew fans all about this year’s newcomers in the newly rechristened Gbaum’s IntroDunctions.

For those of you not familiar with the concept of an IntroDunction, it would appear to the untrained eye to be a roast of all of the Crew’s newcomers, but I have always been assured that I was being presented with iron-clad scientific facts that had not been exaggerated in any way. When a serious academic like Duncan Oughton tells you that, you know you can believe him.

Chad Marshall is the only active Crew player never to have experienced an IntroDunction, as his arrival predates the custom by two years. This feature started in 2006, back when I missed the first half of the Crew’s season to be in Cleveland with my mother before she passed away. When I resumed going to Crew games, I had no idea who was on the team since it was the first year of Sigi Schmid’s housecleaning / rebuild. I figured I could turn to my trustworthy Kiwi friend to educate me and my readers about all of the new players. The concept was a sensational success.

For example, in 2006, we learned that a young goalkeeper named Andy Gruenebaum—aka “The Hebrew Hammer”—had an extensive DVD collection that he turned into a thriving business called Rabbi Rentals. Each year, the educational discoveries continued…

* In 2007, we learned that Guillermo Barros Schelotto, based on his newfound American exposure to Chipotle, began eating all of his food in burrito form, including milk and cereal, “which made for a soggy mess of a meal.”

* In 2008, Duncan revealed that Emmanuel Ekpo was thrilled to learn that Ohio’s nuisance population of Canada geese had no owners, so he was going to corral them and start a goose farm. We also learned that Adam Moffat’s beard was so thick that one of Manu’s geese could be concealed within it.

* In 2009, we found out that Eric Brunner held the title of The World’s Most Annoying Man.

* In 2010, Duncan reported that Emilio Renteria had significantly improved his English to the point that he had mastered the phrase, “Hey girl, can I get your number?” and that this was the only English that Emilio ever used or planned to learn. (Although the next year, Duncan said Emilio added a second phrase, which was “Are you [bleeping] kidding me?”)

* In 2011, Duncan taught us that Josh Williams did one-armed push-ups in an effort to get into LeBron James’ entourage, so he could become a groupie and move to Miami and gaze lovingly into LeBron’s eyes.

* Last year, Duncan told us many fascinating facts, such as that Matt Lampson was signed partly because of his mom’s baking ability, that Ben Speas treats Chipotle like a phone booth that happens to sell burritos, and that Aaron Schoenfeld is both an Abercrombine & Fitch model and a Utah Jazz lookalike.

Duncan had a few months of study for this year’s newcomers, but then he abruptly left for Toronto and all of his research was lost. For the past few months, Gruenebaum has been compiling his own research from scratch.

“I’m a little disappointed that you’ve dropped that low so as to bring someone else in to do them, but as far as choosing Gruenebaum, I mean, there’s not much else, is there?” Oughton said via an international telephone call. “The choices are very limited when you look around for wit in that locker room. You’ve got Danny O’Rourke, who thinks he’s funny, but he’s about as funny as a fart in an elevator. Chad Marshall has some wit, but it only comes out very rarely. He’s mostly just a big cuddly beast. It would be nice to use Higuain’s wit, but it would be in Spanish, so nobody would understand that. So yeah, you’re just struggling, aren’t you? But Gbaum did live with me for a little while, so he’s had a taste of it, so hopefully he can pass on some of the brilliance that I taught him in his younger days.”

Seeing as Oughton’s IntroDunctions has been a Crew institution for the previous seven seasons, I wondered if Gruenebaum felt exceptional pressure filling in for Oughton on the eighth installment.

“Until you mentioned Duncan just now, I forgot he even existed on this planet,” Gruenebaum said. “I lived with him once, so I find that kind of weird, but he just doesn’t leave that Frankie Hejduk type of mark. Brian McBride, yeah I remember he played for the Crew for a long time. Basically, anybody else who played for the Crew longer than five years leaves some sort of memory. He doesn’t. He had a funny accent, right? He was the guy with the mullet and the funny accent, right? I mean, even David Winner played for the Crew. When they said David Winner was coming to train, I was like, ‘Oh, David Winner, who played for the Crew!’ But Duncan…Duncan who? So there’s not really any pressure.”

I asked Oughton if he had any advice for Gruenebaum when it came to IntroDuncing his teammates.

“Just let it loose,” he said. “You can always go back and edit after the fact, but you have to let it loose at the start. Verbal diarrhea sometimes works out for the best. He’s very good at that. In fact, since I used to live with him, I can tell you that he’s very good at both types of diarrhea.”

“Yes, I am,” Gruenebaum confirmed. “Verbal diarrhea is something that I have taken to. It comes easily to me. I just hope that I can make him proud because… I guess people look forward to this every year? I mean, people enjoyed Duncan’s banter? Here’s the thing. I’m worried that if the audience found whatever Duncan said to be funny, then they’re not going to get me because what I think is funny is actually funny, whereas what he thinks is funny are fart jokes. Duncan is like a doll. You just pull his string and he has, like, the same four jokes told in an accent. But after a while, the string breaks and he leaves for Toronto. Maybe people don’t know Duncan well enough, but when you pull that same cord, it just gets old.”

While acknowledging that the Hebrew Hammer was the only logical successor, Oughton expressed some concerns about the type of job that Gruenebaum might do.

“I do feel bad for the guys because I never had favoritism,” Oughton said. “I would just lay it out there. There wasn’t anyone who was safe. Everyone was even. I feel really bad for the guys who haven’t paid their late fees at Rabbi Rentals. Those guys will be under serious scrutiny, which may be undeserved. Meanwhile, the guys who always pay their DVD rentals on time, or even pre-pay them in advance, they’ll get the better reviews just because of that. And if you’ve ever talked crap about his mom’s matzo ball soup, you’re in big trouble. I’d hate to be that man.”

Gruenebaum vows that his goal is to elevate the discourse when it comes to the IntroDunctions.

“That’s what I’m hoping for,” he said. “We have a lot of new faces this year. With the amount of new faces, it is going to require more concentration on my part. I want to make sure I’m not just settling for something. I want to make sure that each new member of the squad is represented in the right way through my verbal diarrhea. It’s one of those things where, unfortunately, you’re forced to get to know these guys pretty well on a daily basis. Some of it’s great and some of it you wouldn’t wish on anybody. But we’re all here fighting the same battle.”

Assuming they have internet in Canada, Oughton is looking forward to reading Gruenebaum’s findings.

“I’m just interested to see what he thinks,” the Kiwi said. “I’m excited to read it.”

Gruenebaum appreciated the sentiment, saying, “I feel really bad for not remembering him now.”

*****

At last, it is now time for the 8th annual IntroDunctions / the inaugural Gbaum’s IntroDunctions. Before we get to the IntroDunctions, I must offer the usual disclaimers:

1. I am not going to bother put quotes around Duncan’s Gbaum’s words in the IntroDunctions. Any comments, explanations or interjections on my part will be in brackets. [Like this.] Otherwise, all comments about each player are Duncan’s Gbaum’s.

2. As always with Oughton’s Gbaum’s IntroDunctions, the views and opinions are those of Duncan Oughton Andy Gruenebaum, and may not necessarily conform to those of the players, coaches, and/or staff of the Columbus Crew, nor any reasonable sense of objective reality.

With all of that out of the way, now it’s time for us to review Gbaum’s findings…

#21 CHAD BARSON

Let me preface my IntroDunctions of each shiny new member of the 2013 squad by introducing a common theme:  Homegrowns.

Chad Barson is smart.  I mean really smart.  His dad is smart.  His two brothers are smart.  Finally, I would be remiss if I did not include his mother into this category. 

Chad's family, while often compared to Doogie Howser, MD, was recently described to me as some sort of Mob/Doctor/Waste Management operation.  Unofficially, the story is as follows:  Papa Barson (The Don), envisioned marrying a lovely woman—we will call her Mama Barson—and bringing three young men into this world.  In an age where Teen Mom and Honey Boo Boo shows hounded society like flies on horses, The Don saw a dire need to introduce a genetic code unlike anything the state of Ohio had ever seen.

Like robots, Papa Barson's plan unveiled smoother than Wil Trapp's singing voice. (We will get to that later).  Chad's oldest brother, doctor.  Chad's middle brother, doctor.  Finally, Chad, professional soccer player and future doctor. 

I would love to continue by easing everyone's minds as to the cycle of the world, and tell you that each sibling belonged on a Proactiv commercial, but I will instead follow with the truth.  Each sibling possesses a masculine jaw line, robust physique, and perfect hair. 

Now that we have delved into the Barson family history, let me further introduce Chad.  A four-year starter and two-year captain for the Akron Zips, Chad's endless accolades would make the most timid of characters' head explode.  However, Chad might be the most quiet, shy and modest teammate I have ever had the pleasure of getting to know.  Furthermore, if there is a fire, the kid better have a whistle handy. 

I have come to the conclusion that his lack of speech is a direct result of the fact that Chad is, indeed, a robot. He has a machine-like long throw, encyclopedia of knowledge and abs of steel. However, in an attempt to convince the human race otherwise, Chad managed a meager 3.99 GPA as a biology major. A 3.99.  Sources close to the family say he was grounded for weeks after this result.

Let me finish by stating, to my knowledge, Chad is a single man/robot.  If anyone is interested in such a mediocre specimen, his number is [redacted.]

#22 DREW BECKIE

Drew Beckie is Canadian, when convenient.  A four-year member of the Denver University Pioneer program, Drew comes to us by way of Regina, Saskatchewan dontchaknow.  Interesting factoid about Regina:  it has almost as many trees as Drew has street clothes. Very little.

Drew spent much of his first few months here in Columbus roaming the streets in Crew gear.  When asked why he was "Crewed Out," Drew maintained that he was awaiting a vast shipment of clothing from home.  Many moons have come and gone since this shipment’s arrival, and there is still a 50% chance you will see Drew out and "aboot" with some form of Crew clothing.  The other 50% consists of other adidas handouts from his various stops throughout his playing career.  I have literally never seen Drew in casual clothing.  This is one of two consistencies on this team regarding clothing.  The other?  Bernardo Anor's insistence on wearing women's clothing from a 1980s workout video.

OK.  To sum up, Drew is Canadian and Drew wears Crew clothing.  What you may not know is that Drew is one of the nicest human beings on this planet.  Perhaps this is an innate characteristic of most Canadians.  Drew has dog-sat, bunny-sat, house-sat, and probably hamster-sat for friends in need.  He left a summer concert two hours early to make sure Roo could get some exercise before bed. [Note: Roo is Gbaum’s pet bunny.] What a guy, eh?

#26 RYAN FINLEY

Let me quickly paint you a picture of our first encounter with Mr. Finley.  The Notre Dame talent scrimmaged against our very own Crew reserve team just last year.  Ryan managed to endear himself to our entire backline with eloquent banter that shall remain unsaid in this forum.  If I am not mistaken, all four members of our backline were ready to brawl, but cooler heads prevailed.

Fast forward to January, and the Crew family had the opportunity to welcome Mr. Finley to our locker room.  Although this situation may have been awkward, Ryan came into camp, head down, ready to work, and immediately showed a knack in front of goal. 

Ryan is one of the more quiet members of the squad, and I have spent the better part of the year trying to solve this mysterious puzzle that is Finley.  However, getting into the depths of his soul has been as difficult as infiltrating Fort Knox.  Having said that, sharing the locker room real estate with Ryan has been fun and very interesting. 

#4 GLAUBER

Awww Zee Glauber.  Like most Brazilians, he feels a sense of entitlement to be called by one name.  Glauber.  Rolls off the tongue, doesn't it?  A premature knee injury ended his campaign, but he is still embracing Columbus as home.  In fact, nine times out of ten, I have spotted Glauber sitting at Cooper's Hawk in Easton, at the outside patio, at the exact same table. 

Glauber's English is significantly superior to his other Spanish-speaking predecessors, and thus, getting to know him has not been nearly as difficult.  Glauber has sported almost as many hair styles as Dom, but with fewer colors. He embraces his Brazilian heritage by listening to its music and talking about its nude beaches, while inheriting American historical trends such as mullets, Ed Hardy-like shirts, and Beats by Dre.

I have no idea why, but to this very day we think of his name as German, hence the Zee Glauber.  It just sounds better!

#31 KYLE HYLAND

Kyle Richard Hyland’s road to an MLS roster truly resembles one of the great underdog stories portrayed throughout many generations.  Standing a mere 4’3”, most coaches wrote this little ball of muscle off at first sight, possibly contributing to his choosing IUPUI as his student-athlete landing spot.  The height and weight statistics are a bit misleading, however.  Growing up near the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, Kyle could be spotted consistently fetching drinking water for his family from this river while wearing a firefighting suit for safety.  Many leading experts contribute this water source as the root cause of his size.  However, similarly to the radioactive effects of the spider bite that led to the rise of Spiderman, this drinking water is believed to have caused Kyle’s freakish strength, along with his potent left foot. It is documented that Kyle was right handed/footed before drinking the water.

Most of us would begrudgingly loathe the very place that had such an effect on our lives, but Kyle’s loyalty to the city of Cleveland shines heavier than Josh Williams on his third round in front of the mirror, post-shower.  Browns, Indians, Cleveland City Steamers:  Kyle’s fandom looks eerily similar to his fantasy football team.  [Note: The now-defunct Cleveland City Stars were the USL club where the Crew discovered Adam Moffat.] They possess so much potential, but will consistently fall short.  However, this loyalty is the tip of the iceberg when describing Kyle’s personality.  I have spent countless hours on the links with Mr. Hyland—putt-putt links—and very few people gleam happiness on a consistent basis like Kyle does.  Besides the occasional putter throw, Kyle has truly been a pleasure to be around, both on and off the field. Fans throughout Columbus would be honored to get to know this kid.

#11 DOMINIC ODURO

One of the biggest advantages of playing in MLS is the accessibility for the fans with regard to the players.  In fact, this series of IntroDunctions serves this very purpose, and remains uncommon throughout the wide world of other major sporting leagues.  However, with the advancements in technology and social media, it has become apparent that there is not one piece of information about Dominic Oduro that the fans don’t already know. 

Dom loves Papa John’s pizza. We get it.  Dom is freakishly fast. We get it.  Dom is polluting what little hair he has left in a desperate attempt to entertain himself, as well as the fans. We get it.  We get these things because Dom has self-promoted through social media more successfully than Snooki.

After re-reading my introDunction about Dom, it really does come across as a little negative.  This negativity can be construed as certain distaste for Dom as a person.  This assumption could not be further from the truth.  Dom has truly been the fun-loving personality that he portrays on the field, and has come miles from a skill standpoint as a player.  The truth is I am jealous of Dom.  While he stuffs his face with pizza, burgers and fries, and anything else that does not resemble a vegetable, I must count every calorie while barely maintaining any resemblance to an athlete.  Dom has truly been a huge part of any success we have had on the field.

#8 MATIAS SANCHEZ

Matias comes to us here in Columbus by way of Argentina, via Pipa’s suitcase.  Pipa’s fun-loving sidekick enjoys many of the same hobbies, including rock music, mate tea, denim, and having adorable children.  It is difficult to assess the various gaps in language barrier with foreign players, but pleasantly, Matias speaks English at a second grade level, which is far superior than even Viana, who is an American from Chicago.

Matias’ personality can only be described as bubbly.  Rarely does he show any negative energy, and because the language gap is within reach, my Spanish vocabulary, although dirty, has increased significantly thanks to the Argentinian.

#32 SHAWN SLOAN

Shawn might be the least-known player of anyone on the squad.  I am not suggesting fan recognition of players, but rather the secrecy of his life’s story.  Many people do not know that Shawn’s name is indeed Kevin Sloan. [NOTE: Kevin Sloan was an indoor soccer player from the 1990s, a fact that was absent-mindedly recalled during the making of Sloan’s very first locker nameplate.]

Recently, a few Crew players including myself and Sloan, had the privilege of experiencing the behind the scenes chaos that is the WWE.  [Professional wrestling.] Sloan’s cheeks remain permanently creased and wrinkled due to the never-ending smile leaping from his face from that night.  After further investigation, Sloan’s idol growing up was Shawn Michaels, also known as The Heartbreak Kid.  His love for this wrestling legend has led to Kevin’s current name, Shawn.  However, this revelation remains miniscule, as we further detail Shawn’s biography.

Justin Mapp’s doppleganger, Sloan drives through each and every life experience with one speed:  Grunge.  Sloan’s guitar prowess led him to multiple offers in big bands, but he refused to accept the very certain mainstream celebrity status accompanied by such an offer.  Why? Because being in a two-piece band, with a diva lead singer who refuses to sing at gigs, is way more grunge. [Sloan & the Keepers.]

Sloan’s family offered him endless opportunities to attend prestigious schools throughout his childhood, but Sloan opted out of such traditional schooling in favor of the historical Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.  After graduating from Hogwarts—buying a personalized wand alongside thirty 12-year- olds—Sloan pursued a professional career in putt-putt golf.  He can be seen dominating the mountains of magic, setting course records along the way.  Furthermore, along with his Harry Potter obsession, Justin Mapp similarities, grunge personality, and an incorrect nameplate due to an equipment manager who shall remain nameless, Sloan might be the most talented player in Crew history to have not played in a game to date.  He truly is the most interesting man in the world.

#20 WIL TRAPP

Nicknamed “The ‘Chise,” Wil Trapp is legitimately the face of the Crew franchise.  [Note: Thus the nickname.] If you do not fancy his boyish good looks, beautiful singing voice, and swan-like grace on the field, then season tickets should not be in your future.  Fortunately, Wil’s popularity around the Columbus area is as strong as Frankie Hejduk’s first cup of coffee.

Club success, state championships, national championships, and national team appearances highlight this homegrown hero’s career to this point.  His signing with the club and eventual mainstay appearances in the midfield are a natural evolution to what should be a successful career.  I once asked him what his aspirations were as a young player.  His reply: “The ‘Chise will bring home not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, but seven MLS Cups to the city of Columbus.”  Although this question may or may not have been asked, and he may or may not have answered in this manner, it is quite refreshing, in all seriousness, to see a kid in the “me” generation, who has achieved so much, stay humble and driven.

On and off the field, Wil’s demeanor thoroughly displays the aforementioned humble personality, so I will try and divulge some new information.  For instance, Wil only shops from Nordstrom catalogues.  Due to scheduling conflicts, Wil has consistently turned down offers to appear on the show “Glee.” He began spelling Wil with only one “L” in order to save money on his high school letter jacket. Finally, Wil resides in beautiful Gahanna with his “roommates.”

#24 AGUSTIN VIANA

The prototypical caveman, Viana hails from Chicago, of all places.  However, despite his American status, Viana speaks English as well as I play guitar.  Okay, he may be a little more proficient, which does not speak very highly of my guitar playing ability.  Viana, much like his other Spanish speaking amigos, enjoys the highly illegal ingredients that make up that special mate tea.

Airports, bus rides, car rides, locker room, hot or cold weather, Viana is the only human being I have ever met that lugs around a giant thermos full of hot water in order to top off his crack tea.  If FIFA approved this highly illogical rule, Viana would carry that thing around the field while chopping down right-sided midfielders.  For those of you that are seeking more information about number 24, please feel free to click on this link, and his profile picture says it all. 

#2 TYSON WAHL

The California golden boy brings a laundry list of experience to the club.  Listen to the lyrics of “Tyson’s Beautiful,” and one could ascertain the following:  He has played for numerous clubs around the league.  He vehemently decries any food establishment that does not start and end with Whole Foods.  He has perfect blonde locks that can only be outdone by his ocean-like eyes.  His washboard abs oil themselves. 

I know what you are thinking…man-crush.  However, these are mere superficial attributes that Dan Withrow put pen to paper in the creation of this song.  Not me. Dan.

Tyson tries adamantly to mirror his Californian lifestyle to the Midwest, blue-collared, Ohio persona.  However, with no waves to surf, no consistent year-round warm weather, and no ability to show up everywhere—including training—30 minutes casually late, Tyson spends his days with his wife and dog, all of whom are dressed in Pacsun attire. 

#19 KONRAD WARZYCHA

After rehabilitating his knee, Konrad came back to Columbus to play in front of family and friends in an inspirational manner.  However—and he made me swear to keep this quiet—but he told me that Kansas City was, hands down, the best place he had ever lived, and anyone from there is blessed.

[Note: Gruenebaum is from Kansas City.]

Konrad’s return can only be classified as difficult and awkward, as some may construe playing for one’s dad as gaining some sort of special treatment.  However, Konrad erased any connotation of the kind with his work ethic and attitude.  Following in a Crew legend’s shoes is never easy, but Konrad has managed to mirror a few of Bobby’s player attributes.  Both kick soccer balls really hard, and both could never score on me, despite what they would say.

I know I am supposed to provide you with lengthy details about each new player for this season, but I truly do not know what Konrad does when he leaves practice.  In fact, if anyone sees him around the Columbus area, please feel free to tweet at me what it is he is doing.  I never know what he is doing.

#40 DANIEL WITHROW

The young netminder comes to us from The Thundering Herd of Marshall, by way of somewhere in Detroit.  Throughout his ventures leading up to his first year with the Crew, one thing remains apparent— zero mirrors exist in any one of Dan’s numerous bedrooms throughout his life.  He definitely thinks of himself as one of the snazziest dressers on the squad, but just because you wear tight, various-colored pants, hideously “trendy” shirts, and throw a scarf around your neck, it does not make you fashionable.

This observation may be deemed spiteful due to Dan being “Axl Rose-like” in his demeanor as our band’s lead singer, but I insist it is not.  Although the Marshall product is extremely opinionated and often wrong, especially when it comes to fantasy football and other sports, Dan has truly been a joy to not only be around, but to train with as well.  Detroit Lions, Tigers, and Red Wings (not Bears) fan may define a portion of who he is, but the kid’s vocal pipes will truly define this legend.

[Note: Here is Withrow singing the Sloan & The Keepers classic, “Don’t Worry, Pipa’s Happy.”]

Questions? Comments? Think Gbaum should be awarded an honorary doctorate from Kiwi State as a result of this impeccably researched academic study? Feel free to write at sirk65@yahoo.com or via twitter @stevesirk