Crew staying in the April Fools spirit

Gaven is Columbus' prankster in residence, though not all love it

OBETZ, Ohio — It’s hard to imagine the hulking
6-foot-5 Andy Iro playing soccer in a skirt, but that almost had when he
was just a wee lad growing up in England. The Crew defender related the
story as the best April Fools Day prank he can remember.

“It was
me very first footie game," he recalled. "I was 7. Some of the coaches
told us they lost the jerseys so we had to wear the girls’ uniforms.
Back then they wore skirts. They made us wear them but as soon as we
walked out they said, ‘We’re just playing’ so we got changed.”

Andy, couldn’t that scar a guy for life?

“I was scarred by the
9-0 beating we took after,” he joked.

Every team has a jokester
or two to keep things loose and lively in the locker room and each club
has someone as the brunt of pranks. Thursday was April Fools Day and the
natural target for the Crew was second-year defender Eric Brunner, as
usually is the case.

“He’s a fun, gullible kid,” defender Chad
Marshall said earlier in the week. "I’m sure someone will get him."

Brunner slipped on his socks before Thursday’s practice, he found it
saturated with Icy Hot pain relief balm, a standard substance midfielder
Duncan Oughton will place in a player’s boxers if he feels the victim
was a little too agitated on the practice field.

Brunner got off
easy, but midfielder Eddie “The Quiet Assassin” Gaven said more
shenanigans might be in order Thursday night.

“I know they don’t
mean it in a mean way,” Brunner said. “I do my fair share of jokes, too.
Mine are kind of funny. There’s been a few where people didn’t know I
did it but I can’t tell you them. I’ll hide people’s stuff and not let
them know where their things are.”

He was victimized by Oughton
during the preseason trip to Dallas last month.

“I like cookies,”
Brunner said. “I went to play pool and when I came back my bed was
completely made. I went to get in. It was really freezing in Dallas so I
was excited to get warm. I go in and there’s cookie crumbs in my bed. I
completely open my sheet and there was a ton of cookies. That was a
pretty good one.”

Gaven discovered at an early age that not
everyone has a sense of humor.

“We were playing this game in my
second year with the MetroStars [in 2004] using this foam ball," Gaven
remembered. "The game was someone serves it to you and you have to hit
the ball at the person’s name they called out -- at the person or inside
their locker. Jonny Walker was just walking in that morning; maybe he
had a bad night. I don’t know. Someone called out his name so I drilled
the ball at him, hit him in the arm.

“He comes walking over,"
Gaven continued. "Doesn’t say a word, twists off the lid of his coffee
and throws it all over me and turns and walks away. I’m just standing
there, burning basically from the hot coffee, completely shocked.
Seventeen years old. That’s the last we ever played that game.”

Gaven bravely carried forth with a new game when he joined the Crew in
2006 and was reunited with U.S. Under-17 teammate Tim Ward. They started
the Fumble Game in residency and it carries to this day even though
Ward is no longer with the Crew.

“Eddie’s a silent assassin,”
defender Jed Zayner said. “His prank is every single day hitting
something out of people’s hands, walking by them and laughing in their

That, essentially, is the Fumble Game, although there are
rules. If the attacker attempts and fails to knock an object out of the
pursuer’s hand the victim gets to slap the attacker in the face. If a
drink falls and liquid comes out of the container then the attacker gets
to do the slapping. If no liquid escapes the assaulted one is the
slapper. Most of the team has been involved at some point but lately the
battle has come down to Gaven and O’Rourke in the season-long World Cup
of The Fumble Game.

“They count how many points they get each
day,” Zayner said. “We’re the judges.”

“It’s not even close,”
O’Rourke said. “I definitely have [Gaven] on the year.”

There are
no boundaries.

“You can fumble anybody, anytime, anywhere,”
Gaven said.

Gaven has learned to avoid Oughton because he prefers
punches to slaps.

“When you’re carrying two or three water
bottles and you’re carrying stuff and he whacks it out of your hand it’s
more annoying than anything,” Oughton said. “I told him every time he
tries to fumble me I’ll whack him up side the head so he learned pretty
quick. He doesn’t do it anymore.”

There’s somebody else Gaven
would leave alone: “Jonny Walker. I would not fumble him, especially on
one of his bad days.”

Besides, he’s having too much fun
tormenting O’Rourke.

“It’s gotten to the point where I’ll be
grocery shopping and he doesn’t live anywhere close to me and when I
pick something off the shelves I’m looking around to make sure he’s not
going to fumble me,’ O’Rourke said. “We’ve taken it to a new level. I’ve
hidden in spots for 15, 20 minutes waiting for him to walk by. I got
him. Then there’s been times I’ve waited 15, 20 minutes and he’s seen me
and completely ruined it. He’s crawled into my hotel room, it was a
suite, so he had to crawl through it and I saw him in a mirror crawling.
I was sitting at my computer.”

This seemingly childish game
promises to go on and on.

“Forty years from now, Eddie Gaven’s
going to look up my address and show up on my doorstep and fumble
something out of my hand,” O’Rourke said. “He’ll hand me my mail or my
newspaper then fumble it.”