At the end of the long season that stretches from training camp in January until the MLS Cup Playoffs in November, the Crew’s players need a chance to clear their minds by getting away from the insufferable hustle and bustle of Columbus. The non-stop noise and commotion and pressure of central Ohio will eat a man alive if he doesn’t get a chance to escape to the soothing serenity of Anywhere But Here.
To that end, here’s an update on what some of the Crew’s players did over the offseason break.
“I spent most of the time here, getting fit, working hard, and getting ready, but a bunch of us went to Vegas for a weekend with some other guys around MLS. My fiancé and I went to New York for a couple of days. We went to Carolina for about five days to have Christmas with my family, and then we went to Key West for a week with my whole family.”
Any good, printable stories from Vegas.?
“No. I will say this: Danny and Gehrig had to change their flights to go home early. Vegas grabbed ‘em.”
Hesmer passed along some photos of his travels.
“Here’s me at the New York Stock Exchange.”
“Tacey and I at Madison Square Garden for My Morning Jacket and Band of Horses.”
“This one’s of my dog on my dad’s farm land.”
“Me and my dog fishing at my dad’s pond in North Carolina.”
Danny O opted for a relaxing type of vacation in order to prepare his body for the upcoming season, but he did elaborate a little more on the Vegas trip.
“Gehrig switched his flight,” he said. “I had never been to Vegas, and I already knew that I wouldn’t be able to take more than one or two days of it, so I had a week in Arizona planned already. I was glad to get out of there. I won 500 bucks. It paid for my plane ticket. I came out up on Vegas. That’s why I’m never going back. On my headstone, it will say, ‘Danny: +$500, Las Vegas -$500. What up, world?’
“The two games I played were blackjack and where I made most of my money was craps. There were five or six of us who went on a two or three hour roll with craps. We were making this high-roller at the end of the table a bunch of money, so it was cool.”
Having made his abbreviated Vegas appearance and having absconded with $500 in casino money, O’Rourke then went on to the true destination of his westward journey.
“I went to Sedona, Arizona,” he said. “It was an all-inclusive spa place. You just go there, hang around, get massages, eat good food, read books, and hang out. You just totally get away. Your cell phones don’t work there, so I couldn’t even check on fantasy football. I read a book called ‘Wild At Heart’ by John Eldredge, and a Norman Vincent Peale book that Steve Lenhart recommended to me. I brought The Hunger Games with me, but I didn’t start those in Arizona. That trilogy is going to be my Bradenton reading. There’s not much going on down there. It’s terrible.”
Here’s a photo Danny took of his serene desert retreat:
“I spent some time at home with my family for my birthday on Christmas, and I also went to Vegas with some of the wily old veterans. It was me, Chad, Danny, Will, and a couple other guys from around MLS. We stayed at Caesar’s and had a good time, just bro’ing it out. “
So, about this early departure people keep talking about…
“I did in fact leave a day early. I actually got a little sick and, to be honest, had enough ‘Vegas’ in the two nights I was there. It was a fun time, though. I won some money as well, but didn’t play with big hands. I think I was up $200 on the trip, which for the inexperienced gambler was good for me. It was a great time though, with great company, and staying where the real Caesar lived.
“Other than that, my offseason consisted of family and friends, the holidays and my birthday, and then about a month and a half of training and working out. It was nice to be home and back where I grew up. Lots of memories and lots of people I haven’t seen in awhile.”
Obviously, Finlay didn’t need to get away from Columbus since he hadn’t even been here yet. But the Crew’s top draft pick certainly had an offseason between his last college game and the MLS draft.
“Growing up, I lived in Marshfield, Wisconsin, which is a small town of about 20,000 people in the center of Wisconsin in the middle of nowhere. When I left for college, my dad got a job in Chicago, in Naperville. So now when I go home, I go home to Naperville. I don’t know many people in Chicago, so normally I just hang out with my parents. I’ve been friends with Kirk (Urso, one of the Crew’s supplemental draft picks) since I was about 14 years old when we were on the regional team, and he’s about 30 minutes away from me. One of my college teammates, Greg Jordan, who went to Philadelphia in the draft, is about 15 minutes away. So I hung out with those guys a lot, so it wasn’t too bad, but it’s not like hanging out with your high school friends. I did spend a lot of time training at the YMCA, so that was probably good for me.”
Next offseason, one presumes that Finlay can look forward to hanging out in Chicago with Eric Gehrig.
Heinemann and his wife Katrina opted for a little bit of globetrotting.
“We went to Barcelona for a couple of days and then to Italy. We were over there for New Year’s. In Italy, we went to Palermo and Venice. Venice is the most unique city I have ever been to. I felt like I was walking through a movie set. There are no cars and no roads. It’s really cool. We didn’t go on a gondola ride, but we saw some and we heard the guys singing Italian music on the gondolas. It was cold when we were there. It was like 35-40 degrees.”
A good freeze would bring Venice to a standstill. It would be just as destructive to commuter mobility as a light dusting of snow in Columbus.
“Yeah, and they’re talking now like it’s sinking. I have no idea how they built that thing in the first place.”
(EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH TANGENT SINCE TOMMY ASKED: Venice is a city built on wooden stilts covering 117 tiny islands popping up out of a lagoon. The wood pilings have become petrified and are incredibly stable. The city, however, is indeed sinking. This is due to plate tectonics, rising sea levels, and a process called subsidence. In the mid-1900s, water was being pumped from under Venice, which caused the sediment below the city to become more compact, thus causing the city to sink. Venice normally sinks at a rate of about an inch per century, but it dropped a foot in two decades before the water pumping was halted in the 1970s. Based upon a government study, there is now talk of trying to reverse that damage by initiating calibrated groundwater injections under Venice to create larger pore spaces in the sediment, which could possibly raise the city by 25-30 centimeters over the next decade. That’s roughly 10-12 inches. And people think re-doing the I-70/I-71 split in downtown Columbus is a major project…)
Anyway, among the many sights that the Heinemanns took in while visiting Europe, a soccer match wasn’t one of them.
“It was just a good trip to disconnect. I think it’s good to do that. I was really working out and trying to get healthy, but I think it’s also important to get mentally refreshed. So we went over there and got away. My wife always wanted to go to Europe, and there’s not much she doesn’t want to see, so I’m sure we’ll venture over there again.”
Here are a few photos of Tommy’s trip, which he said are “courtesy of the lovely editing ability of my wife.”
“This is a picture of Ustica, a small island off the coast of Sicily. We took a day trip there as we were visiting Palermo.”
“This is a picture of Venice.”
“This is a picture of Katrina and I on a sweet Vespa in Ustica.”
Thinking back to the days of Ansil Elock, I was expecting to learn that Julius James went home to Trinidad & Tobago and would be loaded with Ansil-esque tales of carnivals and other Caribbean merriment. Shoulder surgery squashed any notion of a tropical getaway. Instead, he had a different sort of homecoming.
“I went to my college (The University of Connecticut). They played in the Elite 8 of the NCAA tournament and lost to Charlotte. Whatever. I also went to D.C. to hang with some of the guys I know from there. I didn’t go home because I had to do rehab, so it was pretty uneventful. I wasn’t too happy about that, but a man’s got to do what a man’s got to do.”
The Crew’s assistant technical director / assistant coach / TV color analyst / 2011 Employee of the Year went home to New Zealand to visit his family. He described it as a fairly low-key, family-focused trip, except for one thing.
“My brother and I went Zorbing,” he said. “It was sensational!”
Since I don’t speak Kiwi, I had no idea was Zorbing meant. It could have meant “canoeing” or “shoe shopping” or “naked sheep wrestling” for all I knew. Thankfully, he elaborated.
“You get in this big ball and they roll you down a hill,” he said. “There’s a ball inside the ball, so you climb in and they zip it shut. And then there’s water sloshing inside so you aren’t getting tossed around too bad. We just slid around a lot and were smashing each other with elbows. It was fun!”
So how big of a hill is this?
“It’s bigger than any hill around here. That’s obvious, since there aren’t any hills around here.”
Here’s a photo Duncan took of the Zorbing facility that he and his brother visited:
And for the truly curious, here is a Zorbing video demonstration by some other random funny-talking Kiwi fella:
The Hebrew Hammer and his wife, Lacey, headed west for their offseason getaway. Andy is a member of Garth Brooks’ charitable foundation, Teammates For Kids, in which professional athletes pledge money for meeting team and individual goals. Brooks then triples the money raised by the professional athletes, with 100 percent of the proceeds going toward children’s charities.
“We went to the Garth Brooks thing in Vegas. I’m the only guy who ever represents the Crew each year, which is absurd because it is the most fun event ever. He throws a thank you party at the end of the year which includes a silent auction, a two-and-a-half hour concert, and a chance to hang out with him after the concert. He is the nicest guy you could ever meet. I have contributed every year I have been here. Most of the guys (on the Crew) contribute, but for some reason I am the only one who takes advantage of the party. We spent a few days in Vegas doing that, and then we went to San Francisco and did all the sights there. The offseason went by too quick.”
Here are some photos courtesy of the Gruenebaums:
“Barry Melrose and I. Got to talk to him a lot. He and Steve Levy of ESPN are the emcees at Garth’s party every year.”
“Lace and I with Garth Brooks.”
“Lace and I at the Golden Gate Bridge.”
Every year, Gaven and I have a ritual whereby I ask Eddie about his boring offseason and he then proceeds to tell me how boring it was and how he did nothing of any interest whatsoever. This year, I was in for a shock.
“It wasn’t my usual boring offseason for once! This year, I actually went to Rome. I was there for a few days and we also went to Spain. My wife had always wanted to go to Spain, so we went to Barcelona, Madrid, and Toledo and saw all the sights. And I had always wanted to go to Rome and see the Pope. We went to St. Peter’s, went to the papal audience, and I got blessed by the Pope, so I’m ready to go for a new year! My favorite was St. Peter’s. It’s a massive church. There was so much to see there. The Sistine Chapel was obviously amazing and a really cool experience. It was a great offseason!”
Eddie shared two photos:
“This is a family photo of me, my wife Paula, and our son Zach on top of Montjuic, overlooking Barcelona.”
“Here’s Zach at the Colosseum in Rome.”
After talking to Eddie, it made realize that in the span of barely two years, he was honored by the President of the United States at a White House ceremony, and also blessed by Pope Benedict XVI in Rome. For an American Catholic, those two experiences are about as cool as it gets.
Of course, at the White House, Gaven and his teammates presented President Obama with an “Obama 44” jersey. This led to the silly notion of Gaven handing Pope Benedict a Crew jersey with his Roman numeral on the back. The Roman numerals were key, so I asked Sam Fahmi to create a mock-up for me, which I then sent to Eddie.
“I think it's a pretty sweet idea, actually,” Gaven wrote. “If I remember correctly, the Portuguese league champions presented Pope Benedict with a jersey sporting his name and 16 on it when he visited there a few years back. So it's been done before. I don't know when we'll present it to him though... Maybe he'll make a trip to Crew Stadium in the near future?!?!”
My guess is when Danny O’Rourke scores a goal, which will unquestionably be a divine miracle worthy of a papal visit.
Questions? Comments? Have hill-making technology and looking to open a Zorbing facility in Columbus? Feel free to write at email@example.com or via twitter @stevesirk