Saturday, September 26, 2015, was the culmination of the Black & Gold Twenty celebration, where fans voted on the top 20 moments in Columbus Crew SC history. To help celebrate the unveiling of the top five moments, Crew SC flew in several Black & Gold legends and also invited local alumni to be part of a special halftime ceremony.
It was, by far, the most significant alumni event in Crew SC history. As someone who has a heartfelt passion for our club’s history and is a staunch advocate for alumni relations, I couldn’t have been happier to see it all come to life.
Since this was such a Massively historic occasion, I was determined to thoroughly chronicle it for the fans, the club, and the legends themselves. What follows is the largest collection of stories in the 16-year history of Sirk’s Notebook. I embedded with the legends all day Saturday, from the first groggy greetings in the hotel restaurant prior to 9:00 a.m., all the way through to their departure from MAPFRE Stadium around midnight. The result is essentially a smallish, 15,000-word book. You will find 14 different standalone chapters, each highlighting a different event or theme, over the course of this week.
Over the course of those 14 chapters, I hope I captured even just a fraction of the laughter, emotion, camaraderie, and appreciation that made the day such a joy for so many people.
Chapter 1: The Morning
The Black & Gold legends started their day at the Sheraton on Capitol Square, where they attempted to wake up after a Friday night reunion that went into the wee hours. Waking up was important since they were scheduled that morning for one-on-one television interviews with 20-year Crew SC broadcaster Dwight Burgess. Time Warner Cable Sports Channel was on hand to film the conversations, which legitimately took the tone of old friends catching up and looking back.
Mike Clark drew the short straw, so he had the first interview of the morning. As you can see from this photograph, his famously oversized calf muscles have experienced 0% atrophy since his retirement…
Once Clark’s interview ended, the TWCSC production crew shifted the placement of the chairs before Duncan Oughton’s interview commenced. This prompted many different jokes, such as how Oughton’s nose would have blocked out all of the natural sunlight in the original configuration, so they had to switch it up in a way that the beak-shade would be less detrimental.
“It’s funny because I got down there, and Clarkie’s finished, and they’re changing the whole set around,” Oughton recalled. “It’s like, what are they doing? It’s still the same hotel, the same background, and the same chairs. At first I had a giggle about it, but then you’re trying to get ready to talk to Dwight in a serious manner, and Clarkie’s cracking jokes, and you’re cracking jokes, and everyone’s cracking jokes, and then I was having a laugh with Dwight about stuff, so it was pretty lighthearted and a good time. It was easy, like always.”
It wasn’t long before more legends filtered into the room. Some came down to sign items for the Crew SC Foundation…
Stern John and Brad Friedel chatted about mutual friends in Trinidad…
Friedel and Brian Dunseth talked shop about their broadcasting careers…
Brian McBride and Crew SC Senior Director of Marketing & Communications Arica Kress, who helmed the Black & Gold Twenty and reunion projects, had a good laugh recounting the joke McBride had played on her earlier in the week. Prankster McBride texted Kress just days before the reunion, telling her he thought the event was the following weekend.
“I told her I was joking in the same text, so it wasn’t THAT bad,” McBride said in his own defense. “It was, ‘I thought it was next weekend.’ <RETURN> <RETURN> <RETURN> <RETURN> ‘Just kidding!’ It’s not like I left her hanging…”
After a few more nose jokes, Oughton attempted to recreate his original pre-shattered / pre-surgery beak using a croissant. Brian Dunseth then swooped in and attacked like Jaws. The result left a shark-to-surfboard chomp wound on Oughton’s croissant-schnozz…
A short while later, as some of the guys talked to Oughton about his seven-month-old daughter, Olive, I suggested that he named her that because when someone says Olive Oughton, it sounds like “I love Oughton.” This is especially true if you do a horrible impersonation of a New Zealander’s Australian accent. Basically, it’s just a way to trick people into saying, “I love Oughton.”
Duncan disputed my assertion, but Clark was on board with the theory.
“It’s the same with lip reading,” Clark said. “Olive Oughton is going to look like ‘I love Oughton.’ Just like how ‘olive juice’ looks like ‘I love you’ and ‘vacuum’ looks like ‘(bleep) you.’”
This particular conversation was abruptly interrupted by the high point of the morning. One of the lights that served to illuminate the interview set came crashing down, landing near Alejandro Moreno as he prepared to sit down for his conversation with Burgess.
“It didn’t touch him, but I’m pretty sure Alejandro just won us a penalty!” Oughton bellowed, as the rest of the legends busted up laughing.
“I can’t help it,” Moreno said. “My first reaction was… [Alejandro used his right leg to kick the back of his left leg, then feigned going down in a heap.]”
Well after the moment had passed, everyone was still laughing about the serendipitous opportunity for the first of many diving jokes at Moreno’s experience.
“Some things never change,” Oughton said. “If the light goes down and you’re close to it, you’re going down with it. He was drawing a foul. Guys were giving him crap about that all weekend. It was pretty funny. It was a good time.”
“Fairly or unfairly, that is something that is very much part of my reality,” Moreno said. “I don’t run away from it. I was there to help the team win games. Sometimes I lived in the fringes of legality. Sometimes I lived in the fringes of the gray areas.”
The day was off to a great start.