At 2:30, the legends took part in a meet and greet signing event put on by The Mutual Fund Store. As part of the event, the players were introduced one at a time by Crew SC broadcaster Neil Sika, who said a few words about each guy. The player would then enter the conference room from a door at the back and make his way through the crowd to a signing table located at the front.
As the players mingled in the hallway waiting to be introduced, the jokes kept flying as usual. For illustrative purposes, let’s focus on the plight of poor Brian Dunseth, who repeatedly said throughout the weekend that he had no business being included with the other legends. He was in Columbus for a season and a half, and apart from being a starting center back on the 2002 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup championship team, he felt he had virtually no other major Crew SC accomplishments to his name. He wasn’t a record-setter like Stern John, a 10-year heart and soul guy like Duncan Oughton, or a club-defining icon like Brian McBride, to give just a few examples. Of course, Dunny is selling himself short. He does have that title on his resume, and he was so incredibly active in our community and with the fan base that he rightfully holds a place in many hearts. But I see where he is coming from.
And so did everyone else. The joke introductions started flying fast and furious. Among my contributions:
“This MLS journeyman…”
“For this next player, Columbus was one of, I dunno, like, eleven-ish stops in his career…”
When it came time for the real introduction, we could all hear Sika say, “His time in Columbus was a brief one and a half years…” and everyone in the hallway laughed. With a grin, Dunny turned and gave that knowing headshake that said “son of a…” and then walked through the door before his introduction was even finished.
“The joke for me,” Dunny said afterward, “is always ‘accentuate the positive, don’t focus on the negative.’ For me it started and ended with, ‘He was part of the only U.S. Open Cup championship the Crew have ever won.’ Actually, that’s why I just started walking. I was like, ‘Screw this!’ It’s going to be such a short intro that nobody is going to even know who I am. People know me more for Drink With Dunny and for being the guy with a 13-year-old girl’s voice who’s always talking about soccer, as opposed to playing for the Columbus Crew.”
Of course, that’s not true. People were happy to see Dunny and all of the legends. The players signed autographs, posed for pictures, and joked with the fans for an hour or so.
“It’s the first time I’ve signed an autograph in… every time I sign an autograph, it’s paying bills,” Dunseth joked. “It’s a blast to come back and to see fans that we remember and for the fans to see some incredible guys, both on and off the field.”
For a longtime fan like Randy Sims, it was a chance to meet or reconnect with players he’s admired and cheered over the years.
“What a great experience, especially for me,” Sims said. “Talk about Friedel, for instance. He’s a goalkeeper that I’ve always loved. I’m a Villa fan and a Crew fan, so to be able to meet Brad Friedel, what an opportunity! Brian McBride is one of the classiest guys in the league, so it’s always good to see him. Duncan, every time he comes to town, he’s so friendly. To spend a couple of minutes with him made my day. I couldn’t sleep last night, thinking about this. It’s just exciting. I love that this team does events like this.”
For Todd Fichtenberg, who started following the Black & Gold in the 2012-2013 timeframe, the meet and greet was a chance to bring history to life.
“There all these guys that everybody talks about from before my time, and they are in the room, and they are so friendly,” he said. “A lot of time you get these big names…we were saying last night at #TIFOSWEAT that if we were any other city, to meet these guys who are legends of the club, you’d have to win a contest to meet them. Yet here they are, mingling.”
The most surreal mingling legend of all was Stern John. His return gets his own section tomorrow…