NOTE TO READERS: This chapter and the next chapter will be closely related. This one deals with the amount of trash the legends talked to each other. The next chapter talks about the camaraderie they all shared, even across eras.
I skipped over this earlier, but after playing some video games, it was time for the legends to head to MAPFRE Stadium to participate in a panel discussion for Crew SC season ticket members. Before the proceedings got underway, there were some autographs….
There was also a pre-panel group selfie…
And then it was time for the panel discussion. Here is how Duncan Oughton described it afterward:
“The thing that got me was that you give seven grown men a microphone on stage—seven grown men who act like children—so that’s a bit dangerous. And they wouldn’t give Frankie one. They gave everyone a microphone but they wouldn’t give Frankie one. That was hilarious. He’s had a few microphones in his hand while doing his job, so if they hadn’t learned by now, they never will.”
With these grown men acting like children, here are some of the amusing excerpts from the discussion. The trash talk freely flowed back and forth.
Naturally, Duncan Oughton roasted himself to get things started. This was his response when Dwight Burgess introduced him by saying that he is the only player in Black & Gold history to be a part of all five trophy-winning teams:
“I still have splinters from the bench.”
About the 2002 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup final…
Oughton: “…it was a proud moment at Crew Stadium in front of 480 people. But seriously. It was. Everyone here was there.”
Moreno: “I’m still here.”
(Moreno played for the LA Galaxy that night.)
When Burgess introduced Brian Dunseth, he mentioned some of the other national television commentators on the panel, but omitted Alejandro Moreno…
Burgess: “We all know this lovely mug from television, like Mr. Friedel and Mr. McBride, the pretty boys of the bunch.”
Moreno: “I’m cute too.”
Burgess: “I don’t get the international channel.”
Moreno: “Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!”
Clark: “Duncan’s got a great face for radio.”
Burgess: “That’s a fair point.”
Moreno on the 2008 team:
“It’s nice to have a group of players that understand each other and really are willing to do the things on the field to make the team successful, and we did that even though we had Duncan on the field. We overcame that.”
As the discussion about 2008 continued, this happened…
Moreno: “It was nice to shut a lot of people up, including the Chicago Fire that Brian McBride played for.”
McBride: “At least I didn’t fall over A LOT of times.”
Moreno: “We won. We won. We won.”
McBride: “You did. And I congratulate you. But you fell down A LOT more.”
Moreno: “We won.”
Moreno also interjected himself into the introduction for Mike Clark, who played a physical style. Clark once got a red card for kicking Moreno in the face as he tried to head a bouncing ball.
Burgess: “Any one of these guys up here can tell you that the best thing for a professional is health. Over 18,000 minutes played in a Columbus Crew kit…”
Moreno: “What about the ones he hurt? What about the minutes people had to miss because of him?”
Burgess: “Yeah, he shortened some careers. There’s no question.”
McBride: “He blames the old adidas studs.”
Players used to make fun of Clark’s cankles, which is a word merge for calf-ankles. In fact, Dunny used to call Clark “Thankles” for thigh-ankles, because he felt that the thickness of Clark’s ankles had gone to the next level.
When the subject of Clarkie’s cankles came up on stage, Oughton said, “You couldn’t nutmeg the guy.”
Clarkie got in a dig about Oughton when discussing some of the challenges the players faced in the earliest days of the league…
“Speaking to what Brad alluded to, when we first started playing, we would literally change in a high school. There would be kids coming in and changing for their PE class and we’d be excusing ourselves around their lockers to put our practice gear on and then go train on a field at the high school. That’s the first year of the League right there. And then when Duncan came in the League, they wouldn’t let us go in the high school anymore, so we had to at least wait until school was out before they let us in.”
(The Black & Gold had been in their own training facility for years by the time Oughton was drafted in 2001, but who needs facts when getting in a dig?)
Stern John discussing his famous 1999 goal against San Jose with three seconds to play…
John: “I think it was a bad day. We were losing 1-0 and we needed to get a result by any means necessary. The keeper punt one long and it ended up right on my feet. I dribble a couple of guys and put it in the back of the net. It was all luck.”
Moreno (with a ho-hum sigh): “Just another day…”
Hejduk: (Doing the world’s worst Stern John impression) “I shoot the ball once and I score three goals!”
Hejduk was in the midst of delivering one of those rambling Frankie soliloquies, this one about how the locker room culture is what has set Columbus part, when this happened…
Hejduk: “They don’t want to say it because we’re professional athletes, but these guys up here, we had the best times of our lives here in Columbus after games, before games, at parties in this city. For me, that’s what it’s all about.”
Moreno: “You’re still doing it, Frankie.”
Hejduk: “Am I still talking?”
McBride (to Burgess): “I can’t believe you actually took your hand off that mic.”
Burgess: “After all these years, you’d think I’d know.”
When asked what word springs to mind when he thinks about Columbus, Brian Dunseth hijacked the question to go on a rapid fire roast of his fellow panelists.
“I think of Brian bleeding everywhere because he was inevitably going to get cut. Clarkie’s tree trunks. You can still see them. He’s had those legs since he was six. (McBride interjects: ‘Special pants! Special pants!’) Alejandro bulldozing over everybody, but if you touch him, he’s going to go down in the box. (Moreno: ‘And we won.’) (Clark: ‘Dunny’s frosted-tip hair.’) Frankie somehow running up and down that right-hand side and never getting tired and winning every fitness test. Stern getting the Stern Turn against me four or five different times in my career, and being on the field when he actually did get that assist to Cunningham. I was on the Revolution. Duncan breaking his nose virtually every other week and having to wear that facemask. (Friedel: ‘That was in a bar though.’) That was last night! And then Bradley with some hair. That was a long time ago.”
Oughton was asked for his word to sum up Columbus…
Oughton: “Love. Each other, the locker room, the club. And looking out, I see so many faces from the first appearance I ever did with this club. The love you guys have for the club, and the love we have for each other and the city, to me, love sums it all up. (Turns to Friedel.) Beat that!”
Friedel: “I think I CAN beat that.”
The smack talk carried over into the press conference. Moreno was asked if he saw any similarities between the 2015 team and the 2008 team.
Moreno: “Not the center forward.”
McBride: “Is that because he stays up? Is it because he doesn’t dive?”
Moreno: “He scores goals! I scored…enough.”
If you follow Dunseth on Twitter or Instagram, you will notice that he frequently uses the hashtag #TeamNoBackFat when he goes for a run or a mountain hike.
As Dunny watched the Columbus-Portland match, Oughton sneaked up behind him and pinched him in the back.
“Team Back Fat,” said the Kiwi.
As I interviewed McBride at the end of the night, this interruption happened…
Dunseth (leaning into my recorder and doing a terrible accent): “Duncan has hairy nostrils.”
McBride: “He just HAS to hear his voice! If there is a microphone nearby, he just HAS to go and talk into it.”
Oughton, a New Zealander, on the game broadcast speaking about the loud ovation that Gino Padula received during the halftime ceremony: “There must be a large Argentinean crowd here tonight.”
Padula, when told of Oughton’s comment: “He’s jealous. He’s from Australia and they don’t play soccer over there. I love Duncan.”
Oughton, wrapping up his guest stint with Dwight Burgess and Neil Sika in the TV booth so he could head back to the suite: “I love you guys, but I'm going to go hang with the true legends.”
Dunseth, once again talking about the size of Clark’s calves…
“I’m surprised he can get his pants on at all at this point. From the time he started out as a player at six years old, until now when he’s 53, his calves have been the exact same size. They actually have to custom cut his jeans and then paint them on and re-stitch them.”
On Clark maintaining game fitness throughout his career despite his enormous calves…
“It makes a lot of sense in a lot of ways. For Clarkie, dragging those calves around, it was like triple the workout. Over the course of 90 minutes, that was like a slow warmup for him.”
Even I couldn’t help getting in my go-to dig at Moreno when we talked near the end of the night. We were discussing his exchange on the stage with McBride…
Moreno: “It’s also good to set a reminder as to who won. However much or however little we played with or against each other, we all played this game because we like to compete. What stays in the record books is who won.”
Sirk: “Like the 2002 Open Cup final.”
Moreno: “That’s right. Of course, it is clear in the record books who won that match, but what is not clear in the record books is that we won MLS Cup just three days earlier and people could not have been in the best frame of mind or physical state to play that match. Thank you scheduling people!”
Sirk: “Okay, but what stays in the record books is who won.”
This was by no means a comprehensive list of the trash-talking. There was plenty more. Some of it is lost to the haze of memory since it was not part of a recorded interview or public comment. Some of it is memorable but not meant for public consumption. And, of course, some of it already appears in other chapters of this Notebook, so there’s no need to repeat it all here.
What was evident was that this group had a lot of good-natured camaraderie, even if they were never teammates in Columbus. I talked to a few of the guys about that for the next chapter…