In one of those perfectly bizarre and awesome traditions that inexplicably take shape over time, the Crew’s home opener has morphed into a local holiday known as Crewsmas. After the Crew and undermanned New York Red Bulls played to a 0-0 draw on Saturday, I decided to flip through my copy of the Dr. Creuss classic “How the Zilch Stole Crewsmas.”
Every Crew down in Crewville liked Crewsmas a lot
But the Zilch, who lived near Crewville, did NOT!
The Zilch hated Crewsmas! The whole Crewsmas season!
Now, please don’t ask why. No one quite knows the reason.
They’d sing! And they’d sing!
And they’d SING! SING! SING! SING!
And the more the Zilch thought of the Crew-Crewsmas-Sing
The more the Zilch thought, “I must stop this whole thing!
Why for 15 years I’ve put up with it now
I must stop Crewsmas from coming…but HOW?”
Then he got an idea. An awful idea.
The Zilch got a frustrating, awful idea!
“I know just what to do!” the Zilch laughed in his throat
“There’ll be no chance of scoring, not even remote!”
He chuckled and clucked, “What a great Zilchy trick!
Bad crossing, no shooting, it’ll make Crewville sick!”
As the Zilch took down the posts and swiped each goalie glove
He heard a small sound like the coo of a dove
He turned around fast and he saw a small Crew
Little Cindy Lou Crew, who was no more than two
She stared at the Zilch and said, “Santy Crews, why?
Why are you taking our Crewsmas goals? WHY?”
But you know that old Zilch was so smart and so slick
He thought up a lie and he thought it up quick!
“Why my sweet little tot,” the fake Santy Crews lied
“There’s a hole in this net that won’t hold goals inside
So I’m taking it home to my workshop, my dear
So it’s fixed by the time that Toronto gets here.”
[Credit: “Awesome photoshop by Sam Fahmi”]
He stared down at Crewville, the Zilch popped his eyes!
Then he shook! What he saw was a shocking surprise!
Every Crew down in Crewville, the tall and the small
Was singing! Without any Crew goals at all!
He HADN’T stopped Crewsmas from coming! It CAME!
Somehow or another, it came just the same!
And the Zilch, with his Zilch-feet ice cold in the stands
Stood puzzling and puzzling, “I don’t understand!
It came without winning! Or TFC trolls!
It came without crossing, or shooting, or goals!”
And he puzzled for three hours, ‘til his puzzler was sore
Then the Zilch thought of something he hadn’t thought of before!
“Maybe Crewsmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a score.
“Maybe Crewsmas, perhaps, means a little bit more!”
What happens next? Well, it’s too soon to say.
We’ll find out against Dallas this coming Friday.
0-0: THE BAD PART
The Crew controlled much of the game against a New York squad that was down six starters from its opening day lineup a week ago, but the offensive third of the field is where it all fell apart. The Crew had chances, but before those chances could become truly dangerous, they were snuffed out by imprecise passes, air-mailed crosses, and a crippling reluctance to let loose with a shot.
“Unfortunately, we need to be a bit sharper in the final third of the field,” said Crew midfielder Eddie Gaven. “It wasn’t very sharp. I don’t know why. We looked good during training this week, but in the game, it’s like we were looking for the perfect shot or the perfect pass, and it’s not always going to be there. Sometimes you have to take what you can get.”
“It’s disappointing, but I thought we played well,” said Crew defender Rich Balchan. “We could have put a couple in if we took our chances better, or at least took some chances. I think that will come with more practices. We had some balls on our forwards’ feet in the box, but they opted not to pull the trigger. Crosses on my end weren’t good enough. I was either sailing them or hitting them too short, so I am going to work on that.”
“Offensively, we lack something right now,” said Crew goalkeeper William Hesmer. “It seems we have lots of guys capable of dribbling, wiggling, and juking, but no one has yet to step up with that killer instinct, whether it be the final pass or shot. Maybe there's just too much unselfishness, which will work itself out.”
“It’s like we were waiting for the perfect shot, almost,” Gaven said. “We had some looks from 18 or 20 yards out. Maybe if we hit a shot, even if it’s not a great look, maybe it hits off of someone’s shins. It’s definitely something we have to work on this week.”
Crew midfielder Dilly Duka summed up the offensive effort thusly:
“You get [angry], but you have to forget about it,” he said. “As attackers, we need to put the game away. We can’t rely only on our defense. They can defend well for 90 minutes, but we still need goals to win.”
0-0: THE GOOD PART
After getting shredded for three goals in the opener at D.C. United, the Crew did an excellent job of holding onto the ball and limiting New York to virtually nothing in the way of dangerous chances until the final moments of the game.
“Defensively, I was very pleased,” said Hesmer. “We were organized and tough to break down.”
“I thought we played well,” said defensive midfielder Kevin Burns. “I don’t think they had any real shots except for that one at the very end. I think playing well defensively is the most important thing right now. I think the attacking things will come.”
HESMER SAVES THE DAY
William Hesmer had a strange afternoon. With the temperature in the mid-30s and the wind whipping around the stadium, Hesmer was left to think warm thoughts as he shivered in shorts at the opposite end of the field from the vast majority of the action.
Then, in the 89th minute, his frozen body flashed to life in an instant. When New York’s Joel Lindpere unleashed a low, 16-yard screamer toward the inside of the near post, Hesmer went down to his left to paw the ball wide with his outstretched hand. He then crawled and pounced on the ball before it trickled out for a corner kick.
“That's the hardest part about goalkeeping,” Hesmer said. “You sit around for 90 minutes and have to be ready to make a big save at the end. Every other guy on the field is going to get around 30 chances to make a difference, whereas a goalkeeper oftentimes only gets a couple chances at best. It's especially difficult when it's that cold outside. It's often much easier when you are making four, five, six saves in a game versus just one or two saves.”
THE RESULT: DISAPPOINTINGLY BETTER
New York took the field without such crucial players as Rafa Marquez, Thierry Henry, Juan Agudelo, Tim Ream, and Dane Richards. Plus, they started a goalkeeper, Alex Horvath, whom they had signed the day before the game. The Red Bulls set an MLS record by turning over six starters from game one to game two. If ever there was a team ripe for the picking, it was these Red Bulls. Alas, the Crew had to settle for a point.
“Playing our first game at home against a team that was missing some its big names, we feel this is a game that we should have won,” said Eddie Gaven.
“I think we’re going to get really mad about this result,” added Kevin Burns.
But while the result was disappointing, and while the play in the final third was lacking, the overall performance was light years ahead of the stink bomb the Crew set off at RFK Stadium one week earlier. Crew coach Robert Warzycha promised that the D.C. game would be the Crew’s worst performance of the year, and his players backed up his words with a much more cohesive effort over two thirds of the field.
With much youthful exuberance, Dilly Duka focused on the upward trajectory.
“It’s a positive from last week, right?” he asked. “From a loss to a tie. We’ll just have to keep making these steps.”
NOT DILLYING AROUND
Duka was an indefatigable nuisance after entering the game in the 56th minute. As soon as the Crew would turn the ball over in the New York end, Duka would buzz around whichever Red Bull had the ball, annoying them to distraction. He played a crucial role in the Crew’s rapid reacquisition of the ball on the New York half of the field.
“When you’re coming off the bench,” Duka said, “you have to run your [butt] off and help the other guys. They’re tired, so you have to run your [butt] off and try to contribute. Whether it’s offensively or defensively, you need to find a way to contribute. The coach isn’t going to throw you in there to be tired like everyone else. You have to run. I was definitely trying to play high pressure. I was high-pressuring their center backs and anyone I could. Since they were tired, I wanted to make them work.”
EDDIE GAVEN’S BEARD
If it weren’t for the weather, I could have been fooled into thinking it was MLS Cup 2008. The Crew were playing the Red Bulls and Eddie Gaven was hiding his face behind a ridiculous red thicket of unkempt hair. It turns out that the look of a mountain-dwelling Montana mail bomber has its advantages on a frigid, blustery day like Saturday.
“The beard helped me,” Gaven said. “I am very glad that I kept it for the game.”
But as he exited the locker room, Gaven said it wouldn’t last much longer.
“I think I might have to change up it up though because we haven’t won yet,” he said. “I might need to mix it up a bit. My wife is really getting on my back too, so the fans might see something different on Friday.”
Word out of Obetz is that Gaven is now clean shaven. It’s once again safe to go the mailbox, America!
On Wednesday, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium announced the successful hatching of a kiwi chick. It is only the fifth successful kiwi hatching at a U.S. zoo in the last five years. Given that the flightless bird is the national symbol of New Zealand, it comes as no surprise that some local residents are urging the zoo to name the kiwi hatchling after the Crew’s beloved Kiwi, Duncan Oughton. The Crew’s locker room voiced their support.
“I would definitely sign up for that movement,” said Gaven.
“Anytime you can name something after Duncan, I think you should,” said Kevin Burns. “Is the kiwi a good looking bird? If it’s good looking, it should definitely be named after Duncan.”
“Did you see that beak?” asked Andy Gruenebaum. “It looked just like him. Of course they should name it after Duncan. What else are you going to name it, right?”
One major hold-up in the naming process is that DNA testing is required to tell if the hatchling is a boy or a girl. At least that’s what the zoo says. Gruenebaum has a different theory.
“They have to DNA test it to see if it’s Duncan’s,” he said. “Hey, I’m just throwing it out there. If they name it Duncan, it might really have to be called Duncan, Jr.”
“That’s sick,” Oughton said in response to the allegation, “but he could be right.”
Whether the DNA testing is being done for Maury Povich ratings or scientific purposes, Oughton doesn’t see why the gender would matter. If the zoo is willing to bestow the honor upon him, Duncan thinks his name could be applied to a kiwi of either sex.
“I think if it’s a girl, they can call it Dunc-Anne,” he said. “They could put the emphasis on the on the last part of my name and make it Dunc-Anne.”
CREW AT THE ZOO (PLAYER EDITION)
Since there is a possibility that Oughton could have a kiwi named after him, my commitment to hard-hitting, in-depth journalism compelled me to ask some of the guys what zoo animals could be named after them in the event of more zoo births.
“It needs to be an animal with a red beard,” said Gaven. “How about a quiet, sly little fox? He hides in his den and then occasionally goes out when he feels like it. Maybe that’s it. A fox.”
“La pantera (panther)!” said Andres Mendoza. “No condor. La pantera!”
“How about a tiger, huh?” said Jersey boy Dilly Duka. “They’re cool. I don’t know… Nobody ever asked me a question like that before.”
“Probably a unicorn,” said Kevin Burns. “Mysterious… Mythological… I’m sticking with unicorn.”
Gruenebaum brushed aside the question, not for its inherent stupidity, but for its personal irrelevance.
“Can’t keep me caged, so none of them,” he explained. “I can’t really say because it doesn’t apply to me.”
CREW AT THE ZOO (OUGHTON EDITION)
Now an expert in the field of zoo animals potentially being named after local soccer players, Oughton offered up further naming ideas based on some of his former teammates….
Marshall: “Chad is a big cuddly bear, so if they have a bear born at the zoo, they should name it Chad. Just a big, cuddly, lazy bear.”
Rogers: “Robbie Rogers is like a cheetah, so if they have a quick little cheetah, they could name it Robbie.”
Iro: “Andy Iro could be the name of a donkey. Ow! That was mean! I was just joking with that one. Actually, Andy is a predator preying on the weak. Maybe they should name an English black tiger after him.” (NOTE: I can find no reference to a species known as the English black tiger, but its sounds way cooler than a donkey, so I’ll let it stand.)
Hesmer: “Will Hesmer has hair like a sheep, so if they have a little sheep, they can name it Will.” (NOTE: When asked if Hesmer’s sheep-like hair is cause for concern given New Zealand stereotypes, Oughton replied, “I’ve done a decent job of keeping my distance.”)
Ekpo: “Manu would be an excellent name for a baby gazelle. Or a goose farmer, perhaps?” (NOTE: While they don’t keep goose farmers at the zoo, Manu’s initial fixation with Ohio’s Canada goose population makes it a good name for a goose farmer.)
Renteria: “Emilio would be a good name for a rhinoceros.”
O’Rourke: “Danny would be the perfect name for a tamed, well-dressed pit bull.”
Crew television announcer Dwight Burgess: “Dwight is wise and he sits up high and watches down over the field, so Dwight would be a good name for a baby owl.”
Last, and certainly least, Andy Gruenbaum: “He would be a sloth.”
When I told Duncan of the Hebrew Hammer’s claim that he could not be caged, so no animal applies to him, Oughton blew a gasket.
“Can’t be caged?” he snapped, while incredulously scrunching up his face. “He needs to be nursed, not caged. He constantly needs to be nursed. What is a soft animal? He is like the softest animal there is. He’s not even a real animal…he’s a stuffed animal! That’s what he is! He’s a stuffed sloth! If the zoo has a stuffed animal sloth in the gift shop, they should name it Andy Gruenebaum!”
TESTING DUNCAN’S DNA
I have known Duncan for 10 years now, yet I still learn the most amazing things from him. For example, since the kiwi has to undergo DNA testing to determine its gender, I asked if that was true of Kiwis as well. Did Duncan have to have his DNA tested at a New Zealand hospital to determine that he was a male?
“I think it presented itself fairly obviously when the doctor held me up right after I was born and I peed in his eye,” Oughton revealed. “He said, ‘It’s good that we know that that little guy works.’ That’s a true story. I peed right in the doctor’s eye. That was my very first act in life.”
Those first formative moments in Duncan’s life explain a lot, don’t they?
FANTASY FOOTBALL FOREBODING
This time of year is usually pretty slow in the fantasy football talk. I mean, I imagine Danny O’Rourke has had business cards printed up that read, “Danny O’Rourke – 2010 Fantasy Football Champion,” which he passes out to anyone he encounters. And maybe Danny is giving weekly financial updates to William Hesmer on how large Hesmer’s share of Danny’s winnings has grown through investment. But apart from that, fantasy football is usually way off in the distance.
But this spring, there is a sense of foreboding. The NFL lockout looms large. No football means no fantasy football. Or does it?
“We’re in the works,” Gruenebaum confidently declared. “If they’re not going to have an NFL season, we’re going to go with arena football or Canadian football. I mean, why not? Everything’s going to be fine. I can’t live without fantasy football, so we’ll find a way.”
One problem… Both arena football and the CFL are summer leagues. Draft preparations would need to commence post haste.
“We’ll figure it out,” Gruenebaum said. “It’ll get done.”
William Hesmer, on the other hand, is putting his foot down. (Man, that mixed-appendage multi-cliché sentence is so perfectly awful! I’m leaving it in!)
Anyway, Hesmer disagrees.
“No Canadian,” he declared. “No way. I can't stoop that low. I would recommend doing a college fantasy league somehow.”
Just one year removed from serving as the Crew’s player rep during MLS’s 2010 labor negotiations, Hesmer presumably has a feel for these collective bargaining situations, and he thinks an alternative Crew fantasy football league will never get beyond the brainstorming stage.
“We’ll see, but I think they'll get something done,” he said of the NFL’s players and owners. “Just like our situation last year, the urgency isn't there now, but as we get closer to game time, they'll find a way to get something done. I just don't think either party is willing to cancel a season over their differences, so I'm confident I'll be able to take down an NFL fantasy football championship this year.”
As anyone who used the restrooms on the north end of the stadium on Saturday is aware, the Crew posted signs warning people that fireworks would be used during the course of the day’s events.
This sign is incredibly awesome because it can be re-used all year round. For future games, they just need to cover up or white out the first paragraph. The second paragraph is a fair warning for ANY men’s public restroom.
THE CREWSMAS MIRACLE
And lastly, to end this Notebook on a cheerful note that does not involve men’s public restrooms, congratulations to former Crew striker/broadcaster Dante Washington and his wonderful wife, Holly, on the birth of their daughter, Nahla Noelle Washington. She was born at 5 a.m. on March 26, 2011.
That’s right—a Crewsmas baby.
The Massive is strong with this one.
Questions? Comments? Jim Carrey’s agent looking to woo me into casting him in the lead role for the live-action movie version of “How the Zilch Stole Crewsmas”? Feel free to write at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @stevesirk