Round circle with mostly black background words Columbus Crew SC around the edges and in the middle a yellow checkered and striped symbol with a 96 on it

My family moved to Columbus in 1994 so my mom could pursue her doctorate, carried to Ohio in a swarm of uncertainty. I was five. I knew nothing of the city that would come to shape my identity in fundamental ways, and up until I left for college, I still didn’t. Columbus was nothing, not even a place. Just a holding pattern. Ohio is a great place to be from, I was told in California, and this might be true. But it did nothing to inspire civic pride. And neither, really, did the Crew, when it was first showed up, two years later.

At the outset, the Crew did not seem much different than any of the other random leagues that set up shop. The Columbus Quest. The Destroyers. Honestly even the Blue Jackets. Columbus seemed to be a fertile ground for ill-fated ideas, and even though I knew that there was something theoretically significant about Columbus getting the first soccer-specific stadium in the United States, I just knew it as the thing we drove past on Hudson Street.

The MLS grew with Columbus, from also-rans, to things with their own identities, ones that bore possibilities for a new America. And though I never particularly cared for soccer as a viewing sport (so maybe I’m part of the problem), my respect for the global game deepened with each successive World Cup viewing, and I could see what the Crew meant to my friends who grew up playing it, and would stay up until 4 am to watch bootleg streams of Arsenal or Manchester United. The role of the MLS, and of the Crew specifically, in creating a nationwide football program that would allow the US to finally join our friends across the pond or south of the equator became obvious to me, such that I am baffled that the owners and commissioner can’t see it.

The connection between the MLS and millennials is a tad overstated, but it speaks to an underlying truth, which is that this generation is wholly uninterested in the type of American solipsism and counterproductive obstinance that has defined our so-called national identity for most of its existence. Admittedly, it has always felt a little uncouth cheering on team USA in the Olympics, but in soccer it felt a little bit different. There was a refreshing humility in the United States admitting a shortcoming and recognizing it had something to learn from other places. And in it, I could see the inklings of the same thing I saw in the Bernie Sanders campaign, the rise of introspective rock of that mirrored our hollowed-out post-industrial landscapes, of the unexpected rise of pride in Ohio, and the fight for single-payer health care, which is to say the glimmer of America for the first time in its history becoming an actual nation, not just an empire held together through endless expansion, wealth accumulation, retrograde masculinity and brutally enforced racism.

Of course, the old America, and its old vision of sports as extractive profit-making enterprise does not die so easily, especially in this new era of American decline. In fact it will fight even harder. The timing of this announcement right alongside the US failing to qualify for the World Cup (surely the work of Russian hackers I presume) and the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, where Xi Jinping announced in no uncertain terms that China is no longer content to take a back seat in international affairs, is too rich to ignore. This is what we mean when we say capitalism sows the seeds of its own destruction. That the old America is going to attempt to cannibalize the new, not even for a quick buck, but because it doesn’t know how to do anything else. As empires, corporations, and multi-billion dollar sports leagues with nonprofit status rise and fall, above all else it is the people who remain. The masses are the true makers of history. And while it is probably too bold at this point to call for making the Crew a public trust, what the #SaveOurCrew campaign represents is an important power shift in the dynamic of sports in the United States, one where the fans, truly the people, assert their rightful place as the owners. This has not gone unnoticed, as evidenced by the nationwide, and even international support that has poured in. And though Mayor Andrew Ginther and the local bourgeoisie will try to do what they can, we all should recognize that it is we who can shift the landscape and dictate the narrative. Within only a week, the commissioner already backtracked on what was tried to make seem like a done deal. The shamelessness of their actions was predicated on the idea that they could get away with it. Indeed, the only reason anyone has ever done anything terrible is that nobody stopped them.

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