During the summer/fall of 2018, I was working on an assignment for the Columbus Partnership, writing about our collaborative community culture coined, the Columbus Way. One of the elements of the project was to develop a number of stories of when the practice of Columbus Way led to favorable outcomes of significance for the Columbus Region. A natural fit in this library of case studies was the #SaveTheCrew grassroots effort; an attempt to prevent then Crew owner, Anthony Precourt, from moving the team to Austin, Texas.
Like many people in our community, I certainly hoped the team would stay in Columbus. But, I wasn’t vested enough in the team to have paid more than casual attention to what the organizers of the #SaveTheCrew movement were doing to try to save the team. Nor was I particularly optimistic that their efforts would have much of an effect on the outcome.
So, when I sat down with Morgan Hughes for the first time at Seventh Son Brewing Company on Fourth Street―just a stone’s throw from his house―on September 18, 2018, I had no idea what I was in for. I didn’t even know what Morgan looked like, but I saw a guy in a Crew jersey sitting by himself, intently working his phone, and figured he was the guy. I remember thinking that he looked nothing like what I expected. Nor did he act it. Though it was dusk, dark sunglasses hid his eyes, creating even more of a mystique.
“You must be Morgan,” I said.
“Yep,” he returned.
Pleasantries and small talk were quick and pointed. Morgan was all business. He knew why I wanted to talk with him, so my questions proved irrelevant. He had his spiel down. Fuck Precourt. Fuck Garber. The Crew was Morgan’s oxygen, and no one was going to take that away from him.
“But I’ve heard it’s a long shot,” I said.
“Fuck no. We’re saving this team,” he responded.
“But what if you don’t?”
“Not an option.”
As I kept probing and studying him, it was clear that he fiercely believed what he was saying. There was simply no turning back for this guy. Not only him, I learned there was an entire army behind him. I played along, nodding in recognition, but I was skeptical. In fact, I was worried about him. I thought, I have a pretty good ear to the ground in this city. I know the people that really are the ones to make this happen, folks at the Columbus Partnership, the Columbus Foundation, Experience Columbus, the Greater Columbus Sports Commission, the city, and so forth. And I wasn’t hearing a lot of optimism.
I said, “Given what the #SaveTheCrew effort has already accomplished, this is a success story even if the team doesn’t stay in Columbus, isn’t it?”
“Fuck no,” he said. “Failure is not an option. We have one goal: to save the Crew. Anything short of that is failure.”
About the time we started our third beer, darkness had descended upon us and Morgan finally took his sunglasses off. And with that, I saw his steely eyes for the first time. I felt this glare, a sense of determination and fortitude. I remember thinking, Jesus, this must be what it’s like to have had Steve Jobs stare you down. I wanted to say, okay, okay, I believe you.
But again I pushed. “What’s going to happen to you if it doesn’t work?” I asked.
“What do you mean?”
“If you don’t save the team, you’ve given a year of your life to this, I’d be worried about you. How will you cope with that?”
“It’s a non-issue,” he said. “Don’t worry about me. We’re going to save this team.”
The next week I started writing about the #SaveTheCrew movement. Regardless of the outcome, the way they had mobilized the community was a success story. I left the end of the story open knowing that at some point there would be closure one way or another that I would need to include.
Two weeks later, on October 12, I was in a meeting at the Columbus Partnership with Alex Fischer, Steve Lyons, and Irene Alvarez. During the meeting Alex and Steve kept coming and going. And even when they were in the room, they were on their phones texting. At one point when they both left, Irene said to me, “Sorry, but there is something going on with the Crew, and I really can’t tell you any more right now.” I asked, “Is it good news?” She said, “Well, maybe.”
When I got home late that afternoon and turned on the local news, they were broadcasting live from Endeavor Brewing Company in the middle of a celebration. It appeared as though the Crew was indeed saved. Holy shit, I said to myself.
The next time I saw Morgan, I was walking into a Metropolitan Club Luncheon for an event that featured Alex Fischer, and new Crew owners, Dee Haslem and Dr. Pete Edwards. Morgan was walking in front of me.
I yelled out, “Morgan, you did it!”
He turned around and saw me and said, “Fuck yes, we did.”
We agreed to get together for another beer so I could learn more about how everything came together. Again, we met at Seventh Son. I learned more and was more captivated then ever. We met again, and again. Each time, I learned more, and the more I learned, the more I gained appreciation and respect for what this gang did.
At one of our get togethers, I said to Morgan, “You’ve got to write a book about this.”
He said, “A book will be written, that’s for sure. But fuck no. I’d rather drink poison. Why don’t you write it?”
So, with the help of Morgan and 18 other STC members, I did.
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