2018 was an emotionally taxing year for Columbus Crew fans, and that includes former Crew striker Tommy Heinemann, who was going through a soccer-as-business ordeal of his own. After signing with FC Cincinnati for the 2018 season, the club unilaterally decided to void his contract based on concerns about the condition of his knee, which Heinemann said was pain-free and had been declared medically stable. What followed was a year-long battle over his contract. In the end, Heinemann prevailed on the merits as an arbiter ruled that FC Cincinnati was not right to void the deal and had to honor the agreement. After a long battle against the powers that be, Heinemann was vindicated about what was rightfully and deservedly his.
Sounds kind of familiar.
I recently caught up with Heinemann, who spent the 2011 and 2012 seasons in Columbus. For part of our chat, talked about the saving of the Crew. Here’s what he had to say…
On his thoughts during the 15-month relocation saga:
My thoughts on my time in Columbus are incredibly fond. Not just the city we lived in and the club that we played for, but in particular, the people there and the relationships we built. A lot of tradition and a lot of nostalgia will always remain with that club because of its history and what it’s accomplished. To think back on being part of that for a moment in time, it’s a fond memory.
I first spoke with someone with #SaveTheCrew in late 2017 when all the things started to build a little bit in terms of speculation about the move. I felt sad. To think that this would no longer be a club that would be present for the city of Columbus, it made me sad for the fans and the city of Columbus, not to mention what it would mean for me and all of the other players who wore that badge and found it so special. Fond is the word that I have when I think about my time in Columbus. I’m extremely proud of the city and the fans that united together to make this happen.
On his reaction when he found out the Crew had been 100% officially saved:
My reaction was a goosebumps type of reaction. When people unite together for a cause that’s bigger than themselves and they accomplish it, it’s special. You liken it to a group that has won a championship. You have a fanbase that is distraught over a situation that they seemingly have no control over, yet they come together to develop a voice, to develop and establish an initiative, establish a culture within the initiative, and then to ultimately prevail. It’s special.
On Dr. Edwards being part of the new ownership group:
I’m exceptionally grateful for Dr. Edwards. He did one of my surgeries. Even going through the process, it was a very serious surgery to my knee, so I thought it would be wise to get other opinions even after I had sought out Dr. Pete’s advice. Call me crazy for even telling Dr. Pete that I thought that, but that’s why I’m telling you this story.
So I dialed up some other doctors and discussed some other things. Then there was a conversation that Dr. Pete and I had at the stadium in one of the rooms outside the locker room. He looked me in the eye and laid it out for me. Then he said, “Tommy, this is what I do.” And I thought, “This is the guy I want.” He’s confident in a good way, has excellent charisma and is very personable, and while he obviously loves the Crew, more importantly, he loves and cares for the people. That’s what I like about him.
It was the microfracture surgery in 2012. I had to miss the whole year for it. It was a situation where I was like, “Why did I ever even feel the need to go talk to other doctors? Dr. Pete is the man I want to do this. He’s not only an expert and is part of our club, but he also has experience with the U.S. National Team as well.”
I feel very grateful to have been under his care. And not just him. He has such an excellent staff and group of people around him that care for Columbus and the Crew and most importantly, the people. When you’re in the business of soccer, it’s important to have people that care about the people. Dr. Pete is a guy who he and his family care immensely about the people and the club. Sometimes that gets lost in pro soccer, but it doesn’t get lost on him.
It’s incredible what the Haslam family and Dr. Pete and his family have done in the city of Columbus. They came together and stepped up to the plate, using the massive momentum of #SaveTheCrew to continue to push forward. It’s incredible to see. It’s incredibly special.
On what he’d say to the fans who fought so hard in the #SaveTheCrew movement that helped keep the team in Columbus:
Well done. That’s the first thing I’d say. And a standing ovation for what they’ve accomplished. I know that for things like this, you don’t just get a bunch of people to say a bunch of things on social media. These initiatives and groups like this are comprised of people that sacrifice endless hours of their time and not getting any compensation for it. They are doing it solely because the Crew is in their heart and it’s a club that they will not see leave the city of Columbus. With that reasoning as a backdrop, well done. I think it’s just incredible.
The second part would be this—keep going. Keep building on this concrete foundation with a passionate following. I have no doubt that they will.
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A MASSIVE SEASON is now available as an ebook.