My great friend Pete Dully has said many things that spring into my memory now and then. One of those things is what I heard him call Columbus, Ohio a few years back when he got back home after a long trip overseas. "It's great to be back in The Heart of The Heart of It All," Pete said. I'm sure that my friend Pete is not the only person, nor the first, to ever refer to Columbus, Ohio as "The Heart of The Heart of It All," but he was the first person I remember hearing say it, and it comes to my mind sometimes still, several years later.
"Ohio, The Heart of It All!" has been around for decades. If you lived in Ohio back in the mid-1980s, you remember when the Ohio Division of Travel and Tourism created the slogan. "Ohio, The Heart of It All!" was everywhere. I remember seeing and hearing it on television commercials when I was a kid. It was on signs, T-shirts, sweatshirts, advertisements, road maps, license plates, buttons, stamps, hats, and pretty much anything you could imagine. It caught on and, since I still remember it 30 years later, it must have been a really good ad slogan. I still like it. And if Ohio is the heart of it all, then Columbus is arguably the heart of the heart of it all. Pete Dully has a way with words.
Today is Valentine's Day, and hearts abound. The most famous soccer club to use a heart for a badge is Hearts of Midlothian F.C. of the Scottish Premier League. That club's association with the heart symbol goes back to its origin in the 1870s, but the name goes back centuries. There are no past or present MLS teams with a heart on its crest, and I could find no past or present North American Soccer League team with a heart on its crest, either. It's strange that it is so rare, because the heart is such a ubiquitous and important symbol—both religious and secular, domestically and internationally.
For the Columbus Crew, the heart is more than just a symbol. It's always on our minds. The Crew and its fans support two wonderful heart research funds: the Connor Senn Research and Symposium Fund and the Kirk Urso Memorial Fund. Kirk Urso is an incredibly important figure in the history of the Crew. It did not surprise me to hear some fans say that a mention or symbol of Kirk should be included in the new Crew crest redesign. I won't talk much more about that here. Within only a few weeks, Steve Sirk—the preeminent Columbus Crew journalist and author of A Massive Season—will release his book about Kirk Urso (I am honored that Steve asked me to help with the art and design portions of the book). What I have read of the book is absolutely wonderful, and there is little more that I could write here that would do the life of Kirk Urso justice. I will say that in doing this crest redesign, he is on my mind.
The other part of the design is Ohio. This week, my good friend D.J. Switzer at Wrong Side of the Pond wrote a really good article about the connection that soccer supporters around Ohio have to the Columbus Crew. You should read it. It, too, has been on my mind a lot during this 28 in 28 project. So, Ohio is an important part of this crest. The shape of the badge is a stylized silhouette of Ohio, and the concentric circles are meant to refer to the "O" of the Ohio flag, as well as that good old riddle, "What's hi in the middle and round on both ends?" If you don't know, listen to this song. Even if you do know, listen to that song. It's awesome.
One more thing I kind of feel that I should say, though I've been wondering if I should. A few years ago—the beginning of 2008, to be exact—I got very sick. I'd just graduated from Ohio State, and stupidly cancelled my student health insurance expecting to have a job very soon. In the mean time, I got sick and, as a result, my heart became inflamed. I ended up in the hospital, doctors and nurses rushing around me, doing tens of thousands of dollars worth of tests and injections and all of that stuff that human beings do to keep other human beings alive, because I very nearly wasn't. Eventually, I got better, but it changed me in some profound ways. I learned that the heart is in every crucial way our foundation. Our brain may be who we are, but one's heart is essentially what makes that possible. I consider people more than I did before, because I consider that they, too, have hearts like mine. Strong one moment, fragile to the point of breaking the next. I still don't feel as strong as I did before my heart almost stopped working, but I feel stronger for other people than I did before. Now, to me, it's almost like there's one true heart that we all share.
Maybe it's because I helped Steve Sirk a little with his book about Kirk Urso, but I've been thinking a lot about that lately. I guess I felt the need to say it. I haven't told many people that about me, and certainly not to strangers, until this. Maybe that's kind of what Neil Young meant in his song.
It's these expressions, I never give
That keep me searching for a Heart of Gold...