A day like March 1st doesn’t come along very often. With all that has gone on around this country since then, March 1st feels like two decades ago and not just two weeks ago. Since we don’t have any sports to talk about right now, I figured the next best thing to do is take a look back at the “Columbus Sports Trifecta”, which I completed two Sundays ago.
So how did the idea for attempting the Columbus Sports Trifecta come about? The first ticket I acquired was when I had no idea there was even going to be three sporting events in Columbus on one day. After last season, I became a Columbus Blue Jackets quarter-season ticket holder. As part of the ticket package, I got a ticket to the final preseason game for the Blue Jackets against St. Louis, but the game ended up being cancelled due to a plane issue. The Blue Jackets allowed me to choose a regular season game to make up for the cancelled game. Not a bad trade! So in October I chose the March 1st game against Vancouver as my replacement game.
The Columbus Sports Trifecta picked up steam at the end of 2019 when the MLS released their 2020 schedule. It was announced that the Columbus Crew would open their season at home on March 1st at 12:30 pm. With the time in between these two events I knew it would be no problem to attempt both. A few years ago I attended a Crew match and a concert at Value City Arena on the same day in a tighter time frame, so having over four hours in between would be no problem.
As I was thinking about how fun it would be to attend a Crew match and a Blue Jackets game in the same day, then I started to wonder if Ohio State’s men’s basketball team had a home game that day. After checking the schedule, not only were the Buckeyes playing at home, but they were hosting Michigan. What were the odds? Not only were the Buckeyes playing TTUN, but it was pretty much at the perfect time. The game could have easily been a couple hours earlier, but it was scheduled for a 4 pm tip-off.
Acquiring tickets for both games wasn’t too hard. When I first started looking, tickets for the Buckeye game were about $50 for the cheapest ticket, but they came down a little after Ohio State struggled to start 2020. I grabbed a ticket on January 13th via Ticketmaster for about $40 after fees. During that time I had my eye on seats to the Crew match as well, and after monitoring prices I picked up a ticket about a month later to the home opener for about the same price.
As March 1st drew near, I not only was sure to watch the weather, but also make other preparations for the day. About 10 days before, the long-range forecast had the high temperature for the day at about 35 degrees, but the outlook improved as March 1st got closer. I also picked up a portable charger for my phone, knowing I wouldn’t have really have much time to charge up throughout the day.
New York City FC vs. Columbus Crew
Since I only live a couple blocks from MAPFRE Stadium, the first contest of the day was the easiest to get to. After a couple of pregame beverages at home, I made the 10-minute walk to MAPFRE Stadium. The weather was perfect for an outdoor event in Ohio on March 1st. It was about 55 degrees and sunny, which added to the celebration of “Crewsmas”.
I made it to my seat in the front row of the southeast corner of the stadium about 15 minutes before kickoff, in time to see some of the pregame festivities and lineup announcements. My seat was pretty much right around the corner flag, so anyone watching the broadcast probably saw me when any throw-ins or corner kicks were taken from that area.
It didn’t take long for the season to provide some excitement, as NYCFC defender Maxine Chanot was given a red card just three minutes into the match for taking down new Columbus signee Lucas Zelayaran on what the referee deemed an obvious goal-scoring opportunity. This meant the Crew would be up a man for the rest of the game, assuming no Columbus players were sent off.
The Crew weren’t able to score in the first half, but they did put some pressure on NYCFC. After the first 45 minutes the teams switched ends, and Columbus would be attacking near the end I was sitting at. Just over 10 minutes into the second half, Zelayaran notched his first goal as a member of the Crew. At the time it felt like Columbus might have another goal or two in them to secure the result against a NYCFC team that was down to 10 men, but those goals never came. Even though they couldn’t add to the lead, the Crew at least didn’t concede any goals, opening up their 2020 season with a victory.
Pretty much as soon as the final whistle blew I knew I couldn’t waste much time, as there was only about 90 minutes until the Ohio State basketball game started. In the days leading up to March 1st, I knew in planning to get from the Crew match to the Buckeye game that my best bet was to at least start walking away from the stadium and once I got out of the traffic to possibly call a Lyft, or if it was nice out just to keep walking.
As I was walking down 17th Avenue towards Summit, I started thinking that on a day like today, it would only be fitting to stop at campus staple Out-r-Inn for a beverage or two. It proved to be the right call, because as soon as I opened the door a couple friends happened to be sitting at the bar, so at least I’d have some company to head over to the Ohio State game with.
Michigan vs. Ohio State
Of the three contests, the seats for the Ohio State game were by far the worst, but I didn’t really care since my goal was just to be at game. As if watching the excitement of watching the Buckeyes take on Michigan wasn’t enough, an added bonus was a free scarlet “Team 121” shirt that was given to each person in attendance. The crowd was electric before tip-off, which you don’t always see at Ohio State basketball home games.
The game certainly lived up to the hype, with the Wolverines and Buckeyes trading the lead back-and-forth early in the first half. Ohio State was able to build an eight-point lead with about five minutes to go in the first half, but Michigan cut the lead down to 32-29 at the break. The sold-out crowd was into it, knowing their energy could be the difference in the second half.
Ohio State looked like they were going to put some distance on the Wolverines early in the second half, but Michigan had some answers. The score was tied at 52 with just over eight minutes to go when the Buckeyes finally took control of the game for good, reeling off a 25-11 run to end the game. While I would have loved to stay for Carmen Ohio, I started to leave when Kaleb Wesson hit a three-pointer to put Ohio State up 73-60 with about 1:30 left. With only an hour to get from Value City Arena to Nationwide Arena, I knew pretty much every second counted.
My plan after leaving Value City Arena was to walk past Ohio Stadium and the RPAC to Neil Ave to catch a Lyft. At least this way I could get away from the traffic from the basketball game and make getting picked up a little easier. The walk from MAPFRE Stadium to Value City Arena was about 2.5 miles, but at least I could break that up with a stop at Out-r-Inn. Here I had a 1.5 mile walk from Value City Arena to Newton Hall at Neil Avenue and 10th Avenue, where I arranged for a pickup.
Vancouver Canucks vs. Columbus Blue Jackets
Somehow I threaded the needle perfectly, as I was able to get to Nationwide Arena with about 10 minutes to spare before the drop of the puck. Thankfully the Crew and Buckeyes had already won during the day, because had either of them lost I might not had the energy that I did while getting to the Blue Jackets. Being able to make it to all three events was an achievement in itself, but it would have felt like a bit of a failure if the Blue Jackets couldn’t complete the Columbus Sports Trifecta sweep.
The Blue Jackets weren’t exactly in the best shape coming into the game. After being one of the hottest teams in the league in December and January, Columbus had really struggled of late, losing 10 of 11 games. Injuries decimated their roster over the past few months by injuries. Missing from the team for this game were key players like Seth Jones, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Cam Atkinson, and Elvis Merzlikins.
Vancouver didn’t take long to get to work, scoring just a minute into the game to quiet the crowd. The Canucks added to their lead six minutes later before the Blue Jackets were able to respond with a Kevin Stenlund goal to make it 2-1 after the first period. Columbus wasn’t able to carry any momentum over to the second period, as Vancouver scored just over a minute into the period to restore their two-goal lead.
As the game moved onto the third period, it looked like the Blue Jackets were on their way to suffering another loss, which would have dealt a blow to their playoff hopes. It’s never smart to count the Blue Jackets out, though. Riley Nash scored with just under eight minutes to go in the game to cut the deficit to 3-2. Finally a little life was back in the arena.
Nash’s goal not only woke up the crowd, but it also energized the rest of his teammates. Columbus was able to draw a tripping penalty with about six minutes to go to earn a power play, which Zach Werenski cashed in on just a minute later. The goal was Werenski’s 20th goal of the season, which added to his team record of most goals by a defensemen. Not too shabby for a former Wolverine.
Multiple cannon blasts in a matter of minutes had the crowd buzzing. Columbus had already been involved in 22 games that went to overtime this season, and it looked like another was on tap. Thankfully the Blue Jackets had other ideas. Columbus was able to draw another tripping penalty on Vancouver just over a minute after the Werenski goal, putting them back on the power play. Emil Bemstrom cashed in near the end of the power play to give Columbus the lead for the first time in the game, and Gustav Nyquist added an empty net goal with just over 10 seconds to go to secure the victory.
Three games in Columbus in one day, with all three teams earning wins. What a way to celebrate the 217th birthday of the great state of Ohio. The day couldn’t have been scripted any better. The weather was perfect, the crowds were passionate, and the results fell the way of the home teams. Completing the Columbus Sports Trifecta is certainly a day I’ll never forget, and hopefully the stars will align in the near future so we can take another shot at it.