To put a trickle of smile on the face of Kevin Crow and maybe sponge up some of his seriousness, Brian Quinn, Crow’s Socker teammate and friend, has found a simple solution. Crack open a Guinness Stout for him.
“It loosens him up,” said Quinn, a midfielder from Belfast, Northern Ireland.
It was Quinn who introduced Crow, a native of Pleasanton, to the finer points of Irish beer drinking while on a team trip to Toronto. He took him out to the pub, and a few hours later, about six pints had gone by the wayside.
“For Americans,” Quinn said, “that’s unheard of. It’s a lot for him. The Irish guys were just warming up.”
Crow, a defender in his sixth indoor season with the Sockers, has a reputation as a fairly serious, hard-working guy; ever concerned with improving and expanding his soccer skills; long on desire, short on chuckles.
“He has always come across as a bit dure,” Socker Coach Ron Newman said. “He’s very serious sometimes.”
Crow, 27, doesn’t giggle and smirk his way through practices. He won’t be the guy waving the towel to the rocking beat of “Danger Zone” to rile the crowd late in the fourth quarter of a close game. Never once has he jumped up on the glass to celebrate a goal, a common practice in the Major Indoor Soccer League.
The wildest thing he might have ever done dates back to his days at San Diego State when, according to his former coach, George Logan, he attended a party dressed as a cheerleader. Complete with pompons. Uncharacteristic, to say the least.
“It shocked me,” Logan said.
But Crow’s success in soccer has never really shocked anyone, least of all his former coaches. Logan knew right away he had found a gem. Newman calls him a diamond in the rough.
Crow used to stay late after practice at SDSU and do drills by himself. He was always looking for extra work.
As a senior during the 1982-83 season, Chuck Clegg’s first as the Aztec coach, Crow was the team’s captain and a quiet leader. Very quiet.
“He didn’t say much,” Clegg said, “but he was always to the point. He had a burning desire to succeed. Kevin’s success is directly attributed to Kevin and no one else.”
Not to say there haven’t a few snags in and around the success. With the Sockers, there have been plenty of ups and downs. Six indoor championships and a good deal of unrest tucked in between.
Crow became a starter right away on the outdoor team after being drafted in the second round in February 1983. It took longer for him to crack into the starting lineup on the indoor team, but Crow--despite competing against veterans who had helped the team to two championships--eventually was given his chance midway through the first season.
During the course of the next three seasons, however, Crow became increasingly disenchanted with Socker management. His relationship with Newman was sometimes about as smooth as that of the Capulets and the Montagues.
Crow didn’t agree with some of Newman’s coaching philosophies. Little things, such as his desire to pass the ball back to the goalie for defensive purposes when Newman prefered to push it forward.
And finally, Crow vented his frustrations publicly.
In December of 1987 he said: “The bottom line is I don’t want to play for Ron Newman anymore. We don’t see eye to eye. I’m not happy playing soccer here in San Diego. It’s best that I go. I want to leave now.”
Soccer with the Sockers had become a chore, not fun. Crow said he felt certain players were allowed to do what they wanted to do. The environment wasn’t right, and it didn’t appear to be getting any better.
Crow said the management at the time wasn’t receptive to input from the players. The doors were closed.
Also, Crow said, players were told not to worry about statistics as long as they were contributing to the team’s success. But come contract time, Crow said, they would go to negotiate and be told “you don’t have the stats.”
So problems arose, and the only way to get points across seemed to be through the media.
“When communication gets shut off--whether it’s between you and your wife or you and your best friend--that’s when problems develop,” Crow said. "(The former management) didn’t understand that (the media) was our only outlet. It’s not the right way. It’s not the best way. But it was the only way.” So it went. But shortly after current management took over late in 1987 and began to settle in, Crow said, things improved. The doors of communication were opened. Consequently, Crow decided to stick around.
“Right now there’s no need to go to (the media) to complain,” Crow said. “You’re not going to see a lot of bickering in the press.”
Crow appears at peace now with his career and life. He and his wife, Brenda, have an 8-month-old daughter, Kendalle, who keeps them up at night sometimes. But he says it’s a lot better staying up with your child than staying up to watch the late show.
“I have no complaints,” Crow said. “The family is going great. Soccer is going great.”
Soccer may have never been better. Crow is still the fine defensive player he was last season, when he led the team in blocked shots for the fourth season in a row and was chosen MISL defensive player of the year for the second time. But he has added a new dimension. Scoring.
He now can be found slipping up from his defender position more often and sending a scorching shot at the opponent’s goal. Crow is tied for third on the team, at 30 points, with veteran forward Steve Zungul. Crow has 17 goals and 13 assists.
A few other achievements:
--In February against Tacoma, he became only the third player in indoor soccer history to record 500 career blocks.
--He has been a MISL All-Star five consecutive seasons.
--He has 83 blocks this year, fourth best in the league.
--He is the only Socker to start all 36 games this year and is first on the all-time team list with 259 game appearances.
Despite the individual accomplishments, those who know Crow well will tell you that it doesn’t really matter to him where he ranks on the statistics sheet or in the record book. In fact, they say, he has never cared much about being recognized for his achievements.
Quinn would tell you Crow has done volunteer work for St. Vincent de Paul for six years. Crow doesn’t mention it.
Clegg would tell you Crow donates his spare time to coach at San Diego State even if the Sockers are doing two-a-day workouts at the time. Crow won’t.
Mike Geib, Crow’s coach at Amador Valley High School in Pleasanton, would tell you about the time fans came to see Crow break the school’s scoring record in the last game of the season. Crow was awarded a penalty kick after an opposing player tripped him. He let another player take the shot. His teammate scored. Crow doesn’t bring that up either.
He has his own perspective on individual statistics.
“You might score three goals,” he said, “but you might be the cause of two on your end, which never gets on the stat sheet.”
A lot of what Crow does never gets on the stat sheet. He always finishes first on the team’s beach runs. He is also first when the team practices sprints. He usually is one of the last to leave the practice carpet at the Sports Arena.
Newman recalls a game with Wichita earlier this season when most of the players were dragging, fatigued from a few too many days on the road. But Crow was up and down the field. Everywhere. In the thick of the action.
“Kevin was just unbelievable,” Newman said. “He seemed to take on the world. It was just a one-man show.”
Perhaps Crow’s extraordinary energy has been one of the sources of his past problems with Newman. Crow marches at a little different pace than most everyone else.
“I think sometimes he got frustrated because he wanted more strict discipline,” Newman said. “If I forced everybody to train like Kevin, I’d burn them right out.”
Crow comes from an athletic background. His father, Wayne, played professional football for the Buffalo Bills and the Oakland Raiders and his uncle, Lindon Crow, played for the New York Giants and Rams.
Kevin played some football in high school but found it didn’t hold his interest like soccer.
“The macho (attitude) sort of turned me off about a lot of sports when I was younger,” Crow said. "(In soccer) everybody gets to be the quarterback. Everybody has to share in the hard work. The players make the decisions.”
Crow says his decisions on the field have improved during his professional career. His vision is better. He sees the whole field. He also sees into the future. Soccer, he knows, won’t pay his bills forever. So he has made plans to go into his own business when he’s finished playing.
“I never wanted to play the sport because I couldn’t afford to walk away from it,” he said. “I feel that’s wrong.”
Newman says Crow is more mature than when he first joined the team. That, says Quinn, is debatable, simply because Crow was never immature.
“He hasn’t matured one inch,” said Quinn, smiling. “He never gave the impression that he was immature. He has always looked like he was 45 years old.”
Just never played like it.