Crew: Kirk Urso, R.I.P.

  • Dispatch photo by Eamon Queeney
From the August 9, 2012 edition

There is no meme for this. There is no cheeky turn of phrase.

We mostly keep our sports at a distance, where we can consume them as entertainment and dissect them sarcastically. But death is real, and if you follow the Columbus Crew, it just invaded your space.

“You have so many questions,” coach Robert Warzycha said. “Why? When? What happened?”

By now Crew fans have seen reports on the death of 22-year-old rookie Kirk Urso, who lost consciousness at Park Street Patio early Sunday and was pronounced dead an hour later at Grant Hospital. The coroner’s report was inconclusive, so those grappling with Urso’s death must wait for the why as they process the what.

For those in the Crew locker room, it’s going to be a long process.

“We just try to get through it,” Warzycha said Wednesday. “We got back to our normal routine today at practice. There were moments that we were still thinking about it. Probably that’s normal. That’s going to happen for a while. We’re always going to remember the guy.”

On Twitter, Crew players posted heartfelt tributes to Urso, many of them lauding his vibrant locker room presence. With a home match against Toronto FC this Saturday and another against the star-studded L.A. Galaxy looming Wednesday, they’ll no doubt have their teammate on the mind.

The task of navigating that stormy emotional current weighs heavily on Warzycha and his staff.

“All of those guys, we work together every single day. We see each other every single day. So basically, they’re going to look up to somebody to get them through these difficult times,” Warzycha said. “We have to give them some directions, and then together help each other.”

The ripple effects extend outside Columbus. In Chapel Hill, they’re reeling from the loss of the man who captained the Tar Heels to the 2011 NCAA Championship. (“Captain Kirk,” they called him.) UNC alumni joined the digital wake, sharing their admiration for Urso.

In Chicago, the friends and family Urso grew up with can’t quite comprehend the loss of the bright young prospect who was always smiling. The guy seemed to leave an impression wherever he went.

Now he’s gone, and there are no easy answers. There is no next season. You don’t just laugh it off and move on.

But you do move on, and you do laugh again. Just hopefully not as callously as before.