January 24, 2013
WHAT A SHIRT TALE
Petke reveals how his 'Crime of the Century' t-shirt came about in 2000
By Michael Lewis
If he had to wear and show off his "Crime of the Century" T-Shirt, Mike Petke would do it again.
Like it or not, Petke will be most associated with that incident in August, 2000.
That's when he celebrated a goal and revealed a white shirt under his MetroStars uniform that said, "Crime of the Century” on the front and “Revenge is Coming" on the back. That referred to an incident that occurred four days prior when Tampa Bay Mutiny striker Mamadou Diallo rammed into and sent goalkeeper Mike Ammann to the hospital with broken ribs. The MetroStars and fans were upset that not even a foul was called.
Petke, who was earning $30,000 a year at the time, was fined $250 by the league.
He said he would do it again.
"They could have fined me $1,000," he said. "Financially, it would have been worth it."
Petke scored in what turned into a wild 5-4 triumph over the Colorado Rapids.
"It was mind-boggling to me that I scored a goal," he said. "It was meant to be."
He also got support from his teammates.
"For the most part, they understood where I was coming from," Petke said in a telephone interview Thursday morning.
As for the league, that was another matter. He figured they were going to lower the boom on him and extract something from his checking or savings account.
"I knew it wasn't be be tolerated," he said.
For the first time, Petke revealed some of the things behind the scenes.
On Aug. 16, Diallo, who wound up as the league's leading goal-scorer that season, smashed into Ammann.
"I wanted to do something for Mike, who was still in the hospital," Petke said. "I was not going to show my shirt unless I was going to score. . . . I'm glad I did it."
On the day of the Sunday game, he worked with another MetroStar at the time, Billy Walsh, on the exact working. Petke called Walsh "one of the dearly beloved MetroStars in history. People who knew Billy, he liked to put daggers in the back."
Petke remembered something in the news at the time that was called the crime of the century, so he figured he would use that phase.
"I liked the sounds of it,"
Well, the front of the shirt was taken care of. Now it was time to work on the back.
"Revenge is Coming" was decided on.
Looking back, Petke realized he knew that could have been taken out of context. He said never wanted to injure Diallo, who became a MetroStars teammate after a trade with the New England Revolution in May, 2002.
"I meant to say, 'Justice is going to be served.' We would knock them out of the playoffs."
Although Petke admitted that in the days followed the collision he was quite mad at Diallo.
"The days after, I know know what I would have done, I was so angry," he said.
Petke's jersey was auctioned off at his Kick the Violence Foundation, for which a fund-raising dinner was held in January 2001.
(Not surprisingly, the shirt -- now with Petke's autograph and a framed letter from MLS informing him of the fine -- was the most popular item on a table that included a Yankee calendar autographed by Bernie Williams among New York sports memorabilia. I threw in a bid of $125 early on, but it got a bit out of hand for yours truly. Final price? $525 -- and that was after a family, realizing how important the shirt was to the Empire Supporters Club, pulled back their final bid. The shirt could not have gone to a better custodian. The Empire Supporters Club, ironically, used the $250 they collected from members to pay the fine (MLS had said no, that Petke had to fork over the money) and money from several members at the dinner. The shirt and letter was hung on the wall of Nathan's Hale pub in New York City, where the club watched MetroStars' road games).
While he had no second thoughts about the shirt incident, Petke admitted he would love to take back the time he kissed the ball prior to a free kick during a MetroStars' loss to D.C. United during that abysmal and forgettable 1999 season. Referee Michael Kennedy, who still works the middle of games, had called a foul on the MetroStars. He had warned Petke that if the defender kept on complaining about his fouls -- he was marking Jaime Moreno -- that he would red card him.
So, without saying anything, Petke said "he kissed the ball and I handed it to him."
Kennedy then gave Petke his marching orders.
"I thought I was playing well against Jaime Moreno," Petke said. "Every time I breathed on him, he [Kennedy] called a foul. . . . If I could, I'll take that one back."