MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Watching Carl Craig direct his players during training is simply a treat.
A chorus of verbiage, often laced with profanity, always coated in the heavy accent of Newcastle, England where he grew up.
This might be his first season as head coach – Minnesota United promoted the longtime Loons assistant to the job when Manny Lagos moved into the front office — but Craig exhibits all the confidence of a rock star.
There’s no one quite like Carl Craig: The most interesting man in Minnesota sports.
“I’m gonna do it my way,” Craig said.
It’s the only way he’s ever done things. And oh, the things he’s done.
“I like newness,” Craig said. “I like to explore. In that sense, a bit of a free spirit.”
He once ran a vegan co-op, and tried to open a restaurant.
He studies meditation, and hypnotizes his players.
“Look in me eyes and I’ll tell ye a little bit more,” Craig said with a laugh.
And he has a tattoo of a smiley face on his knee cap.
That he drew himself.
When he was 11.
“That’s who I am, that’s who I wanna be, that’s how I wanna project me self,” Craig said. “That’s me. Happy-go-lucky bloke for the most part.”
A happy-go-lucky bloke who, in the 80s, was the bass player in an anarchist punk rock band. Actually two of them – first The Abductors, then one called Reality Control.
“Different world where I’m from compared to you,” Craig said with a big laugh. “Aye.”
How would he describe the music that his bands played?
“Basic,” Craig said. “It wasn’t about the music…. (It) was lads and lasses with a political message, no money, mass unemployment in Britain, teenage angst. One chord, two chords, putting out the message. I think we learned to be angry. I don’t think I was angry at first, I think it was that’s what you were supposed to do.
“It’s easy, right? Just bang away, (the guitarist) is playing his one chord up and doing, and I’m banging away. The drummer was the only one really who could play. It didn’t matter. Made a noise.”
Made a noise?
“Aye. Made a noise. Played shows, people came, jumped around, drunk beer, had a good time,” Craig said.
They toured with Chumbawumba. But the bassist for Chumbawumba isn’t the head coach of a professional soccer team.
Being in a punk band in the 80s, you’d think he must have some pretty good stories.
“Drank too much beer,” Craig said, taking in a long, deep breath before bursting into laughter again. “I cannot remember any of them.”
A likely story. But the video evidence is preserved on YouTube, which gave his players quite a kick when they found it.
“I think as they get to know us it’s not a surprise,” Craig said. “Just a different color suit and a different hair. Quite a few more pounds on as you like, but, nah, I’m the same bloke.”
With the same level of passion. Just now with a different outlet.
“Met some lovely people through music,” Craig said. “Still in touch with them. But football is where it’s at for me (now).”
He just turned 50 in October. But he still marches to the beat of his own, well, bass guitar, in this case.
And that’s the way he’ll run his soccer team too.
“I’m just being me. I’m not fulfilling the stereotype,” Craig said. “I’ll do this my way. And that’s – could be a song title there somewhere. But what else can I do? I cannot be anyone else but me.”