The mastermind

Joel Biden, the man behind the Super Tifo

The Super Mario Brother’s themed tifo display carried out by
Section 8 Chicago before Saturday night’s match against the Seattle Sounders
has become pretty popular. Featured as one of the “Editor’s Picks” on’s front page yesterday, the video has gone viral, being reposted on
a gaggle of American soccer blogs and making appearances on European
supporter’s sites.

Locally, the Chicago Fire proclaimed Monday on their Facebook
page that it was “The best tifo display ever”.

Meet Joel Biden, the tifo’s mastermind who explained to me
Monday how his idea blossomed into Saturday’s successful effort so many have
seen the past few days.

“I’d been thinking that we should do an animated tifo,” said
the Waukegan resident. “I tried to figure out what type of display we could do
that would move and where in the season we could use it. I knew Seattle was
coming up so you had some built-in themes there: X-box, their colors -- it just
struck me -- their stupid rave green kits look like those turtles [in The Super
Mario Brother’s]. You could have Mario kill one of those turtles, but if he
kills him with Fire – that’s more awesome. That’s how it was born.”

Biden’s idea was without initial support, but with a little
physical labor, he slowly got the Independent Supporter’s Association behind
the display.

“I shopped the idea around a little bit when we were talking
about other displays but no one was really running with it. I just figured I was
going to lead by example and make it happen myself so I went out and bought the
materials and went at it. I did most of the work late at night during the week,
but when I sent the photos around to some of the guys, it really lit a fire
under the rest of the section.”

From there Section 8ers stepped up and bought more table
rolls, donated tape, and started with the ideas. Volunteers popped up, offering
to hold corners, run banners and do the things that needed to be done in order
to make an animated display work.

“It was just that spark. The ‘hey, let’s do this,’ that just
snowballed from there.”

Though a near flawless display, part of it almost didn’t occur
as Mother Nature played a major hazard in the creation of a certain vital

“The wind was a factor throughout the whole thing. We didn’t
have a decent indoor space to work in so I did most of the spray painting
outside in my driveway – fighting the elements the whole time. The first “Old
School” banner I made that was supposed to go across the top in the Nintendo
font got completely ruined by the wind and I had to re-do it. It was finished
probably 20 minutes before I left for the game – really down to the wire. The
whole episode for me was just panic-filled, lack of time, lots of pressure, but
it got done.”

As the impressive display was unfurled, those around me in
the Toyota Park press box looked bewildered, though as Mario and the enemy
turtle rose in front of the Chicago skyline, it became apparent what was about
to occur.  

There to take in a soccer match, fans across Toyota Park
were treated to an animated display akin to a coming of age band serving as the
opening act for a group that inspired their work.

Though Saturday night’s on-field result was forgettable,
those that took the stage first left a nice impression. While Saturday’s tifo
stands as the most elaborate display the group has carried out, it’s certainly
just a piece of what the ISA has done over the years.

“Chicago’s been at the forefront of these things for six or
seven years now,” said Biden. “I think we’ve been at the forefront of just
about every aspect of supporter culture in the United States, this is just us
keeping in line with that.”

Just this year, Section 8 launched a “Tifo Crew”, which
plans and carries out the design and actual operation of putting out their
displays pre-game. For Saturday night’s display, Biden estimated that it took
nearly 25-30 people to pull off the elaborate effort, from people holding the
background to the animated elements of Mario, the fireball and his evil

“I was impressed that we pulled it all off. There were a lot
of hands that had to know what they were doing, where things were going and
everyone really impressed me. As for the video, seeing it go viral all over has
been great – I’m proud to see the attention it’s received worldwide.”

Want to spitball future Section 8 tifo displays?  Join the ISA at The Pitch Wednesday
night at 7pm as they discuss and plan for more tifo possibilities.

Jeff Crandall is the Team
Writer for the Chicago Fire. Follow him on Twitter