There’s a pretty easy way to tell if you’re “Fire til I die”, as the song goes: you find yourself spending large chunks of each summer traveling around the country to follow the Fire wherever they go. There’s nothing quite like the fan experience of walking into another MLS stadium with a few hundred fellow Fire fans, defiantly supporting your team and your city in a foreign town, everyone else in the stadium cheering for the other side.
Before the game, you see the Fire players warming up on the field, and you notice a few of them glance up, and spot the gaggle of Fire fans cheering them on: you hope it gives them a little more buzz for the game, a little feeling of solidarity for the club, knowing they know you’re there too. Judging from the way the Fire players always take the time to acknowledge the fans after the game at each road trip, it’s certainly something they notice and appreciate. And somehow, we always seem to end up at the same bar post-game with the players.
Besides the main purpose of supporting the team, road travel is also a blast, and a great excuse to see the country (even the crappy Ohio-based parts of it). In the past four years, I’ve been to New York (well, the sinkhole that is New Jersey), Oakland, Columbus, Peoria, Toronto, Kansas City and Denver to support the Fire – by bus, by car, by plane (I need to come up with some more inventive modes of transportation). That’s not even a very impressive list compared to some of my fellow Fire fans: the legendary Andy Braudy, with his 100 road trips for the Fire (yes, really), for example. Fortunately, the cheap buses Section 8 Chicago provides for all fans to travel on means it doesn’t break the bank.
It’s on those trips that I’ve truly bonded with folks who have become friends for life. Bus rides for ten hours tend to mean you get to know people. Section 8 bus trips aren’t what you might think: yes, there is beer on board, yes, there’s the odd song for the Fire sung. But there are also families, movies to watch, and just some awesome camaraderie. Fire fans are family: we look out for each other, we laugh at each other, we have fun with each other. When you travel to a foreign country and all meet up at a bar in Canada and make it a Fire bar away from home each year (as the grimy Duke of Gloucester has become in Toronto), you know you can travel anywhere the Fire play and be around instant new friends from your city.
On September 11th, the Fire play in Philadelphia for the first time. We Fire fans have a great reputation for welcoming new MLS teams or stadiums in numbers and making sure it feels a little less like home for the home team and a little more like home for the Fire: Seattle last year, New York this year, and now we need to get to Philadelphia in numbers. Section 8 Chicago is running a bus from Chicago to the game at PPL Park in Philadelphia for a cheap price: we still have some seats available, and everyone is welcome to come onboard. And the Fire are putting on a bus from the Liberty Bell to PPL Park for fans flying or driving in themselves, just to make it all that bit easier (we also have match tickets on our store so you can sit with fellow Fire fans there). I hope some of you can make it out to Philly, maybe on your first road trip, and see what I mean about how these trips ensure you’re Fire til you die.