Founded October 8, 1997, the Chicago Fire Soccer Club is celebrating its 13th anniversary this week, culminating in our game on Friday against the Columbus Crew. As such, we asked some notorious fans to do a little blogging each day here on Chicago-Fire.com in the lead-up to Friday’s Anniversary Match.
First up, Benjamin Kumming. A Chicago Fire supporter since 2001, Benjamin does a little writing about the American Soccer experience for Pitchinvasion.com, writes about some other things in other places and all the while makes really cool banners in the process… Read what his thoughts were below…
No doubt you’ve seen the Chicago Bears’ ubiquitous advertising campaign, “One City, One Team.” It’s a clever manipulation of the cross town baseball rivalry, and also an assertion of the Bears’ spot at the top of the Chicago sports pyramid. The Fire are not at the top, obviously – although they gain ground yearly – but in the end its not the popularity of the team or sport that keeps fans coming back, even in long, dark seasons like this one. In fact, they come in spite of soccer’s lowly status in the United States and the question of why, and how to get more of them, is complicated and largely unsolved.
One thing that does it, for me and I suspect large numbers of others, is that the Fire can give supporters something no other sports team in the city can – a true community. Because MLS is still relatively small, we as supporters are able to have a greater stake in the club. We can be more than just paying customers. We can contribute in some way, and in turn the Fire staff and players are available to the community unlike their counterparts in other sports teams. We are rewarded for our efforts, and we hope the players and staff feel the same way. The Fire have been fortunate to have had leaders who understand this opportunity across the club’s history, and one gets the sense that the idea of community is given more credence now than ever before. It’s all there in the very word, Club, and the emphasis placed on that concept over the past year speaks volumes.
There is a large cultural shift underfoot, as we as Americans – particularly in cities like Chicago – take greater interest in local economies, small business, and community engagement. The reward taken away from these endeavors is the same reward to be had from support of the Fire. It’s a sense of direct participation, a value placed on being involved and contributing. That value goes far, far beyond the simple exchange of a service for money, beyond being entertained for a set fee. It speaks to the value we, as human beings, place on interacting and creating with each other. That is the essence of a sports Club, or at least what it should aspire to be. That we now have an owner who believes that can be a profitable paradigm and has encouraged the development of that community has helped to turn the Chicago Fire Soccer Club into something truly unique in Chicago, in MLS, in the United States.
I’m told that the video of the Super Mario Bros. tifo display has had over 200,000 views on the Internet. It has gone viral, getting attention in Europe and Latin America, as well as among American soccer fans and the larger sports media. And it could not have happened without the supporters who made it and the team staff who encouraged it. Without, in other words, the Club community. Something like that can never happen at Bears games, because the fans are seen as simple customers, just revenue streams. But with the Fire, we want to be more and are, especially recently, treated as more.
It’s why I come back, game after game, and why despite the poor results on the field this season I have more hope for the Fire than I did even last year. I don’t feel like a customer, I feel like a participant. I am a member of the Chicago Fire Soccer Club. It’s “Our City, Our Team.”
All Fire fans are invited to join in the fun at
Section 8 Chicago's Fire Anniversary events this week, including a special pig
and lamb roast tailgate presented by Frank Klopas at Toyota Park before the
Fire-Crew game. For more information, visit www.section8chicago.com.
Tickets for Friday's match against Columbus are still available. Click here to buy now.
Check out Benjamin Kumming’s blog at benjaminemmett.com!