Oh hi! I’m Jiggly. And it’s a Tuesday.
I am currently in pain still after running the Malort 5k on Saturday morning with no real prep or stretching. I’m fine with Malort, it really just tastes like cough syrup, it’s the fact that I’m short and very overweight that made the run painful. I am 24, I should probably get used to actually stretching instead of just heading out and hoping that my calves don’t cramp up on literally the first turn. Maybe next year I’ll provide a full chronicle of the experience, but there’s other things to mention. Like Star Wars Night or the fact that the Fire just won another game. So let’s get into that.
Are We Back?
So, quick Chicago Fire analysis. The question on everyone’s mind is “Are the Fire back?” but I think the real question is “What does ‘back’ mean?” The Fire are normally slightly below mediocre, so three wins out of the past four games certainly sounds like a miracle. And I’m not going to knock it, that’s impressive and it’s going to help in the team’s attempt to remain in the playoff race. But I guess I am going to knock on those wins now.
Look, the main problem is that the way they won just feels like completely separate and isolated incidents. I mentioned this in my very first column that the back-to-back road wins feel like luck. The Portland Timbers were struggling to regain their identity, Sporting Kansas City simply didn’t show up to that game, and Nashville didn’t start two of their best players with one of them out suspended. They also couldn’t finish even when Hany Mukhtar made it onto the pitch.
Speaking of what was happening on the pitch, there’s still so much for the Fire to be concerned about. I know Fabian Herbers (Phineas and Ferbers) has scored a goal in each of the wins, but that’s really just a dude who’s filling his lane on the breakaway and finding an empty net most of the time. The rest of the time, he’s not really adding much to the team other than being a dude who runs around and gets in the right position. It’s totally fine that that’s his game, but that’s not a guy you want as a starter, that’s someone you pop on after the 60th minute to keep things fresh. But instead, after halftime, the Fire have actually taken their foot off the gas in these games, especially when holding these 1-0 leads. In the second half of their three wins, the Fire only took four shots in Portland and against Nashville and just two shots in KC. And while the Timbers seem to have fallen asleep along with the Fire, Nashville, and Sporks both came alive to take 12 shots and 7 shots in their respective second halves. Even without having to take a shot, you can see the sheer pressure that the opposing teams were putting on the Fire through the number of clearances throughout the game. While Portland did have to clear the ball out of their own end fairly often in that game, the Fire took over 30 clearances in each of their three wins. Sporks and Nashville combined for 13 clearances in those two games while the Fire had to clear the ball 69 (nice) times in those games.
Simply put, the Fire have been outshot and look completely unable to even get into the final third. That’s a total of 67 shots against the Fire’s 37. If you wanna win games, you gotta get pucks deep and pucks on net. And that’s not pucks on net. They’re not even getting pucks deep. Per WhoScored.com, the ball has stayed in the Fire’s own third for an average of 37% of the time while the attacking third has only had it for 21% of the time across all three of those wins. You can tell a goal is against the run of play when it is scored by a dude who is stumbling onto it in the middle of the box with no one around him.
What we’re seeing here is that the Fire are keeping the ball in their end and not really making an attempt to get forward. This is part of why many older fans were hesitant to see Frank Klopas back as coach as, despite his past as a striker, he is a very conservative and defensive coach. Some people like that sort of pragmatism, and I can appreciate that attitude of doing what needs to be done to get the dub. But there comes a certain point where you see how that can really bite you in the ass. And I think Klopas has done better recently in paying attention to his attack. The problem is more that he is stuck with many players who do not have the ability to do the specific things that he’d need to make sure he can work both that pragmatic style while running an attack that will be truly effective. We don’t have enough speed, players busting their ass down the field on the counterattack, and when the ball gets down there there’s almost never anyone in the box ready for that cross. And with those quick transitions being an important part of ensuring the team’s attack is working, it is incredibly concerning that our best creative player is a dude with legs that work about as well as mine do after a 5k. That’s why our top goalscorer in this period is the dude who runs around like a pollo sin cabeza. Cause he’s the guy running into the box and getting those chances.
So are we “back”? No. But also, that doesn’t really mean anything. We’re not “back” as in “we’re good now.” We are winning these games in isolated incidents that seem completely separated by the games around it. The Fire are not actually that good. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t more “individual incidents” ahead of them on the schedule. So even if they’re not actually a team that’s working properly, they can still be a team that’s winning.
Live Every Night Like It’s Star Wars Night
I’ll be honest, this whole thing started off as a joke, but the origin of this piece shouldn’t diminish the actual, real things being discussed here. Because after the incredibly stupid debacle of Racing Louisville’s “Combination Juneteenth and Spongebob Night” and the idiotic screaming of bigots complaining about sports teams holding Pride Nights, I decided that I wanted to do something special for Star Wars Night. I made a joke to some of the other writers and knew I would follow through on it. I thought Star Wars Night was some time in late August, which would give me some time to build a bit of rapport with the column, but oops. It’s Wednesday. So here’s my quick piece for Star Wars Night on Trans Rights and the existence of trans athletes.
Why talk about this? Well, at this current moment, Trans Rights are under attack. I don’t wanna make any sort of “political” statements, but Trans Rights aren’t political. They are about the basic human right to exist and feel safe in your own body. There are laws being enacted around the country that would deny gender-affirming care and carve out protections for people who discriminate against trans people and their families. It’s a part of a growing culture that is literally killing trans people, especially children. And if you don’t know how or why, then you should ask around. But more relevant to us, there are also attempts to enact laws barring trans people from sports altogether. So that’s what I’m here to talk about for a bit.
Right from the get, the proposed laws are pretty damn stupid. First of all, any athlete on HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) is going to experience a massive amount of physical changes from the drugs as it is literally supposed to be replacing certain hormones with certain other hormones depending on which way they need to go. It’s why, even without the vocal training that many trans people undergo during their transition, you can actually hear a difference in the person’s voice. HRT changes things on a biological level by either suppressing testosterone for trans women or raising testosterone for trans men. So there are actually a lot of trans athletes who have transitioned that haven’t been accused of cheating because the HRT did its job and suppressed their testosterone. For some, it’s actually caused them to go from a middle of the pack athlete among men to a below average athlete among women after their transition. Everyone’s body is different, but it’s an experience that is incredibly common for those going through HRT.
So, with that in mind, the “advantage” that idiots claim trans women have in sports are wildly exaggerated. The most high profile case of a trans athlete is the swimmer Lia Thomas who, after transitioning with HRT for about two years, became the first trans athlete to win an NCAA championship. I’ve been using a New Yorker article about her struggle as a source for much of these few paragraphs because the losers of that race immediately started saying that she had an advantage because of her testosterone levels, despite the fact that HRT literally dropped her testosterone levels and she’d been doing it for so long. Lia actually saw a significant drop in her times before and after her transition. And the assertion that she’d “shattered records” was also completely false. She did have the best time in the season, but nowhere the level that they were claiming. She’d actually previously finished 6th in a race that season behind four cis women and a trans man that was racing for Yale that hadn’t even gone on HRT yet (Iszac Henig).
In fact, that in itself is another issue in women’s sports surrounding trans people: That trans men are essentially pressured into not receiving gender affirming care if they want to continue playing their sport. I have another athlete I’ll mention later, but guys like Henig or Schuyler Bailar were essentially placed on the women’s teams because of their birth and believed that they couldn’t undergo HRT or else they wouldn’t be able to race anymore. Luckily, both of them were able to eventually transition and spend at least one last season swimming with their men’s teams, with Bailar actually swimming better among men than he ever did before transitioning (thus proving the point that it’s not just HRT, sometimes people just train better when they feel more comfortable and safer in their body). But these dudes had to put their lives on hold so that they could still play the sport that they loved. Not because of anything involving ability, but because of the implicit discrimination against women’s sports.
You see, these trans laws are only really being put in place for women’s sports, which just feels weird to me. It’s like an amalgamation of everything wrong with that entire area. Because women’s sports are constantly ignored and viewed as a joke by many of the same men who are arguing about how we need to “protect the sanctity” of those sports by excluding trans people. Then there’s the laws that exclude cis women who just have naturally high levels of testosterone like Caster Semenya because everyone’s body is different! Again, many of these trans women in women’s sports aren’t actually “dominating” like some people portray them to be. Many suck, which is fine because there’s a lot of athletes who suck. That’s like, 95% of athletes because the 5% are the ones who are actually professionals. And a lot of the conversation around trans athletes feels weirdly like an erasure of trans men, who also exist in sports and are forced off into a corner mostly because they’re just not accepted by men’s sports. But their experiences are still important to talk about.
So, in an effort to teach all of youse about some cool trans athletes, I’ve got a few I wanna mention here real quick.
First up is Kumi Yokoyama, the Japanese striker who played in the NWSL for a couple of years. He played his best soccer back with AC Nagano Parceiro, scoring 93 goals in 83 total appearances for them, but he did a stint in Germany with Frankfurt before he ended up on the Washington Spirit. Unfortunately, injuries and a big scary plague kept him from ever making an impact on the pitch there or with Gotham. But what that time outside of Japan did help him with was exposing him to the fact that people are actually much more accepting of LGBTQ+ identities outside of Japan. So, in a 2021 interview with Chicago Red Stars legend Yuki Nagasato (who deserves her own deep dive article) Yokoyama came out as trans. I just want to mention as a final sidenote in this story that the Japanese language doesn’t have third person pronouns, only first person pronouns. So it took a while for everyone to figure out what pronouns he wanted to have used in English. A trans man says “boku”, a masculine personal pronoun, and no one bats an eye; but the moment a trans man asks someone to use “he/him”, everyone forgets basic English that they learned in pre-K.
Next is Quinn. Just Quinn. They’re the first openly non-binary athlete to compete for, medal in, and win gold in the Olympics as a part of the Canadian Women’s National Team. I’ll be honest, I’m not a big fan of theirs, but for soccer reasons. They’re one of those central midfield 6/8s that are just hard to really ever get a read for and unless they play for the Fire or the Red Stars, my goopy goblin gamer brain is not gonna have the attention span to try to find the intricacies of their game. But, while I don’t really respect their game, I do have to respect them for the way they handled the sheer amount of people misgendering and deadnaming them throughout the Olympics after coming out in 2020. But I guess I’m also impressed that they were the first Canadian to play for Duke. If you didn’t know, Duke has a very solid women’s soccer team and Quinn was a part of the generation that actually started to bring them back towards the top.
Finally is Harrison Browne. He’s not a soccer player, but he was actually the first trans athlete I ever heard of. I remember I was just trying to get into women’s hockey and the NWHL back in 2016 and that was about when he had come out publicly as a trans man. His emergence essentially set the stage for a lot of the women’s leagues to start implementing trans policies before it became a hot button issue. Browne was already out to coaches and teammates back in college playing for the University of Maine, but he didn’t want to take HRT because he wanted to keep playing. The very next season, he decided that he’d retire in order to go on HRT, winning the Isobel Cup with the Buffalo Beauts just before that happened and becoming the first openly trans athlete to win a championship for team sports. But then, only a few months later, he decided he wanted to do it again, so he held off on HRT some more and came back to play for the Metropolitan Riveters and win another Isobel Cup. To be honest, looking at his stats as a center, he seemed a bit pedestrian. The most numbers he put up were penalty minutes, which I guess it’s lucky that I’m rating him because I love me some PIMs, so stick taps for you, buddy. It was his efforts and mere existence that actually got the NWHL to change its name into the much more inclusive “Premier Hockey League” shortly before the league was absorbed into whatever the hell is going on in women’s hockey right now. I just hope Chicago gets a team.
Now, after all of that, why should you have been reading all of that? It’s not even Pride Month anymore, it’s July. Well, trans people and the rest of the LGBTQ+ community exist year-round, not just during Pride Month. And the problems they face don’t just disappear between July and May. As so brilliantly pointed out by my friend Meredith as they were explaining their Trans Rights banner back in May, we should be supporting our LGBTQ+ friends whenever they need help. We need to make our communities safer and more welcoming for LGBTQ+ people. Especially trans people, after hearing stories about those who simply don’t come to games anymore because of abuse that they received. I know so many trans sports fans who are only able to exist as themselves online and forced to hide their identity in real life because of the abuse they’ve received.
But that can change right here and right now. I want to send a message to any trans fan that feels like they can’t come to a Chicago Fire game that there are people out in the parking lot tailgates and in the supporters’ section that want to help ensure that this is a more welcoming and inclusive environment for you. People like Mere or Terry, the leader of the new incarnation of the Barn Burners, want to make Section 8 a place where people can feel safe as they support the team (because the team already makes our lives hard enough as it is, we don’t need transphobes making it worse). Terry told me “Barn Burners 1871 members stand behind the ideals of Anti-Racism, Anti-Homophobia, Anti-Transphobia, Anti-Sexism, and Anti-Religious Persecution of any kind. We do not tolerate it and we will not be silent.” Just know that we’ve made plans to start putting up a trans flag in the tailgate along with our Fire flags as soon as we remember to actually get one (damn shopping list keeps getting lost). And if anyone has a problem with it, I assure you it will be well protected.
As his own joke, MIR97’s own Tim Hotze has been telling everyone for the past week “Live every night like it’s Star Wars Night.” I know he stole it from somewhere, but I have genuinely no clue where. But it’s a bit poignant don’t you think? Because even though it’s an absurd, almost anti-capitalist joke about an incredibly stupid theme night, it reminds you that a “theme night” isn’t about one night. Pride isn’t one night. Pride isn’t a month. It’s every day that we should be celebrating and fighting for the rights of trans people who only ask to exist and be allowed to live.
Miggy’s Concussion Protocol. Did any of youse notice that moment in the Nashville game where Miguel Ángel Navarro got absolutely drilled in the face, was down for at least a minute and a half, and then was just allowed to continue playing? And then about five minutes later, they just stopped play to finally evaluate him for concussion? What was up with that? MLS refs continue to struggle.
Free Parking. Okay, not actually, but the Chicago Fire did announce free parking for Season Ticket Holders for next season, which is a massive improvement over the outrageous cost that fans had been saddled with since the return to Soldier Field. Hopefully this is the start of a turnaround in the club’s approach to supporters and STHs.
Oh, Canada. I was cheering for Canada in the Gold Cup quarterfinal. I’m just happy Dayne St. Clair with Milan Borjan injured. He’s the better goalkeeper by a mile, and he showed that, despite the loss. I guess I’m on to cheering for Jamaica, the only country that brought an A-team. (Editor’s Note: MIR97 does not endorse this message!)
Two’s a Streak. The Chicago Red Stars are now on their own winning streak with a 1-0 win over the Houston Dash thanks to a Penelope Hocking goal. Hocking had been out for six weeks with an injury and scored on literally her first touch. That’s nice.
Kaputt. Despite coming back from a 2-0 deficit in injury time, Germany lost to Zambia in a World Cup tune-up match to a goal from Barbra Banda (her second of the game). Overall, both the men and the women have been pretty concerning recently, imo. Something is going horribly wrong with the entire DFB at this point and I seriously doubt their chances going into the tournament.
Hard Day’s Rut. I use a Rutles song in my game prediction for the Montreal game this week. If you’ve never seen The Rutles, you should. Amazing and fun mockumentary about a Beatles-like band made by Eric Idle with the blessing of George Harrison. My mom is an Everton fan because of it.
I love you.
And I’ll see you next week.