Oh hi! I’m Jiggly. And it’s a Tuesday.
Last week, I promised a much happier and more positive column. So this week, I’m gonna give you the pick-me-up that we’ll all need going into what is likely the Chicago Fire’s final game of the season. Because even if it is the last game and even if there have been all these problems surrounding the club this entire season (and longer), we gotta end the night on a win. Even if that win doesn’t come on the pitch, let’s find a place where the club is winning.
Few Good Things
Going into the game against Inter Miami, I had so much spite in my heart. I took issue with so many things surrounding the game, including the parking situation, the steep hike in ticket prices, the overall bending of the knee to Messi, and most of all, the halftime show. I enjoy the Super Bowl halftime show in concept. While performances have certainly been up and down as of late, it works as a major spectacle that celebrates two teams reaching the mountaintop of the season. As for this halftime show, it felt like just something to slap onto a massive circus that was developing for a game between two teams struggling to make the playoffs. And I just didn’t like their choice. I’d never even heard of Lil Durk, and it turns out I had seen his name before, but I never cared. I was annoyed, drank a lot, and didn’t even pay attention to the halftime show. But that’s a different story.
It’s just that my disappointment in Lil Durk as “the best Chicago can offer” got me thinking about a Chicago rapper that I really enjoy and actually still listen to. He just so happened to have been a rapper that I discovered through the Fire. Back in 2021, in a whole week for the Fire’s 24th anniversary and the launch of the new badge replacing the “Fire Crown”, the culmination of the week was a performance at the legendary Metro. I mostly wanted to go to support DJ Step, the club’s official DJ and a solid guy that I’ve had the opportunity to hang out with on many occasions throughout his time around Chicago soccer. The headliner, though, was a guy that I literally only knew through a Chance the Rapper collab and that he had an NPR Tiny Desk. I trust the judgment of NPR Music (they once put Step on a list of up-and-coming DJs), so my dad and I stuck around to see Saba perform.
I’ll get back to him later.
Right now, we’re talking about the Fire, and I should probably explain what it was about “The Messi Game” that got me to turn around my opinion on it. While all of the issues that I was worried about did sort of happen, with parking being weird and a lot of fans simply there to complain about a lack of Messi, it still did a lot of what those criticizing my takes said would happen. I think that there was definitely a sudden acknowledgment that the Fire still existed in the city, and while I’m not sure how much of that momentum can be sustained after just one more game and then a whole offseason afterward, that ticket discount might come in clutch. With a large number of Chicagoans realizing that they could go to another game next season for next to free, we might see some more sustained attendance over the course of the season. Or, maybe they’ll try to use it on Messi again, but it still means that there’s a greater chance for retention than if the Fire didn’t do anything. All things considered, the Fire handled it as best they could after a stumble early on in the control of the flow of tickets for the Miami game. The raising of prices helped to stem the tide of secondary market ticket scalpers from undercutting normal people to getting the fairest price for a ticket, and there were still guarantees and reserved tickets for Season Ticket Holders and supporters to purchase for their normal amounts.
But that’s nerd stuff. That’s marketing, and there’s a reason why I took a single marketing class and decided to go into screenwriting instead. No matter how much I learn and understand about that stuff, I always feel icky. But what doesn’t make me feel as icky anymore is Xherdan Shaqiri’s work on the pitch. Because in that game, he finally showed up. For the first time in all the time he’s spent in Chicago, he seemed like he was finally taking what everyone’s been saying about him personally. I know this sounds incredibly unscientific, but whenever there was a close-up of him that night, there was something different in his eyes. And for someone who’s been trashed over the past season or so for his lack of movement, he dominated that second half. He was exactly where he needed to be every time, not only to score two goals but facilitate the other two. I’d praise Maren Haile-Selassie as well, but I’m not sure if he’s back next season. And that’s really my point here, that I think that Shaqiri finally woke up that night. Even in that loss against Charlotte, he was consistently pressuring and creating chances (that no one seemed to be able to convert on). And going into next season, that’s something that we can be genuinely optimistic about. He’s not a marquee Designated Player, and he never was supposed to be. It is very hard to rationalize his massive contract other than saying that his salary cap impact is the same as both Lionel Messi and Andrés Cubas because it’s literally the same for every DP, no matter how much the contract is actually worth.
Still, that’s just one thing on the pitch that I think has not only improved but has genuine promise for next season not being as much of a slog as those in the past few years. On top of that, the Fire still have a stupid number of incredibly promising young players. Brian Gutiérrez and Chris Brady were both named to the MLS 22 Under 22 list, and while we can all be rightfully annoyed with how low they were both rated, the fact that the Fire are the only team with two players on the list is incredibly important to note. Honestly, both of them are ready for a move to something bigger. But the thing is, the rumor mill has been SILENT. Maybe the players themselves wanna set themselves up better than being sent out on some Premier League team’s loan army to get bombed out every night in Belgium, maybe the Fire simply don’t have enough clout to get real attention from overseas teams, or maybe we’re just really lucky and nobody’s noticed. Either way, it looks like we’ll likely be getting at least another season from these guys, who have shown just how important they are to our team as being really the only two consistent shining lights (give or take a game or two). Combine that with Fire II standouts like Harold Osorio and Omari Glasgow possibly getting chances to move up into the first-team squad and continued youth national team attention for Javi Casas and Sergio Oregel, there’s just so much youth at this team that we can trust to step up and at least do as well as a guy who played this season. And that’s not even considering the possibility of the return of a more mature and developed Djordje Mihailovic in the offseason.
Back to the Saba concert: I don’t think I truly appreciated what I saw that night. I wasn’t a fan of his music at the time, I hadn’t really tried to listen to him beforehand, and he actually performed a few songs from a yet-to-be-announced album. He honestly told the crowd not to tell anyone, and he only formally announced it a month later. And while I uncomfortably stood in the corner that night with my dad, I would go on to actually listen to his music and find a lot of things I loved in it. I’m someone who appreciates “sing-rap” more than “drill” as a Chicago musical export. The mix of soul, jazz, and R&B is just something that I love hearing and, much like someone who gets a bit pretentious about what the true definition of “Chicago Pizza” is, it’s the sound that I most associate with the term “Chicago Rap.” It’s also the depth in the lyrics that make this subgenre of rap because those words are pushed further into the forefront by the overall production. In what is so far his most well-received album, CARE FOR ME, Saba tackles his struggles with depression and anxiety in the fallout surrounding his cousin and best friend’s death. But for his next project, the one that he teased at that concert, he had a different focus: “Few Good Things.” While I’ll admit that this one didn’t hit quite as hard, it felt good to see someone who went to such a dark place before actively searching for and finding joy. As Saba himself explained in a press release for the accompanying short film, “… a few good things is recognizing and accepting blessings.”
Over the past couple of weeks, I just kept listening to the second track of “Few Good Things.” The way everything floats on top of the bassline as Saba talks about how even if there are some problems that still need to be dealt with, there are still enough good things in his life that he doesn’t need to stress too much about the other bits. Not because he wants to ignore those problems but because he actually wants to enjoy his joy. There are things that need fixing, and there are ways to fix them, but “There’s a million ways to get by. Never one way.”
It’s Not Over. I was really cheering for the Chicago Red Stars to end Megan Rapinoe’s career this weekend. Not out of the same malice I had for Carli Lloyd when they actually did it in 2021, but because I thought it’d be cool to actually bookend her career starting and ending in Bridgeview.
All Routes Lead to Doum(bia). I just found out recently that Ousmane Doumbia likes anime. This is a developing situation that I will be thoroughly reporting on in the future. There’s a very low chance that this reference would be something he knows, but I am holding out hope.
Taste The Rainbow. I saw Bottoms recently. It’s a campy queer teen comedy that, while heavy-handed at times, was still a really good time. Hazel is such a well-crafted character. It also had an unexpectedly fantastic performance from Marshawn Lynch and if you haven’t heard his reasons behind taking the role, please check it out.
She Eats Rocks. I’ve been playing a lot of Stardew Valley recently. This has led to me having to explain the game to some people who’ve never played it. Just know two things: Abigail is my wife. And she eats rocks. No, I will not explain any further.
I love you.
And I’ll see you next week.