Oh hi! I’m Jiggly. And it’s a Tuesday.
The Fire have won three games at home, and I have three main topics. After last week’s going a bit long, I want to make these a bit shorter. I appreciate those who liked it and hope it does something to make the Fire community appear more welcoming to those afraid it’s not. There’s only one group that I’m not welcoming to, but I’ll get to that later. First, let’s talk about the Fire.
The Magic If
I’ve taken acting classes and, although none of them were helpful for me, I learned plenty of techniques and methods. One of the more widely used methods is Stanislavski’s System developed by Russian theater kid Konstantin Stansilavski around 1900. The idea is to approach a role not as a separate person to become, but to channel your own personal experiences into the given circumstances of your role. That role becomes a living person because of your own lived experience. The term many people use to describe it is “The Magic If”, because you’re basically asking yourself “What would I do if…”
I will be the first to admit that most of what I do when I approach the Chicago Fire comes from a place of cynicism and pessimism. The cynicism is just a coping mechanism, but the pessimism comes from learned experience, lived experience from being around this club for 24 years. So even when the Fire have won five games out of the past six, I cannot come to terms with that idea based on who I am. But, if I were to apply the “Magic If” and ask myself to remove all that pessimism and look at the Fire’s chances from a bit more of a subjective and optimistic point of view, maybe I could give a different perspective from the one I’ve been providing throughout this amazing run.
First of all, it has been an amazing run. We’ve seen some players given the chance to be heroes despite all the criticism lodged at them. Fabian Herbers, the platonic ideal of a bench mob journeyman, scored three goals in this span and Kacper Przybyłko, a dude who appears to literally be begging to leave, scored a late game-winner this Saturday. That is some fantastic narrative. And while I do have issues with literally every minor detail with the run, this is “happy times” where I’m trying to be optimistic about everything, so I won’t dig into it any further than I already have (even though nothing has changed since last week’s column).
So where do the Fire go from here? Well, they have the Leagues Cup where I think the best possible outcome for the Fire is if they make it out of the group stage and maybe get a dub against a Liga MX side. But after that is the rest of the season, where they honestly have a lot of winnable games. The Fire have shown an ability to actually deal with teams that are dealing with their own issues, which is honestly a lot better than they’ve done in the past. Klopas is managing these games fairly well and he might have even more coming up soon.
There are 11 games left in the MLS season for the Fire and you can split those right down the middle. Five of those games are against fairly solid and competitive teams (Orlando City, Vancouver Whitecaps, DC United, Columbus Crew, New England Revolution). The other five are against teams that look completely lost these days (LA Galaxy, CF Montréal, New York Red Bulls, Charlotte FC, NYCFC). And then there’s the Messi game, which is honestly the biggest toss-up I’ve ever seen. That means that if the Fire can capitalize on all five of those trash teams, almost all on the road, and manage something against the competitive teams, mostly at home, that would put the Fire somewhere around 20-ish points out of 11 games. That’s 52 points on the season, which is definitely enough to make the playoffs.
But I guess that brings about a bigger question, which is what happens to all of the glaring issues that still exist? The Fire still have an interim coach, they need to hire a full-time coach. Do they bring Klopas back again or do they try to move forward? Do we suddenly trust Georg Heitz to continue as GM despite the fact that, even in this best-case scenario, the Fire would be finding success in spite of his roster-building?
This is getting too complicated, and we need to get moving onto the other topics. But it’s something that will definitely haunt every optimistic fan.
There Goes the Neighborhood
So, this is essentially a preview to a much larger article I’m cooking up about Lionel Messi’s arrival in MLS, but I’d like to focus on a small thing that’s been a talking point around the league since he first said he would go to Miami.
There aren’t many people left that remember the old WPS days of the Chicago Red Stars with a young Megan Rapinoe and a completely useless Carli Lloyd, but I do. I also distinctly remember the first time that I realized that women’s soccer crowds and men’s soccer crowds are simply built different. There had been a group of people sitting near the original Red Stars’ supporters’ section for most of the season that my family would also go over and sit next to when the drums would get a bit too loud or I’d just get tired. They were Red Stars fans. Until the LA Sol came to Toyota Park, at which point they showed up with LA Sol kits with the name “Marta” on the back. Turns out, they were really big fans of Marta and decided that they’d wear the kit of the opposing team to a Red Stars home game. It just didn’t make sense. But no one noticed, because most of the stadium was taken over by LA Sol and Marta fans.
While Marta did end up signing my Derrick Rose jersey, my point is that this is something that I’ve seen all the time at Red Stars games and it has always made me incredibly uncomfortable. You don’t go to a Red Stars game wearing an Alex Morgan jersey and expect to fit in. And while the aforementioned Pinoe did play for Chicago, try wearing a Chicago jersey with her name on it instead of a Seattle Reign jersey (that was intentional, the Seattle Reign kits were so much nicer than the OL Reign kits). But, that’s a different crowd. Everyone’s just nicer and it’s honestly a bit annoying to me. I like home-field advantage and the competitiveness of making it difficult for the opposing team to play in your home.
I may not call Messi my GOAT. I am an absolute nerd and prefer D10S or Johan Cruyff, maybe even George Best after a few too many drinks. But I do recognize that he is the greatest player who is still on the pitch and probably the greatest living footballer. The problem is that no one is ever bigger than your club. No one should be. It doesn’t matter how good they are, how massive they are, you are still supporting your club. I have had to cheer against my favorite player of all time before. June 26th, 2021, Yuki Nagasato’s first game back in Chicago since being traded away to Racing Louisville for a bag of chips alongside Savannah McCaskill, another of my favorite players from that 2019 team. I booed her in the torrential downpour as she picked up a yellow card in the 29th, then watched both her and McCaskill score bangers in the second half. Also, I talked to J.J. Watt at halftime of that game, but that doesn’t matter.
The point is that Chicago needs some home-field advantage. Toyota Park was the only stadium that booed David Beckham in 2007, and in a game with massive playoff implications, the Fire won on a last second goal from John Thorrington. This game against Inter Miami will likely have a similar level of importance, and I don’t want the City of Chicago to let go of that loyalty we’ve shown for years. Other fan bases have seen arguments between fans about “welcoming Messi fans,” and some have even gotten angry at jersey restrictions within supporters’ sections. That shouldn’t happen in Chicago.
If you are going to the game on October 4th, you’re wearing a Fire jersey. You’re wearing red and white (or I guess that weird navy color that’s somehow mixed in). You’re not there to watch Messi; you’re there to watch Chicago boo the shit outta him. Just how nature intended.
The Cost of Loyalty
I mentioned as a quick note the other week that the Fire have announced new Season Ticket Holder perks, including free parking if you are renewing from this season going into the next. There have been seasons in the past where my dad has considered canceling, but every time I’ve talked him out of it. We’re still here, we haven’t gone anywhere, and we’re not planning on going anywhere. He is one of the few remaining original STHs and we are incredibly proud of that. But, being one isn’t exactly what it used to be. Here’s a few things I wanted to note in hopes that they get addressed going into the next season.
The main perk of having season tickets is the idea that you get your tickets for the whole season at a lower price than anyone who simply buys a ticket each game. The problem is that earlier in the season, this was simply not true, as many STHs began complaining as there were more free tickets handed out and different ticketing deals that essentially undercut the price of season tickets. Giving out free tickets is a great way to bring in fans, but it shows a lack of loyalty to those who have shown loyalty to the club. Especially when you make those deals happen so frequently.
As for the event that really made me want to talk about this, there was a bobblehead giveaway for Star Wars night on Wednesday. I wasn’t that interested in it, but I knew there were other STHs who were. They didn’t get one. While I cannot provide sources on this, I heard that all 2,500 bobbleheads were gone by the time the take cover order was given for the tornado warning that night. That was around 7, for a game set to kick off at 7:30. Maybe a lot of people chose to go in early because of the threat of a tornado, but the fact that they were gone is just stupid to me. Especially for STHs, who should be given first crack at any of these giveaways. According to some Chicago Blackhawks STHs, they actually hold onto giveaways so that those who have paid for that whole season will get their giveaways. Maybe the Fire can think on that.
Speaking of getting things, the Fire have also started distributing their STH gift: a scarf. Just a scarf. Last season it was a coin in a box. STH gifts have gotten so bad recently. In the old days, we got things that were useful or fun. I’m not certain on the year this was the gift, but I have seen almost every old Fire fan bring around their “Chicago Fire Season Ticket Holder” cooler to every game. My family’s own cooler is so well used that when I just went to check if it had a tag or something with a year on it, the tag was literally just a few strands of string. That thing has been around since at least the last Fire playoff win and it’d be nice to get a new one. Or, ya know, something other than another scarf to toss onto our pile of club scarves that we don’t wear because most people who wear the scarves regularly usually wear scarves from the supporters’ groups.
Finally: Price. I watch CNBC (my dad has it on the TV all day until the afternoon sports start), I know about inflation. I also know that the value of the league itself is rising and I guess the Fire wants to “stay competitive” with the rest of the league. But it does really send a weird message to see the Fire continue to not improve, but somehow have to pay more for the privilege to watch them do that live. Prices aren’t out of control, but it’s just weird to see this happen year after year.
These people are already paying money to watch this team and to show their support, at least give them a season ticket package that’ll actually give them something for their money.
I Have “The Sight™”. Tim can vouch that I predicted Kacper’s goal as he subbed in. When I drink enough during a game, I can predict a goal within five minutes of it going in. Very fun.
The Kids Are Fine, I Guess. Fire II is doing pretty well this season, having picked up a shootout win at St. John’s against NYCFC II on Sunday. The problem is that MLS seems to hate making it easy to watch or follow. It’s like they want to take it seriously up until the point where they actually gotta do something to be taken seriously about.
Sundown Conference. Complete sidenote: Anyone notice how down bad the Portland Timbers and LA Galaxy are this season? It’s actually kinda sad to see big teams implode. Then again, Merrit Paulson and Phil Anschutz deserve it.
You Disappoint Me. This is just about Jamaica’s performance against Mexico. Carry on.
World Cup’s Back. I think you all could figure out that I avoid nationalism as much as possible and I’m also a massive weeb. So, this year in Australia, “Ganbare Nadeshiko!”. Also Group B is absolutely the group of death.
Programming Note. People are annoyed by other publications having some fairly obvious biases in their power rankings, so MIR97 is gonna be taking matters into our own hands soon. We are also biased, but at least we’re gonna be up-front about it.
Kirk Cousins is an Absolute Herb. There’s a new documentary on NFL QBs on a service that I will not actually be promoting because strikes (I’m not paying for it). While I already think Kirk Cousins was punching well above his weight class with his receiving corps, I was willing to let the doc get me to like him. After seeing him quote Margaret Thatcher and sing in an acapella group, they’ve done the opposite. Good luck without half your receivers this season, ya herb.
I love you.
And I’ll see you next week.