Oh hi! I’m Jiggly. And it’s a Tuesday.
The preseason marches on and so does our guided meditation on the Chicago Fire. Look, I just wanna say that last week we had a great time imagining a better world, but up until the start of the season, what’s written here is going to be a bit bleak. It’s supposed to be. Not because I want people to feel that, but because I think that the best way to find faith in this club isn’t through blindly hoping that things get better. It’s about being open and accepting of all things and feeling the full range of emotions that come with loving this club. So let’s get into stage two of the preseason.
Things Will Get Worse
Last week, I mentioned that I got really into Midwest Emo during the offseason. It was mostly just American Football and Foxing, I think that some people put Car Seat Headrest in that category. I don’t really know, I just know that some people treat it like champagne where, “If it’s not from the Midwest region of the United States, then it’s just Sparkling Math Rock.” But one band that I found and really resonated with is a more local band: Harrison Gordon. I’m pretty sure it’s just the dude’s name, but most people who know of him found him via a TikTok of him at a house show singing “Kirby Down B”. Much of his music comes from a place of acceptance, that whole idea that the world, society, and his own life is falling apart, but he’ll just take it and move on. Again, there’s gotta be people who wanna gatekeep how Midwest Emo is classified, but I feel like the vibes of what he talks about speaks to the same sort of melancholy and ennui of the emotional landscape of the Midwest. Listening to the rest of his album, there’s one song and one message that I felt so hard. It was that acceptance from a generational level that even with all of the hopes and dreams that we all have, nothing is going to go the way we want. “Another New Year’s resolution/Failed by January 5th.”
The song is called “Things Will Get Worse”. And that message is the only thing that goes through my head anymore when I actually critically think about the coming Fire season.
Just like there are signs that things could go well, there are signs that everything will go wrong. And the problem is that these signs are much clearer. We have players coming in late again, with Tobias Salquist just barely getting his visa this week. While we talk about these guys they’re already here, Kellyn Acosta and Hugo Cuypers haven’t actually signed for the club yet. And we need to make sure we’ve got our people here. Even if they’re good players, they need to be fresh and installed into our system otherwise the first couple months of the season are likely to be a mess. Then there’s the fact that we’ve kept Klopas, almost like an admission that we don’t really have any other options. It’s like they knew we would suck and they figured they might as well not drag anyone else down with. When captain Rafael Czichos said the other week that “I would lie if I would say that the roster is already good enough to play at the highest level.”, he was not wrong. We are only about three weeks out from the start of the season and there’s been so few tangible changes that have been made to this team since last season. And when you’ve got your captain saying that, you know it’s rough.
The thing is, these are all things that have happened before. In 2020, Georg Heitz’s first offseason, we had a similar “panic buy” situation leading into the season where Heitz was frantically trying to put a roster together. This time crunch is somewhat of a signature for the way Heitz does business. Not out of waiting, but by somehow running through his entire list of options, not settling for third and fourth options, but getting all the way down into “Plan M”. The difference is that while the roster was almost completely empty that last time, it’s concerningly full this time despite having such massive holes in-depth and a quality starting roster. We have so many players left over from prior seasons that we know exactly what they’re capable of and how they do not help us. Jairo Torres, Kacper Przybylko, Arnaud Souquet, and Gaston Gimenez were all on the list to be moved this offseason and yet they are all still rostered (despite Torres very nearly getting moved to Mexico at the deadline). We need to improve the team, but are still stuck with many players who have not only underperformed but hold onto valuable roster spots. So we can’t actually improve the team. Not to mention what I said before about new players needing that full preseason to mesh with the team. Because we heard those same refrains about how “guys just need to gel” all the way back when it was Frank Yallop in charge. And we’ve heard it again and again and will continue to hear it again and again as we continue this cycle of rebuilding, breaking, and rebuilding.
I ended last week’s meditation by saying that Fire fans haven’t learned the right way to lose. How is that possible? We’ve been through this so long, we know the pain of loss so well. How have we not learned how to take it? Well, we have learned from losing. But we’ve learned the wrong lessons. We’ve learned that disappointment is the natural order of things. We’ve learned to lower our expectations in hopes that it’ll be reasonable enough for our dysfunctional club. And as evidenced by what I’ve just said, we’ve gotten really good at spotting those negative signals. To us, they’re louder than the Houston Astros banging on trash cans, more obvious than “The Eagle has Landed”. The problem is that we see them everywhere, we take the cynicism we’ve learned from the failures on the pitch and now we apply it to everything surrounding the club.
The lessons we should’ve learned? Well, there is one thing that I was told to try to use in therapy when it comes to constant negative talk. It’s to take that negative language and turn it into something neutral. While I feel absolutely stupid trying to change the language myself, I think that it’s something that we could all sorta take when it comes to the Fire. Instead of framing intent, of trying to create winners and losers out of these situations, we can simply take things as they come. We lack so much control in this situation that there’s a point we reach where what we do doesn’t actually matter anymore. Now, this doesn’t mean the way forward is apathy, the way forward isn’t about giving up and pushing aside emotion. It’s about leaving that anger within the Fire. This may be our club, but maybe we’ve reached a point where it’s almost healthier to create that emotional separation. We can still be angry, we can still get mad. But instead of being angry on behalf of the club, we instead look to the club to show its own anger. For the players, the coaches, and even the executives to voice their own displeasure with what has been happening around here. It’s not the fans who should be upset about results anymore. We know better. It’s the club that should be feeling that strain. Fans can remind them of it, but it’s not on the fans to feel things for the club. Instead of establishing expectations, high or low, I think that there’s a lot of us that would benefit from simply allowing things to be. It is important for a fan to be passionate, but there’s only so much passion that can be given without getting anything back. It is okay to go through the motions, you are not any less of a fan if you are not willing to go above the energy that you are being shown. Reflect the energy rather than straining yourself to attempt to create it. It helps not only in the bad times but the good times if you get good at riding the emotions as they come rather than seeking them out.
So, with reality coming into play to darken our ideal world, the healthiest step forward is to grieve that lost world. To grieve the team that we’d wished we had. Now, the stages of grief are pretty widely understood, but I think that grieving a sports franchise takes a slightly different route. Instead of it being a process of going through stages, it’s about feeling everything as you slowly take off those layers of emotion, understanding what each one means. That’s what this meditation has been about. You create your ideal world in which the team is good. Then you come to terms with the reality that will likely stand in the way, that this ideal will likely never come to pass. And instead of “bargaining”, you let it go. And you move on. You accept that it’s not there. It’s not about giving up hope, but transcending it. When it comes to nihilism as Friedrich Nietsche originally described it, it is not that nothing matters to anyone. It’s that even if things don’t matter on a universal level, it means that we have the chance to have things that matter to us on a personal level. We need to take our ideas of what a good overall Fire season is and discard them, we won’t need them anymore. We should simply accept that what could’ve been, did not come to pass and that what should be, likely won’t come. Instead, we should take solace in what is, what has come to pass, and the very fact that there is still something to come. We focus on the real rather than the ideal and revel in its existence. We’re not here to see the Fire succeed anymore. We’re here to be at a soccer game because there will be a soccer game.
But I’ll be honest with you, I’m still not okay. Even with that breakdown of what this meditation is supposed to be, I don’t think anyone is or should be okay with leaving it at that. And that’s because I lied. The preseason meditation isn’t over (obviously). The process doesn’t end with letting go. We still have some steps left. Because even when there is nothing left, even when we let go of that idea of “success” there are still feelings that are left behind. And those feelings are loud. But now with a clear head, no other ulterior motives, and a commitment to simply see things as they are rather than what they should be, we can speak to those feelings. In order to resolve them, we need to release them.
Next week: The Base Violence Necessary for Change.
DP9. But seriously, Cuypers looks like a decent signing. What I said about my concerns with him arriving late are true, but it was a bit hard to stick with the planned meditation cause he seems to be a pretty solid striker.
An Arrow In Its Wing. Inter Miami has shot themselves in the foot with this massive preseason tour and it goes to show I’m still right about absolutely everything I said about what Messi would do. Except, of course, his “Death Star” isn’t gonna withstand the weight of all these injuries caused by the preseason tour.
No, This is Patrick. Don’t forget that the Super Bowl is gonna be on Nickelodeon this year. The only reason to watch is to see Patrick Star roast Brock Purdy.
Idol Step. I did finally get to watch a few different anime over the offseason. Really recommend Oshi no Ko. Amazingly written, and incredibly compelling. Also a legendary OP song.
Song of the Week. I already linked to two Harrison Gordon songs in the actual article, so I figure that I should at least give something to the other major Midwest Emo band I’m into. This is from American Football’s most recent record from five years ago, “Uncomfortably Numb”. Bonus Hayley Williams verse in there.
I love you.
And I’ll see you next week.