How I Became a Fire Fan
The awesome Tom Dunmore, curator of Pitch Invasion, wrote a reaction to the news that the Champions League final is to be broadcasted on Fox. His comments center around if this is good for MLS or not.
At the same time, it’s been pretty clear for some time that when MLS targets its marketing to people that already like soccer — and much of this “liking” comes from watching overseas broadcasts of it — it bears fruit.
His article, particularly the above quote, got me thinking about how I went from a World Cup fan to a die-hard Fire fan. I always watched the World Cups. I started by following the 1990 world cup on TNT, stayed up late for the games from Korea, took days off to watch the games from Germany and generally tried to pay attention to what was going on with the national team. Sometime around 2003 I found myself going back to school and having my days free. Still buzzing from the after effects of the 2002 World Cup I started watching more soccer on Fox Sports World or whatever it was called before it became Fox Soccer Channel. There were always games on during the weekday afternoons, either live or taped, didn’t mater to me which. I can distinctly remember watching Lyon celebrate one of their French titles with every one of the guys on the field dying their hair the Lyon colors for the final, inconsequential, game of the season. The free-flowing action, the 2 hour time frame in which games completed and the sweet lack of commercial interruption was slowly but surely turning me into a huge fan. I found myself getting up to see Arsenal and Everton play at 6 AM on Saturday mornings. Thierry Henry and Thomas Gravesen were my guys. I dug Arsenal due to their entertaining and winning ways, Everton because they had a bunch of bald guys who would beat the shit out of you. Plus Everton were upstarts trying to break up the hegemony of the EPL and that appealed to me. Weirdly enough I never got into Fulham or following the Americans around the EPL. I didn’t really have a favorite American player.
I decided to wait to attend my first soccer game until Toyota Park was built. I tried keeping track of the Fire at that time but was pretty bad at doing it. Fast forward to a Sunday (or Saturday) afternoon (or evening) sometime during July (I think) of 2006 (most likely) at Toyota Park. There was a merch give away that day of Chicago Fire baseball caps courtesy of RadioShack. I still have that hat, two of them actually. The Fire played a nil-nil (this I’m pretty sure of) draw against a team I can’t remember. I don’t remember much about the game other than Justin Mapp was player of the match for me and Nate Jaqua (then with the Fire) was driving me insane for his inability to play hard during the ridiculously hot afternoon. Section 8 was in as full of throat as could be expected for such a hot day. Thankfully our seats were in the shade that day.
I came back for the all-star game versus Chelsea where I ended up with this awesome view for most of the game:
After this awesome start to my live soccer fandom I was hooked. We went to a handful of games during 07, bought a 20 game flex pack for 2008, sat in the cheap $100 season tickets for 2009 and now have full-fledged season tickets in the skyway section for 2010.
My point is that it takes time to convert people who casually watch the European leagues into full fledged MLS fans. The time will come where some of these people will become a supporters of their local team. The rest of them will never be real supporters.
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Tags: Chicago Fire, MLS, Pitch Invasion