MojoFiction doesn’t often report on the beautiful game. No, not Settlers of Catan, we were referring to soccer, or, for those of you still living in the past: Football That’s Not American Football.
MojoFiction lives in Chicagoland which, like Disneyland, is a magical place where management keeps raising the prices so a soda costs $9.95. But you get the drink in a commemorative Chicagoland cup that explains why the city of Chicago is taxing you an additional $2.35 for reading this blog. (It’s assessed in your airline fees. What, you drove in? Ha, ha! You paid $36.00 a day for parking!)
Anyway, here in Chicago, we have a “professional” Major League Soccer team called the Chicago Fire. Besides losing out on the Didier Drogba sweepstakes to Montreal over the simple fact that we prefer our español over their “oui oui”, the Chicago Fire showed Saturday night why they are at the bottom of the table when they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory on a gift equalizing goal to the New England Revolution.
MojoFiction was at that game.
We decided to take our soccer-crazed son (that was the official psychiatric analysis) to his first ever MLS game on Saturday. The first thing we noticed was that the Chicago Fire does not play in Chicago. They are south of the city in long-forgotten land of Bridgeview. The second thing we noticed was that there is no way to actually get there. We live over an hour away in good traffic, so we checked the directions page of the Fire website and found that they recommend a class-1 Star Trek Teleporter. Needless to say, we drove.
Of course, upon arrival at our very first game, we immediately headed to the apparel shop to spend this month’s paycheck on team gear. Then we went inside and spent next month’s paycheck on stuff they call “food.”
Finally, we took our seats. Well, we tried to, but they were bolted down. So we stayed there to watch the game.
It started out innocently enough, with Chicago showing good defense and mounting several quick attacks, though without a decent shot on goal. New England scored on a rebound off the Fire keeper, but then Chicago tied it up with a penalty kick that, admittedly, was due to a questionable call. End of half. In the second half, Chicago scored to go up 2-1 on some aggressive play in the box. But, barely a minute later, someone for the Revolution (we don’t know their names, they’re not on our team) kicked a lazy cross in behind the Fire’s back line. When we say lazy, we mean that we were able to use the restroom and grab some nachos by the time the ball finally made it to the end of its route. Meanwhile, one Chicago defender and the keeper were both in position to kick the ball away, or grab it, or whatever. No one did anything and a confused New England striker punched it in.
Maybe it’s not fair to criticize. Maybe it was just one of those wacky moments where each player thought the other was going for the ball. Maybe. Consider, though, a play earlier in the game where Chicago had an unexpected open shot on goal, only to see the striker slip as he brought his foot down and knock the ball harmlessly past the goal and out of play. That sums up the Fire season. (Also, they gave away possession a lot during the game, but why bring that up?)
It’s play like this that has the international community laughing and saying, “Ha, ha! Silly Americans! We know you’re better at everything except alcohol consumption, but you suck at soccer and we’re riding that for all it’s worth!”
So, the Chicago Fire ended up with a 2-2 draw, which sounds great (they get a point), but not at home, when you were leading late in the second half and you really need the full 3 points.
Our poor son was distraught. It was his first live MLS game and he was decidedly unhappy. So we said, “Sorry you didn’t have any fun. We don’t have to ever come back.” Okay, so he wasn’t THAT distraught. He wants to go back as soon as possible.
That’s the thing about sports. Sports media, on the radio in Chicago, at least, like to say a season is a waste if the team doesn’t win it all. (Does that mean most of the local sports media’s lives have been a waste, since they watched it all?) But the fans in the trenches, paying their hard-earned money to Stub Hub (NOT Ticketmaster), know that winning it all is really only all about pride. The games the athletes play along the way, every day for the fans, going out and giving it all they have even as they fall farther in the standings — that’s sport.
The Chicago Fire have some problems, no doubt. Playing hard for the home crowd isn’t one of them.
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