There has been a lot of talk recently about how Chicago doesn't get much respect from media outlets. The roots of this might deserve further treatment than what they will get here but take a look at MLS' top 10 soccer journalists as listed by MLSSoccer.com last August. Seattle, New York, and D.C. are represented by two writers each. Toronto, Dallas, and San Jose have one and I'd even throw in another for D.C. with a Virginia based writer. If you expand the reach of writers/commentators who cover issues league-wide and have sizable Twitter followings, you have writers that are rooted in Houston, Dallas, Philadelphia, D.C., New York, New England, and Miami. When you take a look at MLS player personalities, you have players that came through Los Angeles, New England, Kansas City, and Columbus.
It's rare to see a Chicago personality take center stage in the American soccer media but I'm not sure anyone is at fault here. The Chicago Fire's 15th Anniversary Celebration is coming up and just think about the stoic personalities that can or are in fact involved: C.J. Brown, Ante Razov, Jesse Marsch, Zach Thornton, Chris Armas, Peter Nowak, Frank Klopas, Lubos Kubik, Brian McBride, Hristo Stoitchkov, and the list goes on. That's a long list of guys who would rather let their play on the field do the not just most but all of the talking. Today's leaders of Logan Pause, Pavel Pardo, Arne Friedrich, Patrick Nyarko, Gonzalo Segares, Dominic Oduro, and Chris Rolfe continue that example. Even youngsters Sean Johnson, Jalil Anibaba, and Austin Berry appear mature beyond their years. There's some sort of mutual attraction between stoic player and stoic club that makes you wonder what happened with Cuauhtemoc Blanco.
Stoic is hard to cover for a press that looks for headline grabs. The Fire don't get any favors by co-existing in a city with five of the most historic sports teams in the world. Whatever the real reasons as to why the Fire are overlooked and the media landscape is somewhat bare, one Chicago-based soccer writer bucks the trend and has carved out some serious gravitas for himself: Tom Dunmore.
In the interest of full disclosure, we have had the honor of not only interviewing Dunmore a couple of times but Hot Time In Old Town has had the much higher honor of having Dunmore as a guest writer for the site on two occasions. He may not have been born in Chicago but he certainly has made it his permanent home. So much so that Dunmore was the President of Section 8 Chicago for two years. His literary exploits include founding and editing the awarding winning blog Pitch Invasion and authoring the Historical Dictionary of Soccer. His work tends to be more historical and based around the culture of fans, players and soccer administrators rather than a pure focus on the quality of current players. He tells a great story and has an eye for collaborating with other contributors that complement his style.
All of those attributes are on display to see in his next project XI Quarterly.
XI is a North American soccer quarterly, produced with an emphasis on its print edition. Each issue investigates a single aspect of the culture of soccer in eleven eclectic and thoughtful ways. Long-form essays, interviews, fiction, translations, diaries, photography, graphic arts and other forms help tell the unique story of soccer in North America. XI offers the time and space for insightful, original contributions by people who see soccer not just as a sport but as part of society.
In soccer that each team has 11 players is universal truth, as natural as a pair of eyeglasses having two lenses. The number 11 expresses soccer's essence as collaboration; around the world, supporters refer to their national teams or favorite club sides as "The Eleven." Each issue of XI is similarly a collaboration. The editors select their ideal "side," including eleven samplings on the topic. Like the team huddled for the ritual pre-match photograph, each issue features eleven elements, working in concert to speak to a theme unique to soccer in North America.
I was fortunate enough to get a sneak peek at a digital copy of the first issue. This is a must-subscribe-to media format if you haven't already. The wide range of stories and details covered in the first issue is remarkable. Each author puts forward a tale that is more in the tradition of Studs Terkel's 'Working' than your standard profile piece that dominates soccer coverage. Both kinds of stories have their place in the world but we don't see the former very often. It's great that the person heading up this project is right here in Chicago. If Dunmore and his colleagues maintain the quality of standard of the first issue for years to come, the legacy of the publication will be like the architecture of Chicago: stoic, standing tall, and worthy of international recognition.
Launch Party and Soccer Book Swap
Tomorrow, Thursday, September 6 between 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM provides the opportunity to meet Dunmore and pick up a copy of the first issue of Quarterly XI at Cleo's at 1975 W. Chicago in Chicago. The event is being held in conjunction with Section 8 Chicago, the Independent Supporters' Association for the Chicago Fire Soccer Club. Five dollars of all proceeds from sales of issue one at the event will be donated to Section 8 Chicago's annual contribution to the Chicago Fire Foundation, the charitable arm of the Chicago Fire Soccer Club.
There is no cover charge and all attendees who RSVP at this link will receive a special gift pack from XI Quarterly and Section 8 Chicago. In addition, you can reserve a copy of the quarterly to pick-up (the party is free, the publication is $15). Finally, all attendees are encouraged to bring a soccer book they own so that they can swap it out for a different book to read (and maybe swap out at a party for the second issue?).
What might look somewhat small is a pretty big deal for Chicago soccer scene. Events and publications like this help carve out Chicago's literary soccer future. Happy reading, happy writing, and happy inspiration.