There’s a special routine that I, like many other Fire supporters, go through at the start of a new season, and it all revolves around MLS schedule release day. When all the fixtures of our team are released, I schedule the next eight months in my life; in January I know exactly what I’m doing in October. That’s one of the beauty of being a supporter, and it feels like Christmas. Dates are locked in and circled on my calendars, and arrangements are made for the away days that allow us to keep the words "for the Fire we will travel everywhere" ringing true after each trip.
This weekend was my first away trip of the 2014 campaign, and what better way to bring the hate than to bring it to Fire House East as the Chicago Fire visit the Columbus Crew. I have a special hate in my heart for Columbus and a special love for Columbus away trip, and this trip gave me all the feels all over again.
This year Patrick Stanton, Vice Chair of the Section 8 Chicago Independent Supporters Association, brought the Away Season Ticket package back to Section 8 Chicago. The Away Season Ticket sets you up with bus and match tickets to Columbus, Kansas City, and Toronto. Of course this was something I could not to pass up, with Columbus and Kansas City being two of the most important away trips each year. Saturday was Away Day One in my three-fixture Away Season Ticket, and I could not have been more excited. There is always an energy that surrounds Columbus away, and the buzz for this weekend was almost tangible.
The Starting Point
I started my morning at AJ Hudson’s, one of Chicago Fire and Section 8’s mainstay pubs. Our bus would be departing from there an hour after I arrived, and that gave me plenty of time to meet up with the other riders and enjoy a pint before it was time to head out. The pub felt like a Fire tailgate. Joy and togetherness was painted across everyone’s faces, almost as if they were celebrating a birthday or holiday - and in a sense they were. It was another opportunity for the Fire faithful to flood into an opponent’s home and drown out their praise with our hate for their team and the love for ours. Everyone was congregated either in front of the pub or around the bar, sharing stories about past trips and discussing the awesomeness that was sure to ensue this time, and everyone with a beer in hand. (I mean, it wouldn’t be the same without the proper refreshments.) I met up with my favorite Chicago writer, Jeff [Crandall], who invited me to a pint as we waited for the bus to arrive. [Ed. - *cough*] Soon enough it was time to board, and we were off to bring the hate to Cow town.
It didn’t take long for everyone on the bus to get into the normal routine of away days. Members of Whiskey Brothers Aught Five passed around cans of beer, ensuring that no one on the bus would have to go thirsty through the six-hour road trip on which we had just embarked. I greeted those I hadn’t seen at the bar, including my friend Fredo, who was accompanied by his daughter who was taking part in her fourth Chicago soccer road trip. Also on the bus was Section 8 Chicago travel legend Andy Braudy, who has so many away trips under his belt even he may have lost count. The bus had a great mix of young and old and we were all together to cheer on the Fire against one of our most hated rivals.
En Route to Cow Town
As we got onto the expressway, the chants began and soon the bus was singing in support of the fire, and in opposition of the Crew. One of my absolute favorite chants that was born on this day on the AJ Hudson bus to Cowtown, was a medley put together by Matt, Dan, Joey, and others at the back of the bus. This song would soon become the soundtrack to our trip, and it was a great song to sing. It went something like this, to the tune of Dean Martin’s ‘That’s Amore.’
When your home’s repossessed ‘cause you smoke too much meth, that’s Columbus!
When your bar has to go ‘cause you’re a Juggalo, that’s Columbus!
The songs and chants continued throughout the bus ride, paused only by our traditional stop in Whitestown, where a small soccer circle was made in the gas station parking lot. Players from both busses - the one that departed from AJ Hudson's and the one from Toyota Park - came to play one and two-touch soccer that saw players show off their skills as if we were trialing for the Fire. Hysterical laughter ensued, and the soccer continued.
Arrival at Crew Stadium
Upon arrival at Crew Stadium, everyone got down to business. Buses were unloaded, matchcrew operations were set. Security at away matches is always tight, and we were delayed at the gates for a while as we unfurled all of the banners and flags we brought to ensure no smoke bombs or flares were smuggled in. Pat downs and body checks were the final hurdle, then finally we were in enemy territory, ready to battle with Columbus’ version of support. We’d be ready with voices, drums, and horns at full force, and as we were escorted by security to our section with Section 8 and Sector Latino behind us, you could see Crew fans stop and stare at the supporters who traveled 400 miles to support their team. And we had just one thing to say to them: We Came To Do You Wrong. Banners and instruments were set. Supporters waving flags and scarves jumped and danced to the battle hymns played by Red Dawn Horn and Drum Line and Sector Latino. It was game time and we were ready.
The performance on the field didn’t match the performance in the stands. The Fire gave up an early goal and it tested our staying power. But even when the Crew scored their second goal, and all but put the nail in the coffin on the night, we still brought the noise and weren’t about to stop. The singing and chanting continued, and Columbus’ fans were uneasy. Perhaps they’d never seen fans who stand, sing, and participate for a full 90 minutes before. Perhaps they’ll only see it in their stadium when Chicago is in town.
On The Road Again
It was time to make the trek back to Chicago, and I hopped on the bus bound for Toyota Park. Accompanied by Sector Latino, our chanting continued, even to the point where we got our bus driver involved. The adventure continued as the AJ Hudson bus that was in front of us was pulled over. A traffic cone lodged in between the bus’ tires prompted Columbus PD to stop and free the cone and send them on their way.
The rest of the trip was quiet, as the passengers slept through the nighttime travel. Just when everyone would begin to doze off, a loud guffaw echoed through the bus.
HEH HEH HEH! FIRE CABRONES! PINCHE BASURA COLUMBUS!
The lovable Mad Javier woke everyone up to remind us why we were here in the first place. FIRE CABRONES! We were here for the Fire, and win, lose, or draw we were here and we’ll travel anywhere. Luckily we only had to spend a few hours in Cow Town and even though The Crew won the match, they and their fans still have to go home to their homes in Columbus. And they will always be PINCHE BASURA COLUMBUS.