On March 26, the Chicago Fire will take the field and a new home season will begin. Maybe you’ve already set aside what you are going to bring to the game, what you are going to make at the tailgate, or how you yourself will be celebrating the start of a brand new chapter. As you wake up to make a cup of coffee, ride your bike, or do whatever you do in your morning routine on Saturdays, remember that four years ago to the day another Chicago Fire fan was doing the very same thing. At 7:12 AM, March 26, 2007, a Chicago poem was published that would be read for years to come.
Chicago Fire win this game for Brandon Kitchens.
Brandon Kitchens was born on August 20, 1983. Like many famous Chicagoans, he was not born here but in Warner Robins, GA. His family moved to the Chicago area later in life but early enough for him to graduate from Naperville North High School and become a Chicago Fire fan from the very beginning. He went on to serve a tour of duty in Iraq with the U.S. Air Force, then another, and then another. Three tours of duty in Iraq make him a remarkable person in its own right but there's more to him than that.
You can read the full text here but the last line sums up the beauty and the message of 'Stand and Deliver'.
If you leave it all out on the field every game nothing can stop us, no matter who we play make 11 into 1, make us proud, and let Chicago be known for all time.
If that seems like it was written by someone with a tattoo of the Chicago Fire logo on their leg... well let's just say there is a good reason for that. Brandon's words of passion have entered the time honored tradition of this club forever. It is the official creed of Section 8 Chicago. The tragic twist to this otherwise wonderful story is that Brandon passed away from a seizure while playing soccer on July 25, 2007, four months after writing this stirring piece.
Almost 100 years earlier in 1916, another Chicago poet by the name of Carl Sandburg placed this at the end of his book Chicago Poems.
The Junk Man
I am glad God saw Death
And gave Death a job taking care of all who are tired of living:
When all the wheels in a clock are worn and slow and the connections loose
And the clock goes on ticking and telling the wrong time from hour to hour
And people around the house joke about what a bum clock it is,
How glad the clock is when the big Junk Man drives his wagon
Up to the house and puts his arms around the clock and says:
"You don't belong here
You gotta come
Along with me,"
How glad the clock is then, when it feels the arms of the Junk Man close around it and carry it away.
The eerily warm and gentle feeling of 'The Junk Man' is totally alien to what we feel when the young pass away. We always mourn the physical loss whenever someone dies, but with the young we mourn that loss and the loss of actions and thoughts that will never be lived out. In this case there will be no 'Respect and Lead', no 'Travel and Return', and no 'Plan and Conquer', only 'Stand and Deliver'. That does not take away from the greatness of the words but it does heighten them. You can see that Brandon's words were cheered and applauded first before they were memorialized later into what they have become today. The promise of potential combines with the lack of possibility to create a new special meaning for a work of art.
While the quality of 'Stand and Deliver' leads itself to be read like a solemn prayer in the halls of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra or from the stage of the Lyric Opera, it is meant to be shouted out loud from the rooftops of Chicago bungalows or even put on loop in Bughouse Square. 'Stand and Deliver' is not meant to be the final anthem, but a bridge or stepping stone along the historic path of Chicago greatness. Like how there was Carl Sandburg and then Studs Terkel, there is meant to be Brandon Kitchens and then... you. The fiery source of Chicago spirit is burning and ready for you to dip into its source and carry its light on a torch to the world.
As the home season kicks off, ask yourself what are you going to do this year? Sing your heart out? Write a new chant? Break out the French horn? Maybe give some time to Chicagoans who are just hanging on? The canvass is blank and Brandon's call to Stand and Deliver has been made. When you answer it, if you ever answer it, be sure to do your best because there is greatness located in the ground of Chicago, greatness in its walls and greatness in its people. Do your best because the spirit of Chicago is never far from your fingertips and like Brandon, the next thing you do might just become known for all time.