While in the grip of a recent fever, I passed a solid 48 hours in a sort of walking fugue state. In the rare breaks from sleeping, I would arise and interact on some rudimentary level with my family, apparently speaking English with something like my usual facility - I say ‘apparently,' because I just don't remember. The days are just gone, a smear of sleep-fogged semi-memories in their place; a jumble, like a ransacked room; and always, somehow, there's a screen. There's always the internet.
I'm toasting a bagel. I'm reading the Fire are going to finish last. I'm moving a box of books off the table. The youth in the pipeline are the answer. Leverage is playing on the television. Regression to mean. Lack of investment. Huge local investment. The lights are on; off; on. The light is slanting but I don't know if it's daybreak or dusk. Hauptman's a clown. It is very hot; the sheets are sweated through. Hauptman's pouring money into the club. No DPs, no plan, same old Dollar Menu. Bone-deep fatigue.
Conditioning techniques - as we've quaintly labelled torture in recent years - usually include stuttering, arrhythmic patterns of light/dark and hot/cold. In this way was I conditioned, unintentionally, to the acceptance of two opposing ideas during this battle with my viral nemesis: One, that the Chicago Fire Soccer Club is being run on the cheap by its owner, especially in the face of mind-blowing spending by Toronto, and it's clear we are sliding into permanent also-ran status within an increasingly competitive MLS; and Two, that this CF97 roster represents not a lack of investment, but instead the first dividend payment in a longer-term investment strategy, and that Pineda and Shipp and Ritter and Ciesulka are just the tip of the iceberg.
As there are no results upon which to hang one's opinion, this edition of the Chicago Fire exist very much as Schrodinger's team: Each ‘state' of the Fire is simultaneously true until results collapse the standing wave into a single reality, right? Some theories posit that, at that moment of collapse what is truly happening is the selection of one universe's reality. Which universe will we get to inhabit? And what clues might we find to unravel this mystery on the other side?
If those who cry ‘cheap!' are correct, the team will continue its silence about its roster composition being a conscious movement to get playing time for developing players. We'll see a team that must play lights-out simply to compete, a naive team of try-ers in a league increasingly stocked with do-ers. We'll see a team that plays hard, so gosh-darned hard. We'll see more scouting trips that leave not even a glimmer in an agent's eye. We'll find out most of the investments were other people's money.
If those who say ‘youth pipeline' are on the money, we'll see the results on the field in short order. Pineda will get some starts. Shipp will play enough to define a role for himself - our Ole Gunnar Solskaer? Yallop will start to be more forthcoming about this being a plan; success has many fathers. When the Fire play well, they'll have a certain swagger, an audaciousness. We will start to hear again about players wanting to come here. We'll find out the North Side Soccer Center was just the start.
I'm extremely interested to discover which universe we're going to be in. For the moment, let's assume that regular-season results are the observation which will split off new realities; what portents am I missing? To which signs should we attend?