Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
So much of the oxygen in the room among Fire fans lately has been eaten up by the grueling and bitter politics of ingroup/outgroup dynamics.
The departure of Shaun Maloney and the conflicting stories around his reasons for wanting out restarted a debate about whether players do or do not want to play in Chicago, and whether that should matter.
The #HauptmanOut movement has crystallized anxiety around who "owns" the Chicago Fire, and the difference between shareholding and stakeholding. Depending on which side of that ideological divide you fall on, you’re either trying to save the club or you’re an Enemy Of The Fire. If you’re neutral, you’re not a Real Fan™.
The past week Fire Twitter has been mired in a debate on whether it’s okay to yell a homophobic slur during games. Defenders of the chant are split between "it’s not a slur" and "even if it were a slur, so what?". It’s the latest fight in a seemingly endless and infinitely stupid argument about who belongs in Fire fandom and who does not.
It’s enough to make you forget that there’s an actual soccer team in the middle of all this. Which is probably just as well.
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
Thanks to other results around the league, the Fire found themselves in a curious spot. Stuck in last place on 26 points, a win would’ve lifted them above the red line. Imagine that. A win and all of a sudden Frank Yallop is right about still being in playoff contention.
Of course that only works if we win. Which...
That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
Weather delays in Orlando pushed up the proper start of the game nearly three hours. For the fans in #S8OT and at home, it meant a lot of milling about and finding ways to kill time. For the players, the stop-and-go traffic precipitated a feeling of lethargy that, by the eventual start of the second half, was insurmountable.
For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?
You see where this is going. David Accam was smooth like Dick Buckley’s Jazz Showcase when he bagged his goal on the half hour mark; he burst into the box, kept the play alive on the touchline, did a dance around his defender, then hit his shot from an awkward angle. This was, not to put too fine a point on it, the Fire at their best.
Which meant that the equalizer was right around the corner. A lack of focus on and off the ball, plus some bad positioning from Sean Johnson at the end, saw the home side bring things level seven minutes after going down. The goal was officially marked as an Eric Gehrig own goal, but that lets the rest of the team off the hook.
The second half was 45 minutes of the same Fire team you’ve been watching for years. No focus. No urgency. No bite. In short, it was a lot of Whatevering. An errant pass. A far post run that never was. Nearly giving up a gamewinner but for Orlando’s own ineptitude. Whatever, whatever, whatever.
Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
The Fire travel to Montreal next Saturday. Another opportunity for Yallop to prove that we’re still in playoff contention. Another team we’ll need to beat in order to sneak into that last playoff spot. Another evening of Whatevering. And inbetween, another week of bickering about who’s a Real Fan and who isn’t, who owns the club and who doesn’t, who is welcome and who isn’t, who is human and who is trash. Another week of inventing new enemies and policing nonexistent boundaries while the team we support continues to not give a shit.
Tonight, at least, it rained on the just and the unjust alike.