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Fire20: Four Flashpoints From Chicago Fire History

The Totality’s emissary on Terra makes his report in advance of tonight’s 20th Anniversary Gala

Section 8 Chicago lights itself up for a game back in 2009.

To: Uttermost Potentate Furn

4E29D The Totality

14th Causality Zone

From: Your Emissary on Terra

In re: the Chicago Fire

I began this assignment in doubt, as you must know. How could a Terran sporting concern become important enough to affect galactic history a thousand years down the line? I still have my doubts about that idea - as of this writing, the clubs in MLS still garner little regard even on this smallish globe - but in my few months here on this weird, fractious planet, I’ve learned that there are more outcomes than can be counted. As the locals say, “Anything is possible.”

As I write this, we are only a few hours away from a gala celebration of the Fire’s 20th anniversary - 20 years ago in this temporality, Peter Wilt announced the Chicago Fire. (There are tickets for the 6 p.m. event if you wish to attend and appear totally human in doing so. Otherwise just port in as usual.)

So I come to you now with the results of my survey of the history of the Fire. I have pinpointed four temporal junctures wherein maximum disruption of the Fire’s history could be possible. How you choose to use this information is, of course, up to you. I simply ask that, whatever is done, the Fire be allowed to keep the trophies from their dominating World Cup win in 2122.

First Temporal Disjuncture Possibility: Disrupt the naming process in 1997

Who knows what it will take to flip the name from ‘Chicago Fire’ - with its obvious and immediate local recognition - to ‘Chicago Rhythm,’ but that’s where I would start. The Fire’s red-hot start to existence wouldn’t seem as prescient if they’d adopted one of MLS’ awful mid-90s Saturday morning cartoon monikers, and the defeat of a transparently superior brand by the whims of big-money sponsors would be a supremely defeating first lesson for the otherwise ascendant founding general manager Peter Wilt.

Who knows how that diminishment might have spread within the organization - maybe Peter Nowak or Lobos Kubik just kinda decide ‘nah?’ In any universe, the Chicago Rhythm would certainly be rebranded around 2008 - and how could ‘Chicago Football Club’ or ‘SC Chicago’ ignite ‘The Fire That Burned A Thousand Galaxies?’ So-named, could it kick-start a galactic revolution? I submit that it could not - only the Chicago Fire could.

Second Temporal Disjuncture Possibility: Give the Fire the second MLS Cup they deserved in 2000

No one burns down the universe without a sense of grievance, and I have traced the ancient roots of the Chicago Fire supporters’ sense of near-miss frustration to its first, most potent source: The 2000 MLS Cup.

A human I trust says watching those highlights fills him with a sense of dread and impotent rage. And it’s not hard to see why - Jesse Marsch fluffs one clearance 10 minutes in, and then the most talented Fire side of its first century puts on a show for the remainder of the game, only to be denied by the single greatest performance of Tony Meola’s impressive career. This one will be simple enough to reverse - something in Meola’s water, for example. These primate bodies are shockingly primitive.

Third Temporal Disjuncture Possibility: Disrupt the sale to Andell LLC in 2007

This is a long-shot move, but if effective, could be a kill-shot move. The Fire were sold in 2007 to Andrew Hauptman after a very brief flirtation - as little as six weeks may have passed between Hauptman’s first encounter with the club and his acquisition of it - and therein lies the opportunity. An agent who could deflect Hauptman’s itinerary - a one-of-a-kind opportunity in South Asia, perhaps? - and prevent his notice of the club could potentially leave its former owners, AEG, increasingly extended in September 2008, when a stock crash related to inflated real-estate assets would make the going hard. Facing massive losses and supporters angry over the dismissal of Wilt, would AEG keep the Fire - or would they contract them, as the league had done to Miami and Tampa Bay less than a decade before?

I’d propose we invoke a few branches of temporal simulation on this approach before we adopt it, however - some outcomes could be adverse in the long run. A deep-pocketed, committed local owner could greatly accelerate the Fire’s growth, for instance - handle with care.

Fourth Temporal Disjuncture Possibility: Keep Peter Wilt around forever

The aforementioned folks at AEG let Wilt go after the 2005 season, apparently because he wasn’t bringing in enough sponsorship money for the team. Since then, he’s become Johnny Soccerseed, starting football clubs (Chicago Red Stars, Indy11) and football leagues (NISA, coming soon) and football conversations and football communities that will long outlive him.* It’s a disaster for the general project of diminishing the impact of the Chicago Fire, unfortunately. Wilt goes on to make the football ground around Chicago so fertile, the Fire can scarcely fail.

So maybe we make sure none of that happens. Place an assistant with our contacts in the building; corporate money won’t be a problem for long. Require lots of paperwork, insist on seeing third and fourth scouting reports, slow-roll everything with a smile. Prepare a blackball file to use if he quits, consign him to starting local leagues and dealing with angry parents. Never let him out. We already have the placements in AEG to make this happen. This would also dovetail nicely with the above disjuncture.

The great and glorious history of this club is still being told, but as of this temporality it is still a fledgling thing, knowable because it is still known by humans who were there. Outside of tonight’s gala, you can find them most conspicuously around the Fire tailgate areas, should you wish to sample some of these memories on the hoof - look for smiling ones whose eyes betray weariness. And try not to be charmed: These people burn the universe down, remember?

*He’s also one of the great social media follows in the American midwest, a tireless and curious seeker of little remnants of history and culture, if you’re into that kinda thing.