It was the pebble falling that predicts the avalanche.
“I wonder - with your addition to [the Chicago Fire] - is it a fair expectation to see a clear pathway towards a World Cup competition come out of Chicago?" asked an Agence-France Presse stringer.
The silence, the gasps, the chuckles, the derision - all of it told of a faux pas. Bastian Schweinsteiger, impossibly flummoxed, looking chagrined. While everyone was looking ashamed for the stringer, though, unnoticed in the corner, a dream was born: The Chicago Fire in the World Cup.*
The city of Chicago was not raised to prominence by shy, retiring leadership - its famous ‘Windy’-ness was coined not in reference to breezes off the lake, but to the tendency of prominent city leaders to make wild promises their pride insisted on producing.
So it was that Wednesday evening - barely three hours after Basti’s bemused chagrin - Rahm Emanuel, flanked by prominent Chicagoans like Jimmy Pankow and Hologram Mike Royko, declared: “No longer will the aspirations of the soccer … whadda fuck are the fuckin’ soccer … right, SUPPORTERS … soccer supporters of this great city be put aside.
“They call us the Second City, but we won’t be second-class citizens in World Cup football. A committee of top, top people have informed me that Chicago Fire can’t play in the World Cup because we’re not a nation?
“Guess what, FIFA - WE ARE A NATION NOW. Effective immediately, Chicago is a sovereign nation. I’ll get the UN onboard, I know some people. FIFA, too. They’re good people. They know how the world works.
“And this is how the world works now: The fuckin’ Chicago Fire are Chicago’s World Cup team. That’s fuckin’ it.”**
The reaction in the city showed how accurately Emanuel had gauged the zeitgeist. Long-suppressed love of the Men in Red within the city, driven deep underground by the threat of public ridicule by a well-organized cadre known as Enemies of the Fire, exploded into glorious bloom. Signs declared “FIRE WORLD CUP CHAMPS” and “RAHM MAYOR 4 LIFE.” Spontaneous, joyful public displays were punctuated by snappy 45-minute renditions of “Fire, Fire, Fire Fire Fire.”
The Fire will be drawn into the first round of CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying for the 2020 World Cup Neo Brought To You By Totino’s. Likely opponents include US Virgin Islands, FC Dallas and Don Garber’s Ego.
*As recent events have illustrated, there is a danger in saying absurd things around people who might take them seriously.
**Heard soon thereafter: ”Not another word, Andy - the fuckin’ money in my account today or fuckin’ bodies start turning up in Bridgeview.”