I was absent-mindedly scrolling through Facebook one day, like I’m sure we all do, on Monday night. Pictures of people in exotic vacations that they never seem to come back from, advertisements, stupid videos that I always end up watching, the usual thing people see as they go through the site. Yet, yesterday had something unusual. My scrolling came to a stop as a picture of Bastian Schweinsteiger behind a microphone, typical beaming smile, came into view. Just below the picture, the words read “Schweinsteiger joins Laurence Holmes on 670 The Score.”
This baffled me. The Cubs have a losing record, there’s always something to talk about with the Bears, the NBA playoffs are going on, and the Score dedicated time to talk with a Chicago Fire player. It was only then I realized just how fast Basti-mania has caught on.
I was one of the first to get swept up. I’ve been a Bundesliga fan, and as a German, I definitely understand the significance of Bastian Schweinsteiger in both the player and the person. His face constantly graced Adidas ads, his highlights constantly played whenever the National Team was mentioned… along with his highlights in his hair back in 2006. He had the very distinct title of “Fussballgott”, which translates to football god.
Something like that doesn’t just come out of nowhere.
The rumor of him going to the Fire had been going around for a year or so, and on that fateful night when they announced it, I almost didn’t believe it at first. You know how transfer rumors can be. It didn’t really hit me until a few days later that he was actually moving over, it took him landing at O’Hare for it to actually sink in. That I was going to live in the same city as one of my favorite players ever.
I had lived in Chicago for a while now, and honestly hadn’t really thought much of the Fire. I know they existed, I knew that they had won the MLS Cup before, but that was about it. I’d went to one game, I didn’t really know much about the players. I definitely knew that the stadium was far away. I feel like that was the general sentiment for a lot of non-Fire fans at the time.
And yet in one instant, everything changed.
Facebook exploded among Chicagoans, the German community lost its mind, the transfer was all over international news. Even if people didn’t like the aging, supposedly whittled-down player, the marketing was priceless.
I’m a perfect example of that, a few games into the season, I was a season ticket holder. A shameless Schweini bandwagoner. One of many bandwagoners that erupted into cheers on his first game in Montreal when he put one into the right side of the net. The man who won a World Cup in front of billions of people, the man who was a mainstay at Bayern Munich, the man who married an internationally recognized tennis player and knew the life of the internationally known and famous, he was a Chicagoan now.
If the Fire brass didn’t know what their signing did for them before, it was apparent on Saturday night with the game against the Sounders. It was moved back so that it could be on ESPN 2, they saw their first sellout of the year, it was clear that Schweinsteiger jerseys had flown off the shelves with how many 31’s made their way around Toyota Park, the whole night was Chicago’s… and the FIre’s.
I hadn’t been to many games, obviously, but I could tell that the energy in that park was the highest it had been in a long time. The mega-banner was brought out, which even I know hadn’t been used in a while, it seemed to reflect the importance of the match. It also reflected the mega-beat down that the Chicago Fire laid out on the Seattle Sounders, one of the most popular teams in the MLS. The entire MLS got to watch the Fire get their flame get rekindled, a fire started by a legendary German midfielder with unreasonably large calves.
That fire continues to grow since more people have been asking me about going to games. Everyday, I get super excited about games coming up and meet more people in Section 8. The buzz gets louder with every Schweinsteiger quote and home win.
It seems that all of this culminates into the invitation The Score sent to Schweinsteiger. They do an intense amount of research into that programming which goes out to a large area of Illinois. Time is so valuable for a radio station, and The Score found that the time of interviewing a little ol’ player for the Chicago Fire as being a necessary investment which is pretty significant considering the “what is soccer?” crowd.
The Fire have come a long way in just a few months, because of that leap they took of signing Schweinsteiger. Even if Schweinsteiger decides to leave after this season, the place that the Fire have been launched into seems to be into the heavens. Where the football god wants them to be.