This year marks 20th anniversary of the Chicago Fire’s inaugural season. Yet there was barely a peep from the club, save a tweet here and there.
But last Thursday night, ten days after the official anniversary of the club, the Fire announced a fan appreciation night at the AT&T flagship store on Michigan Avenue. The announcement came just about 24 hours before the event was scheduled to start.
Head to @ATTMichiganAve for a Friday night of Fire fun and Fan Appreciation pres. by @ATT— Chicago Fire (@ChicagoFire) October 18, 2018
Catch appearances by @DaxMcCarty11, @GrantLillard & @_moadams, plus open gaming & entry in the #Winning11 sweepstakes!
: https://t.co/C6buGavgHN pic.twitter.com/AcrHVcfn0o
Now, I’ve expressed my discontent at the Fire plenty of times this season, from their performance on the pitch to their abhorrent treatment of some of their most loyal fans. There really isn’t much to be happy about this season, nor anything to look forward to other than the blow of the final whistle on the last match day. With all of that aside, potentially meeting the players in-person is a opportunity I couldn’t pass up. So I put on my 2009 away jersey and braved the long commute.
Upon entering the store you’re greeted by some questionable dance remixes blasted out by the DJ. Snippets of the Fire in action were being played on the large monitors on the wall, and all of the AT&T employees had the Fire badge on their shirts. Tucked away towards the end of the store, the two trophies won during that legendary 1998 season. No one made mention of that— you had to seek them out on your own.
I decided to play a little FIFA to kill some time. Soon, a club representative approached me. She offered me a chance to play FIFA with Mo Adams if I signed up. I quickly grabbed the pen and scribbled my name down.
I walked over to the corner where they were having the FIFA session and introduced myself to Mo. I told him I sucked at FIFA and I was more of a Football Manager type of person. He laughed as well and told me he wasn’t great at it either. I told him I wanted to play as Derby County— one of this youth clubs— and he decided to play as Nottingham Forrest, another club he played at a youth level.
Adams is a top bloke. Talking to him felt like hanging out with a friend. I asked him some generic questions such as, “What was your favorite away trip?” and “How do you like it here in Chicago?” We chatted throughout the whole match. I didn’t even notice that he was beating me 3-0.
Played FIFA against @_moadams. He played Forest and I was Derby. He whooped me 3-0. #cf97 pic.twitter.com/05Pu0dVD1f— RJ (@rga_02) October 19, 2018
We said our goodbyes and I decided to take a quick break from the event itself until Dax McCarty showed up. I came back around 30 minutes later to see that Grant Lillard was there. The moment he was free I asked him to sign one of my jerseys, which he obliged. Like Adams, Lillard was another chill person to talk to. He noticed my 2009 away jersey and we briefly talked about the jerseys throughout the years.
Throughout the event I couldn’t help but notice the relatively sparse attendance. There was a decent sized crowd, but nothing like you’d expect for something hosted by a major professional sports team. I guess this is what happens when you announce the even the night prior and host it at a cell phone store.
Dax showed up eventually and was quickly pulled aside by an AT&T rep to do a quick video promo. Shortly after, he made himself available to the fans out in the room. I got my shirt signed and we chatted. Like Adams and Lillard, Dax was a great person to talk to. I wish I had more time to talk to him; he has this great, affable personality. You can just sense that aura coming out of him. I’m glad that he is our captain.
I stuck around for a bit longer to watch Dax play FIFA against other fans. I left before the event officially ended feeling confused. I’m glad I got to meet some of the players— they were down to earth and really enjoyable to talk to. On the other hand I found it appalling how the Fire treated such a major anniversary. For a club that emphasizes Tradition, Honor and Passion, the Tradition seems an afterthought.