Soccer has a very special and unique place in the human experience. It is capable of bringing together different faiths, ethnicities, and backgrounds, both near to home and across the globe, in a captivating celebration of the possible. Strangers can quickly become friends along the common bond of the ball and pitch, despite language or cultural barriers. Soccer is able to have this far reach while still connecting to people at the local level, making a difference in communities and individual lives.
Yet soccer without fans is nothing. While this may seem like a simple phase or an overstatement, it is a fact that becomes more true the more thought that is put into it. It became the rallying cry of a fanbase that watched a feud between its front office and supporters section, and the validity of the statement is become abundantly clear in the early spring as SeatGeek Stadium has been largely empty for the Chicago Fire’s first few home games.
And yet, familiar faces continue fill the stadium as they show up to support the club they love week in and week out.
To some, hearing the roar of “I’m Fire till I die” is just another chant from Section 8, espoused without any real conviction or deeper meaning as the supporters cheer on their Men in Red. But to others, the true Fire faithful that find their way back to Bridgeview season after season, this chorus has much deeper meaning, and holds very true, as the fans will support their club through thick and thin, a constant source of both joy and pride, and disappointment, but a club that wouldn’t be traded for anything.
The recent loss of a family member has given me pause to sit back and reflect on the importance of sharing with others the things that bring joy and passion to our lives. It creates such a rewarding feeling to bring someone along and introduce them to something that has special significance in your life, and allowing your excitement to be contagious and stir some excitement in others for your passion.
My employer strongly believes in the ideal of meraki, a Greek idea that amounts to loving something so much you leave a piece of yourself in it. My uncle embodied this ideal, as he was someone that wore his heart on his sleeve, always serving as the life of the party and sharing his passions, particularly for fishing, with everyone he met, happy to teach and show, or just accompany and enjoy the water.
Fire fans, too, embody these meraki ideals, more than just giving themselves for a full ninety minutes, but always having a bit of the team with them and a bit of themselves with the team. It shows in the clothes, the jerseys, shirts, scarfs and even tattoos worn proudly no matter the occasion. It shows in the passion that comes forward when talking about their club. It shows in the excitement and energy of all those walking in to SeatGeek Stadium on gameday. Fire fans put a bit of their heart into the team, and readily share that enthusiasm with all who join them.
One of my best friends first introduced me to soccer and the Fire a decade ago, bringing me along for the three plus hour journey to what was then Toyota Park. Before the game had even ended, I was hooked. Since then I have continued to make that drive regularly, becoming a season ticket holder, and introducing many of my friends to the excitement and passion that live soccer can bring. All it took was one invitation, one kind gesture to share something that brought my friend joy with me, and in turn it spread to me and now to others who have accompanied me to games or heard me excitedly talk about how the season or team is looking.
In this spirit of spreading and sharing your interests and joy, I urge you to consider volunteering for a worthy cause that helps others that have different advantages in life the opportunity to partake in your favorite activity. From Fishing Has No Boundaries, which partners fishermen and those without the means to fish, to Play Soccer International, which helps ensure children are receiving quality water, food and the ability to play, there are thousands of opportunities to partner with organization that connect others to your passion.
As the 2019 MLS season begins in earnest, let this serve as a call to Fire fans near and far, to not only think about what draws you to the Fire and why you love this club, reflecting the passion it invokes for you, but also to make it a point to get to a game and experience the thrills and excitement of live soccer. More importantly, bring a friend with you, and allow them to enjoy the thrills of SeatGeek Stadium and the Chicago Fire.
There is something quite special about feeling the beat of the drum as Section 8 urges on the Men In Red, the roar of the crowd and the ensuing celebration with complete strangers that quickly become family as Chicago scores a goal, and the jubilation of victory at the final whistle, that keeps many returning time and time again to the Bridgeview suburb to enjoy the spectacle that is the Fire. As you bring others to experience what makes Fire soccer special, before you know it, they too will be Fire till they die.