New Chicago Fire striker Robert Beric won’t play his first official game for the team for about six weeks, but he’s already scoring big with fans.
A video produced by the club announcing Beric’s signing has gone viral, and we’re reaching the point where that video might be getting more attention than the signing itself.
It’s because the Fire somehow convinced Beric to pound a shot of Jeppson’s Malort as an initiation to Chicago.
“Cheers, Chicago,” Beric says before guzzling the shot. “Now, it’s official.”
— Chicago Fire FC (@ChicagoFire) January 18, 2020
Chicago, meet Robert Berić. pic.twitter.com/ffrmStbmAe
If you’ve never been lucky enough to have it, Malort is, shall we say, bitter. Natives will often have friends visiting from out-of-town take a shot of the 70-proof liqueur to prove their worth. When paired with an Old Style beer, it’s the “Chicago Handshake.”
“He is a Chicagoan already,” one fan wrote on Twitter. “I love him.”
“Whoever came up with this idea is a champ,” another said.
That someone is Tyler Emerick, the Fire’s Director of Content.
“He had the concept of using the ‘Chicago Handshake’ to welcome a signing, not knowing at that time who the signing might be,” said Kyle Sheldon, the Fire’s Senior Vice President of Marketing.
When team officials got word Beric was signing, they figured they might have their Malort drinker.
“We thought he’d be up for it, but until you actually talk to him in person, you aren’t sure,” Sheldon said.
Beric landed in Chicago Friday afternoon—in a snowstorm, of course—and immediately had a physical at Rush University Medical Center. After that, it was off to the bar at The Blackstone, a downtown hotel, where team officials had to sell him on Emerick’s original idea.
At this point, it’s around 9 p.m. Friday, and Beric was game.
“He was immediately up for it,” Sheldon said. “He was just a real trooper.”
“When [Beric] smelled the Malort for the first time, he said ‘It smells like surgery’,” Sheldon said.
Luckily, the smell didn’t deter him.
“He actually nailed his shot on the very first take,” Sheldon said. “The only reason they had to shoot additional takes was the bartender was having trouble getting the shot glass to slide across the bar.”
After the shoot, it was up to Alex Mueller, the Fire’s new Manager of Video and Creative Services, to edit the piece. He knocked out a rough cut Friday night, and finished the full video Saturday morning, in time for the noon announcement.
What’s more, Mueller did all that after shooting the College Football National Championship game Monday night. He left his role at Clemson, flew to Chicago on Wednesday, and finished his first big assignment for the Fire on Saturday morning.
Besides Emerick and Mueller, the rest of the Malort video team included Ted Bryant, the Fire’s Manager of Content, and Connor Nichols, the Coordinator of Video and Creative Services. And they’re proud of the overwhelming reaction from fans.
“You think you have a good idea, but you’re never sure how it’s gonna be received,” Sheldon said. “As you think about the move downtown to Soldier Field, we’re really trying to embrace all that is Chicago, and this is very clearly, uniquely Chicago.”
The Fire have two more designated player spots to fill for the 2020 season, and the content team is ready to see if they can top this video.
“The team has a list of probably 8-10 that they’re excited about. We’re really looking forward as new players are coming in, pre-season’s a great time to tell these stories,” Sheldon said.