Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Free Beer Stories: James from Chicago

Editor's Note: Twitter follower James posted this story on his personal website last fall and we wanted to share the tale with the American soccer world. Normally we share stories of free beer in action, but this one is more of a family tale sans beer. He did happen to bring a "soccer-newbie," though so we'll give him half-credit.

It's important to remember, as we've mentioned previously, that beyond free beer, we are promoting the game and hoping that the atmosphere of American soccer stands on it own laurels as well. James' story is just that.

A fan of the National Team and "over-there" soccer, James had not given the domestic game a serious look yet. What he left with was not just an appreciation of Major League Soccer and the Chicago Fire, but the desire to establish fandom for himself and his next generation. Read on.

Got your own "free beer story"? Send us it at freebeermovement @ gmail (dot) com and get a FREE Free Beer Movement sticker!

This past weekend I decided it was time to go check out the Chicago Fire for the first time. I have been a fan of the USMNT and Fulham for about 6 years, but have only been a casual fan of MLS. The MLS has a lot of issues to work through before they gain the respect needed to be considered a major soccer league in the world, but this post is not about those issues. I wanted to write up a post describing my first live experience at a MLS match and explain why the Chicago Fire have made me a fan for life.

Saturday night's match was the Eastern Conference Final between the Chicago Fire and Real Salt Lake. The match was being played at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, IL. The stadium is only a few years old, and is a very nice setup. There isn't a bad seat in the house in my opinion. Tickets for this Championship match were very cheap considering what it costs to go see a MLB or NFL game. I spent $25 a ticket, and had what could be considered premium seats. We were 12th row in section 104 which is only 2 sections from midfield.

The match was a sellout crowd of just over 21,000. Not too shabby considering the lack of popularity for MLS. The tickets for this match had completely sold out by Wednesday, so I was lucky to have bought my tickets on Monday. If you have ever been to a professional or national club match, you understand how the environment of the crowd is totally different from what you find at other sporting events. The crowd is very enthusiastic singing team chants and rooting with all of their hearts for their club. The Chicago Fire supporters club, Section 8, is a group of hardcore fans unlike what you would find at any other Chicago sporting event. These guys live and die with the Chicago Fire. For the entire match they are on their feet chanting, waving flags, and even lighting flares during the 90th minute. It is really an experience you cannot truly appreciate unless seeing it in person.

I do not think I could have ever picked a more exciting match to be my first experience seeing the Chicago Fire live. Needless to say it was an awesome game to bring Julie to seeing that she has never been to any live soccer match at a professional level. As time ticked away and we approached the 90th minute there was a nervous feeling that cannot be explained. You knew every time Chicago or RSL gained possession that it could be the end of the match. After 90 minutes of regulation and 30 minutes of overtime we had a 0-0 tie. We moved onto penalty kicks where the Fire eventually lost 5-4. When the winning kick was made you could hear a pin drop in the stadium. You could feel the heartache of all of the Fire fans in that moment of quietness as RSL celebrated on the field. In no time though, Section 8 was back with chants of "Fire til I die!"

I walked away from the game with one question "How much for 2010 season tickets?!" This Saturday sold me on MLS and the Chicago Fire. I can't wait to start a new family tradition, and take Luke to the games next year. This past Saturday's experience was an epic experience for me, and the Chicago Fire have a fan for life.

Julie and me before the start of the game

The Section 8 tifo during the national anthem.

Flares going off in Section 8 during the 90th minute

Got your own "free beer story"? Send us it at freebeermovement @ gmail (dot) com and get a FREE Free Beer Movement sticker!

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