Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Free Beer Stories - Joe from Chicago

Editor's Note: While surfing around the Inter-net-blog-o-sphere we stumbled across this story from Joe Baur about his experience at the Chicago Fire versus New England Revolution Major League Soccer playoff game at Toyota Park last November. Joe considers himself relatively new to the American soccer world (he said that he grew up with the idea that soccer was "commie-round-ball") so he might need some convincing. Enter Section 8, the Chicago Fire Supporter's Group, and their beer bus. Joe was kind enough to allow us to re-publish his story and some pictures that originally appeared on his personal blog, "Mildly Relevant Thoughts".

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

This fall the Chicago Fire, a professional soccer team (yes, we have them in America), took on the New England Revolution in some hardcore Eastern Conference Semi-Finals action! …Okay, maybe it wasn’t that “hardcore” to the national media, but the fans would have you believe you were watching the Super Bowl on obscene amounts of crack (as if simply being on crack isn’t enough).

I grew up with the notion that soccer was commie-round-ball, so it should come as no surprise that I had never gone to a Major League Soccer match before this past summer when Courtney and I decided to give this Chicago Fire team a chance to entertain us. Per the advise of some Fire fan-friends of ours, we sat in the fan section known as Section 8. We went on to watch a 0-0 tie against the defending champion Columbus Crew and still had a blast. It was a blunt reminder that soccer can, indeed, be painfully boring. But sitting with Section 8 made up for the lack of anything relevant happening. Courtney and I were unfortunately only able to make it to one other game before getting caught up in our big-kid lives. But when the opportunity to go to a playoff game arose for a measly $10 (my frugal senses were tingling), we jumped on it.

On Saturday, November 7th the Fire were to take on the New England Revolution after losing their first playoff game against them last week by a score of 1-2. MLS is weird and does a two game, aggregate scoring system, something they’ll need to change in order to get American, best of ( ), sports fans on board. Basically, the Fire needed to win by 2 in order to advance. While I still find it weird to cheer for any city in anything other than Cleveland, I was definitely on board with cheering against New England in all their bandwagon fan glory. So in order to prepare ourselves for yelling expletives at what’s probably New England’s least popular professional sport team, Courtney and I (along with our two mutual friends, Arthur and Adrienne), opted for the Section 8 beer bus. It’s exactly what it sounds like.

The buses rolled up, reeking of elementary school with the stench of exhaust filling the air. The camaraderie began immediately upon entering the bus as we were all handed a can of PBR. No names exchanged, no greetings – just beer in hand. Adrienne and Arthur, first time MLS goers, were already on board with Section 8. As the buses roared their engines and their fumes began to fill our lungs, we cracked open our first beer and began the trek from downtown Chicago to Toyota Park in Bridgeview, IL. Not too long into the drive (after pulling over to reload on beer), a gentleman next to us began chanting.

“Guapo, Guapo! Sing us a song! Sing us a song! Sing us a song! Guapo, Guapo! Sing us a song!”

This went on until a man in the front of the bus arose with a trumpet in hand. One could only assume Guapo had some tunes in store for us.

First Guapo led us in a simple Chicago Fire chant. “Fire! Fire! Fire!” with a mixture of “da-da-da” instead of actually chanting lyrics. Say what you will about soccer, my traditional American brethren, but who doesn’t love repeating nonsensical gibbberish at the top of their lungs? Nobody! That’s who.

After taking us through a playlist of Fire chants, including humming the Tetris theme song, Toyota Park could be seen off in the distance. The bus erupted in cheers more intense than how most sports fans respond to a one yard touchdown run or a base hit single. Toyota Park was their cathedral.

Soon after parking, everyone hustled off of the bus, with the men running to bushes for a quick pee. The beer had taken its toll, to say the least. It was here in the bushes that we were watering where I made some friends.

“Did you go to Ohio State?” one gentleman in mid-stream asked, looking at my Ohio State hoodie. One mistake I made was wearing my Ohio State hoodie and Columbus Blue Jackets hat. The Columbus Crew are hated amongst Fire fans. It seems to be MLS’ Ohio State/Michigan rivalry, except only soccer fans know about it.

“No, Miami,” I responded.

“Big Ben!” a fellow pee-er shouted next to me. Before I could allow myself to grimace over the mentioning of the hated Steeler’s quarterback from Miami, the other two (pee-er one and pee-er three) began conversing. Apparently this is how it’s done with Fire fans. Chatting with a cup of tea in Britain is replaced with peeing here in Fire country. Not to sound like a douchebag (inevitable), but as long as there’s beer involved, I’m cool!

With a couple of shakes, I was finished emptying the tank and met back up with Courtney, Adrienne and Arthur. The whole point of the beer bus, beyond being able to drink excessive amounts of booze without having to worry about driving, was to get to the game a couple of hours or so early for the tailgate. Supposedly there would be $5 food, so once again my frugal senses were tingling and we made our way to the food. To my delighted surprise, the food was free! Some fire Fans in a tent were handing out hotdogs and burgers. Sure the personal trainer in me would have a hard time locating those foods on the food pyramid, but there aren’t many rules amongst soccer fans other than screaming until your voice die for the right team.

After the grub, we remembered that we were supposed to get scarves for our tickets. In soccer, they do scarves like baseball fans do caps. I don’t know how it started, but whatever. They look pretty badass considering it’s a scarf. Unfortunately, we f-ed up. The deal was 1 scarf per order of two tickets or more. Courtney, being the efficient gal she is, ordered all four of our tickets at once. Since it was the same order, we only got one scarf. But then again, Courtney is also, as she likes to say, “stealthy like ninja.” There were still plenty of scarves left in that damn box and there was no way they’d get rid of them all. With that, Arthur and I stayed behind as the ladies went to work. A minute later and they returned with another scarf.

“Keep walking,” Adrienne and Courtney said. Like the good significant others we are, we did as we were told. Evidentally Adrienne gave her name as “Courtney” and they never crossed off the name from when the real Courtney claimed a scarf. We didn’t feel guilty. It just made us cheer that much harder, so take solace in that, Chicago Fire. Speaking of cheering, at this point it was time to head in for the game!

As we were walking toward the stadium, a Fire fan apparently took notice of my Columbus apparel, none of which were Columbus Crew, mind you.

“You from Columbus?” he asked.
“No, Cleveland.”
“Columbus is a shitty town. Chicago is a real city.”

Great. Another Chicagoian who thinks the world starts and ends with the Chicago city limits, I thought to myself. I told my brother, who lived in Columbus at one point, about this interaction later on and he lamented that “Chicagoans think anything not Chicago is shitty. Shitbags.” It made me laugh.

“I disagree, but okay,” I politely responded. Courtney tried to play mediator, assuring the gentleman that it wasn’t a good idea to insult Ohio in front of me, unless he wanted a history on why Ohio, in fact, rules.

“He’s a Fire fan, though!” “Oh, no. You don’t want to get into that,” Courtney kept repeating.

“There’s a reason you’re here,” he said in regard to me living in Chicago and not Ohio.

“I plan on moving back sooner rather than later.” I wish I could’ve taken a picture, because his face looked so baffled after hearing someone say they prefer someplace else over Chicago, you’d think I just told him the world is in fact flat.

“Fuck the Crew, that’s all I’m saying,” he finally finished, offering a handshake, which I halfheartedly accepted. For better or worse, Fire fans act as if the rivalry they have with the Crew is on par with that of Ohio State and Michigan or New York and Boston. It’s not, but I guess it’s good for the league to have such a powerful rivalry. It only becomes a problem when half-ass Fire fans, such as myself, have no problem with Columbus and actually think it’s a pretty cool city.

Game time.

Before grabbing our seats, we also remembered that the first 200 or so entrants got a free tee shirt. There was no way we were one of the first 200, but we figured we’d give it a shot anyway. Before I could even give a lame explanation, the woman working the counter gave me two shirts, because I wasn’t wearing red. Sure the shirt was 2 sizes too big, but it fit nicely over my Buckeyes sweatshirt and made me look much more built than I really am.

If everything leading up to the game was the prologue, then the game itself lived up to one of the best sports narratives I’ve seen in person. The fans are literally, certifiably nuts, yet I’m okay with it. The entire game was spent jumping up and down (quite the calf workout) on bleacher seats you think are about to bust at any moment. City of Chicago and Chicago Fire flags filled the stands as we yelled at the New England team. The “Fuck New England” chant was admittedly uncreative, but by far my favorite. As I said before, I have NO problem cheering against Boston sports.

The city pride was in full force. I give Chicagoans a hard time for thinking the world ends outside of their borders, but they’re definitely great fans and obnoxiously proud of their city like I am Cleveland. It makes me wish Cleveland had an MLS team to yell and scream for. I guess I’ll have to become a die hard Green Army member and support USL-1’s Cleveland City Stars! Hey, if the Seattle Sounders could win and move up, maybe Cleveland can, too. It’s not like the Browns, Cavs and Indians are winning championships left and right (or at-freaking all!).

When the action in the game seemed to stall a bit, out came the flares. Yes, fans literally set off flares as if they were sending a signal to the team that our collective boredom needed rescuing. Perhaps the constant chanting, flag waving and flares did the trick, because the Fire did what they needed to do in order to advance to the Eastern Conference finals and beat New England with a score of 2-0 (14-0 in American football, as Kenny Mayne would like to say). They’ll move on to play Real Salt Lake this Saturday. Personally, I don’t get how a Western Conference team like Salt Lake can be in the Eastern Conference Finals, but whatever. Soccer’s still a bit foreign to me, so I’m willing to live with it.

After the game, we were all beat. Courtney guaranteed she’d fall asleep immediately on the bus. Some drunks girls on the bus felt differently, though. As much fun as the lead up to the game and the game itself were, the bus ride home was an experience in of itself.

While on the freeway, for whatever reason, the previously mentioned drunk girls started singing “Yellow Submarine.” One guy told them to stop, because it just so happens to be a Columbus Crew chant, but that didn’t stop them. Instead, they started chanting “O-H! I-O!” Another guy tried to tell them “fuck, Ohio!” but that only strengthened their buzzed resolve. Despite the fact that their high pitched screaming made my ears bleed, I loved seeing fellow Ohioans who are as obnoxiously proud of their state as I am.

It was the perfect way for me to end a night of cheering for a non-Cleveland team.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent story. As a former Chicago-land resident who had seen other parts of the country, I can attest to everyone there thinking that Chicago's shit doesn't stink.

    That being said, the Section 8 Supporters group is phenomenal, though a tad on the uncreative side with their chants. It's nice to know that there are others who support the game as ferverntly as you do, all convening in one place.


"Anyone who tells me soccer is boring, I'm going to punch them in the face."
- Former Dallas Burn (aka FC Dallas) coach Dave Dir

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