Friday, February 26, 2010

Viernes (Friday) Video: "Pelada" Pick Up Soccer Movie to Make World Premier in FBM's Backyard

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In two weeks the movie, "Pelada" will premiere in the hometown of the Free Beer Movement, Austin, Texas, at one of the world's largest music and film festivals, South By Southwest. For anyone that has heard about this film it is a exciting and satisfying end to a very long journey for the four individuals involved in its making.

For those of you who have not heard of "Pelada" please check out its trailer. The basic premise of the film follows two soccer players as they travel the globe in search of pick-up soccer games. Of course they are not hard to find (Mr. FBM joined in several during his journeys in Central America), but the story is electric.

Recently, the makers of "Pelada" were featured in stories by The New York Times and by Sports Illustrated writer Grant Wahl.

Check it out:

Pelada from Rebekah Fergusson on Vimeo.



And while we don't consider ourselves in the same realm as either the NYT or SI the FBM will be joining the venerable rags as one of the few places where an interview with the filmmakers can be found. Yes, that's right dear readers... the Free Beer Movement is going to be stretching its long-dormant journalism legs!

During SXSW we'll be sitting down with the two players and two filmmakers (Luke Boughen, Rebekah Fergusson, Gwendolyn Oxenham, and Ryan White) for a chat about this awesome new soccer movie.

If you're in the Austin-area or planning on coming down for the SXSW Festival, check out the "Pelada" SXSW page for showtimes.

Stay tuned as there maybe also be some additional exciting news about the FBM and "Pelada" in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Free Beer Stories: James from Chicago

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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!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Announcing www.thefreebeermovement.com!

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Hello and welcome to the NEW www.thefreebeermovement.com! Yes, The FBM has ponied up the cash to purchase this domain name and heave the ".blogspot" off the ol' Inter-web address bar up top. Our previous address was about as awkward as Mr. FBM in middle school... and high school... and, we guess, today as well.

Feel free to update your bookmarks, but if you don't the old address will automatically send you here now! Exciting! We know!

We'll continue to do business as usually here (with the exception of dropping the soccer ball on this week's "Who We're Buying a Beer For;" we're working on that....) and in the next couple of weeks we've got some interesting and exciting new interviews and features for the site.

Is the new web address just "lipstick on a pig"? Probably, but we'll be the prettiest free beer pig on the block, then! Just consider it a commitment to the ideals that propel the FBM that we were willing to plop down some kiz-ash for the new domain.

With the Major League Soccer season closing in on us and the U.S. National Team's campaign to begin this summer in South Africa we wanted to have a site name as professional as how unprofessional we actually are. In all seriousness, we felt as thought that even as 2009 was referred to as the "summer of soccer," 2010 promises to be even bigger.

So welcome to the NEW www.thefreebeermovement.com!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Viernes (Friday) Video: Are You Ready for World Cup 2010?

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Consider this an excuse to get content on the site at the end of the week, heading into the weekend, but there are some great soccer videos out there. We're not talking about clip compilations of step-overs and goal celebrations, but genuine professional productions (commercials and otherwise) that give you those "soccer goose bumps". Each Friday we'll run a video that we've come to love from the soccer video world.

We call it "Viernes Video".

Out first video comes from the "Tony Danza Army". If you've never heard of them before check out this awesome profile by our friends at The Shin Guardian of the Pali Blues Women's Soccer Club Supporter's Group and their website. These guys are everything that's right in the American soccer world. They also happen to be talented web video producers and they put together this vid in anticipation of this summer's World Cup.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Found Free Beer Movement - Baltimore

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Our friends at the Baltimore Brigade and USMNT supporter's group chapter of The American Outlaws released their local take on the FBM logo. Love the colors and a great addition of Mr. Boh the "spokesman" for the old Baltimore brew National Bohemian (Didn't think I knew what it might be, eh? Pretty smart... us FBMers!)



If you're in the Baltimore/DC area and are looking to join as USMNT supporter's group check these guys out.

And another thought... if anyone else out there has some solid designing chops we're always interested in your take on the FBM logo. Please include all of the following:

- Free Beer Movement
- "Imbibo Patefacio Iauna"
- Est. 2005
- A Beer
- Soccer Ball
- Web Address

Give it a shot. We've been kicking the idea around of a t-shirt sometime soon and we'd like to have multiple designs to offer interested parties!

E-mail us at freebeermovement @ gmail (dot) com.
Get in to it!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Who We're Buying a Beer For...

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Here we go again with stupid beer pictures!

We're only honoring one person this week. We hope our FBM readership doesn't mind (thanks, mom!), but we had a hard time coming up with a sufficient list. There were plenty of players we could've put on this list like Freddy Adu's first goal for Aris FC in Greece or Juan Fransisco Torres' game winning "JOLAZO" in his comeback game for Pachuca. We could've bought Landon Donovan another beer (think we owe him at least a six-pack by now) for his man-alive performance for Everton against league giants, Chelsea. Sorry boys... no beers this week (seriously what does Freddy have to do to get some love?)

We could've honored the soccer hooligan choir ("Hardchorus") put together by Puma Football that mocked people's devotion to the beautiful game even on Valentine's Day, but that was yesterday and we're dealing with breaking news sorta stuff all the time here (yeah, right!).

Honestly, we're not trying to punt here (to use an American football term), but we've had a hard time brainstorming anything else that moves American soccer forward further than Clint Dempsey's wife, Bethany Dempsey, has this past week.

The American WAG was the buzz of the U.S. soccer world this week as the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue (All Caps? Is it a proper noun?) was released. Mrs. Dempsey joined other ladies of the soccer world (including Peter Crouch's disproportionately hot fiancee) in having their loved one's jersey painted onto their nude body and posed for pictures in the venerable publication's annual skin fest.

How is anyone supposed to top that?

Our weekly list is supposed to honor those individuals that help move American soccer forward. Sometimes we feature great goals and/or play by our boys at home and overseas. Occasionally, we find off-beat stories that only marginally connect to our topic at hand, but we'd find it hard to believe that anyone connected to soccer in the U.S. moved the dial more that the injured USMNT midfielder's wife did.

While some of this is tongue-in-cheek and we might be laying on the sarcasm a bit thick... there's something to be said that the last time there was anything of soccer-related substance on the pages of SI was Grant Wahl's article on the US-Honduras game back in October. More recently the magazine featured a four hundred word write up on the World Cup draw, a five hundred-word profile on Benny Feilhaber's rebound with the USMNT, and a series of "odd news" briefs from the last decade of soccer in the decade in review issue (really no mention of the massive growth in the sport? Just a write up of some one getting a yellow card in a game for farting? Nice, SI).

Dempsey and Co. however graced several pages of the swimsuit issue and got a massive online photo and video push from SI. Great for soccer, maybe, but do you think the website even made a half-ass effort to link the galleries to the soccer news portion of their website? Something like "Like what you see here? Check out more "hot" soccer coverage with "Soccer at SI.com"? Nope.

Maybe we're being to hard on Sport Illustrated. The same week that this soccer fluff came out Grant Wahl, the magazines part-time soccer, part-time college basketball writer, announced he was moving to a full-time soccer beat as SI beefed up its coverage before this summer's World Cup.

Either way, as we, and many other sites have said, it's a tough media world out there for American soccer. Anything that can break through the embargo on the domestic game is fine with us and deserving of beer-buying. Even as her husband works his way back from injury the fairer-half of the Dempsey clan can still make waves (no pun intended... well we suppose now it is that we've written it) in the SI mag.

We're still of the mindset that any American soccer news is good news for American soccer so Bethany Dempsey is our gal of the week. We won't even disgrace the honor by making some stupid joke about not needing any beers to make her look good....

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Free Beer Stories

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Allison - Pittsburgh, PA:

Shamelessly trying to get a bumper sticker...

This is a picture of me with my buddy Jon. Jon happens to live with three other guys, all pretty huge soccer fans, who form part of a group that will travel pretty far to watch a U.S. National Team game (at least as far as our student budgets will allow).

Members of this group have also been known to ask bartenders for Man U flags hanging behind the bar, and think that this video is perfectly appropriate to show at parties. It's not that Jon isn't supportive, he just doesn't get enthused about soccer. So we decided to invite him to a local pub to watch the Everton/Man City game a few weeks ago and supplied him with beer.

I won't lie -- I don't think he's an official convert, but it's a start!


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Free Waffle and Wings Movement?

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Competition? Rut row.....

In a twist, this past weekend the Free Beer Movement found itself watching hockey at a friend's house. The lure? Free beer was offered (and accepted), but the real draw was free waffles and homemade chicken wings. My buddy Craig, inspired by the FBM, invited people offer to partake in the Free Waffle and Wings Movement and some National Hockey League action.

On Sunday morning, the Penguins of Pittsburgh blew a three goal lead and fell, 5-4, to the Washingon Capitals in an extra period while guests consumed a wide variety of fried goods, waffles, and of course, beer. I even managed to get the Chelsea-Arsenal match running in the background (although hockey in 50" high def was drawing my attention away from the pirated BBC feed on the 15" laptop).

Being a good guest like my mother taught me we brought a Chouffe "Houblon" Dobbelen IPA Tripel (Belgium) that we bought after a beer tasting on Saturday (more from that in another post). We thought a nice Belgian light and crisp beer would go well with the breakfast offerings.

Floral notes, easy on the palette... blah, blah, blah... it tasted good.

How was the hockey? It was end to end action.... like indoor soccer on ice, but with more fighting (a down side of indoor soccer... not many fights, just a lot of turf burns!). What looked to be a Penguins blow out (Craig and his brother Cale are HUGE Pittsburgh fans) through a pair of goals each (a brace in soccer) by Sidney Crosby and Jordan Staal turned into a great come-from-behind-victory for the Capitals, who maintained their 14 game win streak. Pretty quick learner, huh?

I learned that NHL rinks are smaller than Olympic rinks and that it sucks to be a guest at a friend's house when their team loses. Learning enhanced my experience. I'm not a total dunce when it comes to hockey, just relatively indifferent to the sport, but things like icing, who can and cannot be in the crease needed to be explained to me. Craig and Cale were more than willing to explain all the nuances of the game in between screaming at the TV. When you're watching something that you don't normally, it helps to have a knowledgeable person, and a person willing to take the time to share that knowledge, nearby.

What I Learned for the Free Beer Movement

It was some valuable lessons to think about how each "Free Beer Mover" should operate when taking their "soccer newbies" to games. How that it's about the free beer, but it's also about taking the time to educate our guests about the sport. Understanding the sport can only lead to a greater appreciation of each successive time that the newbie catches a game. The break through is the beer, whereas the follow up is the knowledge.

We know that sometimes it's a lot to ask of our followers to take this important next step, but it is crucial. The FBM is more than just an avenue to drink beer (although it certainly is a convenient excuse!) it's an avenue for soccer lovers to spread what they know and enlighten the soccer newbies that we are feeding our beers to.

Falling in love with any sport is a long and arduous journey. It starts with interest, is built on understanding of the game, followed by choosing a team (through any number of ways), and following and investing in that team and the sport in general. Free beer and you as a Free Beer Mover is an important step in the initial stages.

We can't expect any soccer newbie to walk into a stadium or soccer pub and fall for the sport instantly. The same nuances that were daunting to me as a "hockey newbie" are easily present in soccer (offsides, probably the single most difficult thing to explain in all of sports, etc). Without the steady hand of a soccer-experienced person nearby the soccer newbies' experience is for nothing. Through our free beer efforts and education we can build a lasting foundation for the future of American soccer.

Watching some hockey... decked out in soccer gear. I think I'm safe.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Who We're Buying a Beer For...

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Now leading off this column and "Who We're Buying a Beer For" future columns... funny beer pictures.

So many sad souls this week and so few beers to comfort their sorrows. First, it was the tabloid saga of John Terry, captain of the England National Team and Chelsea FC, having an affair with the girlfriend of former teammate and current Manchester City defender Wayne Bridge. The way the British newspapers reported the story you thought that this single event might force the Three Lions out of the World Cup or become such a distraction that you might as well give three points to each of their group opponents this summer.

Shortly there after everything was right in the English world as the National Team manager Fabio Capello stripped Terry of the captain's armband and handed it to the injured Rio Ferdinand. Wayne Bridge, who you'll remember was the guy who lost the most in this situation (his girlfriend and possible a spot on the National Team... he was always a fringe player and now why would the coach select him now?), missed the sympathy boat.

John Terry, however is floating high on the the worries of the entire nation. How will the beleaguered defender cope in South Africa? Will he feature against Arsenal this weekend? Will this ruin England's chances FIVE MONTHS FROM NOW? An ESPN Soccernet article even went as far to report that Capello was protecting Terry from being "destroyed":

Terry was described as "a little fish in the sea hunted by a shark", and there was a real fear for the England boss that if he failed to relieve the pressure in some way, that the nation's best centre-half would arrive in South Africa a broken man.
As we wrote on our Twitter feed... wait a minute... who banged who's girlfriend?

All of this is a long-winded rant to get to the real beer-buying individuals... the poor souls involved in America's version of the international soccer/sex scandal: Harkes-gate.

* So our first round of beers goes to all the characters involved in this saga: Eric Wynalda, John Harkes, and former USMNT coach Steve Sampson.

Let us be the first to say that we don't condone Mr. Harkes' actions, but since we do subscribe to the "David Beckham School of American Soccer News"... any news that breaks the national media soccer embargo, even bad news, is good for the sport in the United States.

A quick re-cap... right before the 1998 disaster at the World Cup in France (three and out, one goal), DC United star John Harkes was dropped from the squad. He had been recently named "Captain for Life" by Sampson so the news was quite a shock to the American soccer world (you thought it was small now...).

Fast forward to 2010 and in light of the John Terry is a cheating-son-of-a-bitch-news from England Wynalda acknowledges on Fox Soccer Channel's "Fox Football Fone-In" that the reason Harkes was dropped from the '98 team was because Mr. "Hey, Remember My Goal From Wembley?" was tagging Waldo's wife (Walda?). Sampson then comes out of hiding and confirms the story. Apparently this is one of the worst kept secrets in American soccer (one that I had, NEVER, EVER heard before... so that just tells you where we stand in the soccer world!), but now all of the dirty laundry is hanging out there for the nation to see.

Now there's a chapter is Harkes' book that I wish he would have penned. I feel like I might be owed some money for him excluding this juicy tale. Sampson is sitting back hoping that this little tale exonerates him for such a shitty performance in France, but everyone knows that it wasn't Harkes-gate that did him in, but a 3-6-1 formation and not using superstar-in-his-prime Brian McBride until the last, and futile, game... a sorry 2-1 loss to Iran (Iran!). Even Grant Wahl says so and he knows everything!

So in the end... Waldo divorces his wife, like three years later, and is now an assistant coach for the U-2o Nats, Harksie is arguing with JP Dellacamera on "Soccer Night in America" on ESPN2, and Sampson sunk the Los Angeles Galaxy and is probably trying to breathe life into the 3-6-1 with some U-8 team in suburban Ohio.

All of these sad sacks get one big USMNT sponsored Budweiser.



* Think Eric Wynalda has issues? How about DaMarcus Beasley, who had his car FIREBOMBED this week, apparently over a woman who has ties to underground figures in Glasgow, Scotland. The Rangers midfielder saw his $80,000 BMW go up in flames. File this under the category: "It Sucks to Be You, DMB" (surprisingly... we've got a few entries in this file).

The Daily Record writes:

The report cites an anonymous source who claims that Beasley was involved with a lady who had ties to an underground figure in the city, and that it was a professional job done by local gangsters.
Just when you think things are getting better, you know, getting some PT with Rangers, scoring some goals and then, WHAM! your car's on fire! We're serving up a beer for Beasley because he might need it to put out the next fire that these "underground figures" will set.

The FBM guesses that it might just be prudent for Coach Sweatpants to double check everyone's lady-friends before the start of the World Cup in June because between lessons from 1998 and Run DMB's fling Charlie Davies' fitness might not be item "numero uno" anymore.

* Just to end on some good news we're going to hand out the third of beer honors this week to USMNT and Hull City striker Jozy Altidore who bagged his first English Premier League goal against the Billionaire Boys of Manchester City. His 30th minute goal, which was declared a "JOLAZO!" by Mark T of The Shin Guardian (Great stuff... they even made a T-shirt with proceeds going to Haiti relief), was instrumental in the Tigers holding off a late Man Citeh charge.



I declared on Twitter to "That's on Point" writer Mike Cardillo (second best soccer blogger behind the TSG bhoys) that if JZA's goal wasn't in ESPN's Top Ten on SportCenter (they gotta start giving the US players some love on there!) I would never watch the network again. No confirmation whether or not it did feature (I don't have cable... I steal all of my soccer. Shhh!), but I might have to walk back that statement because the Worldwide Leader in Sports is the home for this summer's World Cup.

UPDATE: I found last night's "Top Ten" which omitted number 9 , but did include some guy dancing a halftime, three hockey goals none by an American, a hole-in-one, and three NBA dunks (two by the same guy... that couldn't have been a combo highlight).

SECOND UPDATE: I was told in the comments section that the omitted ninth highlight was Jozy's goal. There was probably a rights-issue for replaying the highlight on YouTube (silly EPL and their lawyers). If you we're here earlier there was this huge anti-ESPN rant about them fucking over soccer, but in light of this news I'll let them off the hook. Although, YOU'VE BEEN WARNED ESPN!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Meet Aztex Amber Ale (a Supporter's Group Brew)

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A few months ago we posted a photo essay of the Free Beer Movement's participation in beer brewing with members of Chantico's Army, the supporter's group of the USL/NASL side Austin Aztex.

From the mind of one of CA's members, Ed, a team-specific brew was born, the Aztex Amber Ale. At long last the drink itself has gone through its natural process and is finished!

Ladies and gentlemen... Version 1.0 of Route 29 Brewery's Triple A!

Delicious, delicious beer.

Having bank rolled some of this batch (we're calling ourselves the AAA's "malt daddy"), the FBM is pretty happy with the results. The beer itself would stand up well against any of the ambers we've had previously. Traditionally, we've felt that ambers are traditionally weaker that other types of beer and we were initially hesitant to lend our backing to a "red" beer, but since it is the Austin Aztex color it was kind of a given. Ambers, themselves, always seem to be just too mild in flavor and coming from a Indian Pale Ale lover; it just lacks any punch.

This amber, however, has some good hops to it without being overwhelming. Just enough punch to set it apart from other, milder ambers, but not enough to argue that it couldn't be considered an amber. The color is a perfect amber (sorry our picture doesn't do it justice) and the liquid is free and clear of any floaties (a techincal term).

The only downside to the first batch is that the beer doesn't hold its carbonation as long as a standard beer. Between having a pint of the stuff sitting around (not the usual at FBM HQ mind you... just testing out the brew) and the bottle in the fridge the beer can get a little flat if not consumed in a reasonable amount of time.

Overall, for a first effort on this recipe our brewer Ed has done a fantastic job.

Ed hard at work.

Ed is already hard a work getting ready to brew another batch with some tweaks before the pre-match tailgate for the Aztex's exhibition March 14th opener against Major League Soccer side, Houston Dynamo. He acknowledged that the carbonation was a little inconsistent between each bottle and, being a fan of hoppy beers, he was hopping to kick it up a notch for the next batch.

There's something pretty unique about American soccer fans not only getting behind their local team, but getting behind making a beer that supports it as well.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Free Beer Stories - Joe from Chicago

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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.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Who We're Buying a Beer For...

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More Major League Soccer love this week as two of our three brewski honorees hail from the domestic league while the other is a product of the American college system.

1) Landon Donovan

The cross-the-pond Major League Soccer product made waves this past week scoring his first goal for his English Premier League team, Everton. It was no Clint Dempsey super-strike, but the goal put LD on the score sheet and fueled Internet rumors of an extend loan deal for the Los Angeles midfielder.

As we've said time and time again any goal-scoring exploits for our boys overseas is good for the domestic game and the American soccer movement. Even if Lando doesn't come back at the beginning of the MLS season he is still a developmental success story for the league.

Donovan is the highest profile player MLS has ever had and continued success aboard is only going to help the US National Team this summer in South Africa. Fans of American soccer have to balance the want of Nats team success versus that of the league's profile with or without LD. It's a tough call, but we're willing to sacrifice the Galaxy's 2010 success at the expense of a Landon Dovovan sharp off a half season in the EPL.

Donovan's contributions to his new Everton side have already been well received by the Toffee faithful and his and fellow Nat Tim Howard's stellar play in goal has reversed the club's fortune's in England.

Here's the goal (fingers cross it hasn't been lawsuited out of the Inter-web-o-sphere):



2) Stu Holden

Speaking of developmental success stories for MLS... Stu Holden, a midfielder for the Houston Dynamo or should we say former midfielder for the Houston Dynamo. The USMNT starlet (and current replacement for Dempsey if he can't shake his injury) penned a loan deal with English Premier League mid-tablers Bolton.

Word on the street is that the "Iceman" is suffering from a mid-hamstring strain and so he didn't feature in the Wanders weekend action, but should see some PT real soon.

Going back to our point above; even as we, as fans of MLS, mourn the loss of our marquee players to foreign league, we need to be proud that the products of our league are desired in far away places. For now and the near future the league is focused on smart growth and player development. Obviously, there is the want to increase the level of play and, of course, the compensation of the players in the league (something up for discussion during the current collective bargaining agreement talks), but until the day comes that Major League Soccer is sustainable, compete salary-wise with the big boys, and an attractive option for American players and others we need to be satisfied that our league's best and wanted aboard.

If you managed to get through that last run-on sentence then congrats. The same congrats we want to extend to Holden for making the jump to the EPL. Even though the Dynamo will be hurting without him (and Ricardo Clark who made the jump to Germany.... probably should get him a beer, too) for the 2010 season each player no one would ever argue that Holden made the wrong call taking a European vacation.

3) Charlie Davies

ESPN's Ives Galarcep reported this past week that USMNT striker Charlie Davies was making a better, and faster, than expected recovery from his injuries sustained in that horrific car crash back in October 2009. Galarcep spoke to Davies and his training on his progress and received tons of welcome news for Nats team fans.

"Charlie is pretty much light years ahead of where anybody would tell you he should be," said Jim Hashimoto, the former U.S. national team trainer who is overseeing Davies rehabilitation. "When everybody heard about the accident, including myself, it was like, 'OK, this is going to be a long one' -- and it's still going to be a long one, but to see his progress is pretty amazing."
Just when it seemed as though the top players for the National Team we're going to be sidelined for South Africa our fortunes reversed. News out of England reported that Dempsey's injury is not as serious as previously thought, Jay DeMeritt is back from his eye injury, Gooch is on the mend in Italy, and Maruice Edu is seeing playing time at Rangers in Scotland again after an extend layoff.

With the USMNT squad looking more secure going forward it makes results like the friendly against Honduras look less troubling. With our European regulars manning the front lines against England on June 12th things are looking up.

Final words Charlie?

"I know I can come back and be one of the best strikers in the world. I know with the improvement that I'm making, if I can continue that with this new feeling I have now, it's going to be tough to stop me.I plan on making a difference at the World Cup."

Fuckin' sweet.