It's Fire!

by © 1997, Originally published "Stinking Wild Onion" Issue 1

It was the kind of Chicago weather when the unlicensed peddlers at el stops don't know whether to display sunglasses or umbrellas. The press conference to announce the name of our new Major League Soccer team was being held outside near Navy Pier. Apparently it was by invitation only, but a neighborhood newspaper printed the time and location, so I decided to crash it.

I wanted to wear something conservative, befitting my status as media representative for the afternoon, so I opted for the classic lines of AC Milan kit and washed my bike. Chicago is number one in bike theft, so I locked mine up close to the vintage fire truck, and took a seat where I could keep an eye on it, as the loudspeakers played "Unforgettable Fire." A glance at the date on my calendar watch reminded me it was the anniversary of the most tragic day in Chicago's history. If I hadn't already been clued in by some Internet savvy sleuth who had discovered the domain name chicago-fire.com was registered to the MLS, I still think I would have figured it out before the announcement.

The first speaker, courtesy of the Mayor's office, was about as dynamic as a plate of spaghetti. Every word out of his mouth was as much a surprise to him as it was to us. He summed up in a monotone, "[your team] will be the hottest of all."

But not to worry, Douglas Logan, commissioner of the MLS, was excited about the day's events. By first delivering his remarks in Spanish, he made it clear the Chicago Fuego also belongs to the fans who turn out each year for the annual visit of Guadalajara-Chivas to Soldier Field. The press kit also came in Spanish. The press conference zipped along to get to the fireworks before the rain. General Manager Peter Wilt, who has come to town with a fine reputation among soccer fans, announced the team's name but left us in suspense as to the coach and players who are to be named later. If there was any disappointment with the name, it disappeared when the extremely sharp logo, based on the Chicago Fire Department badge, was unveiled. The fire truck's siren sounded, Roman candles, St. Catherine wheels, and sky rockets were loosed, and good will prevailed.

In a very classy move, on both sides, it was announced that Lee Stern, former owner of the Chicago Sting and soccer's foremost advocate in Chicago, was the first season ticket holder. I decided not to be left behind. Season tickets went on sale the following day and I went to the office listed in the ticket brochure to choose my seats in person. Unfortunately the only person there was the architect as the office was not yet ready for occupancy. Calling up the sales department, I was directed to their temporary office after declining to make my purchase over the phone. The office staff were very nice. A salesman took my order and everyone said they looked forward to seeing me next season. I hope they put my visit down to enthusiasm rather than eccentricity.

Fire Bullet Back to the O'Leary Lantern

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Page last updated April 16, 2004