Get Yours Kicks On Route...Ummmm...At 7000 S. Harlem Ave.
While all of the cool kids were off doing the rockin' summer music festival thing at Intonation, I, along with Cake Ninja Butternugget, took in a Chicago Fire game courtesy of Judge and Mrs. Injury. To get the insignificant details out of the way, the Fire defeated the sadly named New York Red Bulls 2-0. Besides the general indignity of playing for a team named after the liquid crack of the X-Games Generation, the Red Bulls goalie, and former National Team keeper Tony Meola, seemed a bit grumpy that he had to be at the game instead of where he felt he belonged, returning from the World Cup with the rest of the US squad in disgrace.
One of the goals was scored by midfielder Thiago. Now, I don't really believe that the Chicago Fire managed to get an authentic one-named Brazilian to play for them. Gimme a break. More likely is that they found him in some neighborhood here in the city, saw he had some skills, and dressed him up like a Brazilian for effect. Kind of like a job at a restoration village for people who can do bicycle kicks. The last thing they needed to do was give him a name - something exotic and announcer-friendly. So, they settled on Thiago (pronounced "tee-ah-goooooooooooo"). Thus the Fire's "Brazilian" soccer star was born.
The view from the 2nd row
OK, enough about the Xs and Os of the game. We'll save those finer points for American sports analysis. Yesterday marked the inaugaral match in the Fire's new Toyota Park, a stadium dedicated exclusively to soccer and Kenny Chesney concerts so that they don't have to share with those glory-hogging Bears with their tradition and broad fan base. The stadium, sporting a half-paved parking lot and unpainted concrete outer walls, is truly the new vanguard of soccer-viewing architecture. (Actually, the seats of the Injury family were awesome.) It's location, unencumbered by such things as a neighborhood for pre- and post-game reveling or convenient access to public transit, makes it the perfect setting for a stadium to fall quietly into disrepair should the MLS go the way of all previous American professional soccer leagues.
Part of the gala opening celebration entailed giving the fans streamers to throw onto the field of play, making the teenaged staff rue the day they applied for "this cool job with the Fire." When streamers insufficiently aerodynamic to really infringe on the game, some industrious folks fashioned paper airplanes out of signs that were taped to the back of each seat and were originally intended to make the crowd appear to be a solid sea of red and white, the teams colors. The airplanes were a way more effective nuisance and, thanks to some especially creative fans who affixed the paper streamers to the backs of their planes to create a tail effect, a much more aesthetically pleasing one as well.
Even though the Fire have their own house, it does not mean that they have a home. For professional sports franchises, it is what the players give back to the community that really connects them to the places where the play. The Chicago Fire are no different. Introducing the FireWorks for Kids Foundation, the philanthropic effort whose name has the most humor potential since what? The Dick Sale Charity Golf Tournament? Can any of us resist imagining a "Support FireWorks for Kids" poster featuring a bunch of little cherubs waving their stumpy wrists and three-fingered hands at the camera? No. No we can't.
No effort at sports reporting is complete with out a full wrap up of foodstuffs. When we did our initial concession survey it did not look good: $9 bottles of Corona suffering from gigantism (though only mild gigantism, so it was still a total gyp); I bought a "BBQ" Chicken sandwich which was merely thinly coated (let's call it stained) with some sort of ersatz tabasco that wasn't spicy so much as it made me reminisce about the olden days when food came with spice included; and there were far too many Dippin' Dots vendors per capita. Then we discovered them: ice cream nachos. No, there was no viscous cheese product or canned jalapenos (for all I know it was completely dairy-free), but it was pretty magical. The chips were something like bakes tortillas crossed with Taco Bell cinnamon twists. They were then buried under a mound of soft-serve swirl ice cream, chocolate syrup, whipped cream, and a Cherry. It was brilliant. The crème de la crème. A coup de glace. [Groan] I'll stop.
Puns aside. You want some.