Living in the Red: The Chicago Fire Soccer Team Fan Base, Section 8
June 29, 2011 6:43 AM   Subscribe

Living in the Red: A 15 minute student documentary on the Ultras of the Chicago Fire.
posted by PenDevil (27 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Shame that the Fire sucks so badly this year, Section 8 is legendary in their level of support for the team.
posted by eriko at 7:43 AM on June 29, 2011


This is really charming
posted by PinkMoose at 8:00 AM on June 29, 2011


They don't suck as hard as Toronto.
posted by Frasermoo at 8:44 AM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sadly, I just had to wiki my local team in order to get a feel for what they've been up to for the past fifteen years. Not much, from what I gather. And that's to be expected from an ersatz league imposed at will upon the populace by an ownership who could hardly be interested in developing an authentic, organically-grown soccer federation that could, and should rival those of Europe.

In its place we'll just keep up this charade because we're too busy with baseball, football, basketball, hockey, frigging car racing and wrasslin'.
posted by jsavimbi at 9:26 AM on June 29, 2011


Jsavimbi, I'm confused by your comment. You are in favor of MLS or not?
posted by josher71 at 9:36 AM on June 29, 2011


Soccer is just too damn slow. They need to make the field much much smaller, say small enough to fit inside a standard gym. They can make the goal a bit smaller if they want, so we don't see 1000 point games, but it still has to be fast paced. Not sure why they can't touch the ball either, they should be able to touch the ball. I guess you don't want people just standing there clutching the ball, and you don't want it to turn into a situation where someone hangs on to the ball for dear life, runs down the field, and nobody can get it away from them, so we need a few more rules. I think with those few changes we will have substantially fixed soccer.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:48 AM on June 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


They need to make the field much much smaller, say small enough to fit inside a standard gym. They can make the goal a bit smaller if they want, so we don't see 1000 point games, but it still has to be fast paced. Not sure why they can't touch the ball either, they should be able to touch the ball. I guess you don't want people just standing there clutching the ball, and you don't want it to turn into a situation where someone hangs on to the ball for dear life, runs down the field, and nobody can get it away from them, so we need a few more rules.

Oh, and maybe they could play it on ice!
posted by Floydd at 9:57 AM on June 29, 2011 [7 favorites]


They don't suck as hard as Toronto.

Sadly, this comment can be made in a thread about just about any North American sport and have an equal amount of truthfulness :(
posted by auto-correct at 10:21 AM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


an authentic, organically-grown soccer federation that could, and should rival those of Europe.

If they instituted a proper promotion and relegation system, people would take notice.
posted by grubi at 11:03 AM on June 29, 2011


What's wrong with the MLS that's right with European leagues?
posted by garlic at 11:37 AM on June 29, 2011


If they instituted a proper promotion and relegation system, people would take notice.

As much as I wish this were the case, I'm afraid that, if true, it would only be to observe the amusing way in which an already struggling league completely scuppered itself.

Promotion and relegation adds a lot of flavor to an organized league ladder which is chock full of teams from a grassroots level to the highest echelons of professionalism. It also requires that all teams be "independent" of the league in which they play, and that there be sufficient support for lower-level teams to make their existence worth living.

Soccer in the US fails all three tests. There is no viable, organized grassroots structure, so all the levels of a tier would have to be manufactured. There is no real tradition of coming out for your neighborhood team in US professional sports; perhaps due to our historical differences in population density and dispersion from Europe our teams have always been concentrated in larger cities and pulled in a huge catchment area while smaller local teams languished. Finally, in the MLS at least, all teams are owned by the league itself -- you could not relegate an MLS team to a lower tier without fully divesting its ownership (or making all tiers be owned and operated by Major League Soccer).

If, against all reason, some sort of promotion/relegation structure was set up, the first time an MLS team got relegated it would have minimal marketing sway, its fans would vanish, its owners would balk at the reduced value and try to sell the franchise, and, in all likelihood, after a couple more years of withering on the vine it would cease to exist.

This is the last thing soccer needs in the US. It needs a healthy, strong league with an increasing standard of play and long-lasting franchises that build a history around them. Even with that we may never be a promotion and relegation sporting culture. Hell, we're hardly a soccer culture.

I love watching relegation dramas in the world leagues, and I really wish that we had similar here. But for the health of our domestic sport I hope we don't try to get it here any time soon.
posted by jammer at 11:55 AM on June 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Promotion and relegation aren't going to happen. They're just not, not ever, not in a franchise-model system. There is absolutely no point in talking about implementing it.

Collapsing the league into a single table instead of the two conferences would be better, I think, at least in terms of the playoff structure, because right now the conference split exists primarily to prop up an Eastern Conference that is frankly pretty weak.

The franchise model and its attendant salary cap limits the ability of MLS to rival European leagues, who cannot afford to implement salary caps due to EU labor laws (you'd have to get every league in Europe on board at once, and that's not going to happen). The league is expanding at a rate that outpaces the number of qualified referees, with the result that poor officiating is basically the standard and a well-run game is a unicorn.

And then, there's just a paucity of skill. It's getting better, but youth training in the US needs to improve dramatically before the results will be seen at the top level, and college soccer, which is basically the US academy system, needs to focus far more on skill training and preparation for a career in the sport than it currently does. Generation Adidas and similar projects are steps in the right direction, but they only go so far, and more grass-roots effort is needed.
posted by Errant at 12:00 PM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


What's wrong with the MLS that's right with European leagues?

Well, overlooking the issue of standard of play, which, while not world class, isn't nearly as horrible as MLS-detractors make it out to be, and the impossible fairy tale that is promotion and relegation, the common complaints are:

1) The season schedule -- rather than operating on a winter schedule with summer off for internationals, like most of the Northern Hemisphere, the league operates on a summer schedule.

2) Playoffs. Seriously? Playoffs? I know the MLS is an American league, and in American sports we have playoffs, but what's the point of having a balanced, double-round-robin schedule if you're going to screw it up with a split table and a playoff structure?

3) The salary cap and the damaging effect it has on the ability to bring stars into the league, necessitating the silliness of the "Designated Player Rule", which simply further entangle teams financially with the league as a whole.

4) As Errant notes, rather shoddy referring is sadly common.

There have been more grievances in the past with the various ways in which MLS tried to "Americanize" soccer a bit more (a countdown clock, various alternative tiebreakers) but which failed to bring in new fans and only contributed to the credibility problem the league has. Most of the questionable rule changes have been done away with in recent years, though, and the game itself is more or less as it's played in the rest of the world.

Also, although not a common complaint from many, I find the standard of commentary on televised MLS matches to be horrible. There is usually little insight into the action on the field, beyond rote play-by-play, which is tragic for a sport that is not well understood by many and is trying to increase its exposure.
posted by jammer at 12:16 PM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


2) Playoffs. Seriously? Playoffs? I know the MLS is an American league, and in American sports we have playoffs, but what's the point of having a balanced, double-round-robin schedule if you're going to screw it up with a split table and a playoff structure?

Actually, playoffs are really common in the Americas. Many CONCACAF nations as well as many CONMEBOL nations use an Apertura and Clausura tournament system, in which the top league plays two tournaments a year with each tournament culminating in a playoff structure and final. People used to European soccer are usually unfamiliar with this structure, but big football nations like Mexico and Argentina have used this format for decades, so it's quite incorrect to say that this is an American invention.

Also, although not a common complaint from many, I find the standard of commentary on televised MLS matches to be horrible.

The first year of the MLS Sounders had this problem in spades. Now we have the redoubtable Arlo White, who combines the best traditions of being a homer with actual intelligent and instructive commentary. There's a rumor that he may move over to FSC next year, which would be great for everyone else and horrible for us.
posted by Errant at 1:26 PM on June 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


People used to European soccer are usually unfamiliar with this structure, but big football nations like Mexico and Argentina have used this format for decades, so it's quite incorrect to say that this is an American invention.

Here I must profess ignorance; I'm not as familiar with Western Hemisphere football outside the US as I am with European. Thanks for the enlightenment!

That said, the question was what does American soccer do wrong that the Europeans do right, so if I can encompass all North and South American nations as "American" and profess a preference for a league table being the final arbiter of who "wins", I was still technically correct. ;)

Just rambling a little bit on a tangent, I think both structures make sense for their environment. In a country the size of most European ones having a flat table and the standard double-round-robin play makes perfect sense. It's little relative hardship for Newcastle to go to, this coming year, Swansea twice. That's not so much the case, at least traditionally, in the much larger American landmass where making continent-spanning trips all through a season can be a major pain. Splitting up into your classic regional conferences, even if in latter days they've become muddled by franchise moves, and playing primarily within those, is entirely rational.

If, like, Europe, you have perfectly symmetrical schedules, why not let the table itself determine the winner? What could be more accurate than a complete aggregate of season-long play to decide who was best? You're not able to do that in American play -- no major American sport (and here I, sadly, must exclude MLS) has symmetrical schedules. In this case the table is no longer a perfectly fair arbiter, and playoffs make sense as an inherently flawed, but necessary, way of determining a league-wide champion.

For inscrutable reasons the MLS feels the need to have the worst of both systems. It's a nationwide league with round-robin schedules, forcing teams to criss-cross the country, but they don't take advantage of this by having the table determine a winner -- they need to burden the results with a playoff structure which adds no small degree of randomness to the final outcome.
posted by jammer at 1:49 PM on June 29, 2011


Er, Newcastle play Swansea twice, but only go there once, of course. D'oh. This is what I get for getting interrupted by work in the middle of a ramble.
posted by jammer at 1:52 PM on June 29, 2011


That said, the question was what does American soccer do wrong that the Europeans do right, so if I can encompass all North and South American nations as "American" and profess a preference for a league table being the final arbiter of who "wins", I was still technically correct. ;)

Ha, I share that preference for what it's worth. But I think a flat table structure in MLS would actually be terrible, and I didn't used to think that but got really turned around on it. The problem is the lack of promotion/relegation and the lack of multiple cup competitions to qualify for. Even in the European leagues where winning the thing is the province of only a few (c.f. Spain) and/or where winning the thing frequently happens with a month or more of the season to go, there's still an interest in the league at large thanks to relegation fights, qualification for Champions League or Europa League, at least one or two domestic cups (obviously the US has one in the Open Cup, but that tournament is very badly structured for reasons I'll get to) as well as the international club competitions, etc.

In the MLS, there's no promotion/relegation, so that's not interesting. MLS contributes only four clubs to the CONCACAF Champions League, two of which have to play prelim qualifiers, so at most that's only interesting for a few clubs, and there's no second-tier competition to engage more clubs in qualification. Qualifying for the Open Cup could be a deal if anyone cared about it, but most of the teams that qualify couldn't care less about it, and anyway towards the end of the season the top 8 teams are unlikely to slip out of place except for maybe the bottom 2.

Basically, a flat table means that it would be entirely possible for the last month of the league to carry no rooting interest for anyone about anything. It's unavoidable that this will be true for some every year -- what I like to call Middlesbrough syndrome -- but a flat table would expand that ennui to practically the whole league.

There is an award for winning the collapsed league table, the Supporter's Shield, which carries the same reward (automatic entry into the CL group stage) as winning the MLS Cup. So maybe it helps to think of the league as having two champions of a sort, because the rewards are commensurate, much like other American-landmass federations who have two tournament champions a year.
posted by Errant at 2:39 PM on June 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


Hrm. That's an interesting argument, Errant, and a point of view I hadn't thought about before -- which is interesting, considering how much I feel, like you, that P/R in American sports is a pipe dream.

Like most, amongst the reasons I like the system is the late-season drama it adds to what would otherwise be meaningless matches. I can see how an MLS without P/R and without a late-season playoff run could be much less interesting for much more of the year. I need to digest this more, but you may well have changed my opinion of MLS playoffs. Thank you for giving me that to consider.
posted by jammer at 2:53 PM on June 29, 2011


This videos warms my heart in some small way (except I haven't watched it, as it's stuck at the nine second mark), knowing the Fire have fans. One of the things I found oddest about spending time in DC was that you'd see the occasional DC United decal on a car. It had never actually registered in my brain that MLS teams have supporters.* I've been in Toyota Park once and that just cemented the image of the MLS as minor league baseball in my brain.

I was reading something (The Blizzard? don't remember) the other day about the origins of the current apertura/clausura system in Argentina. They had an apertura/clausura system and got rid of it. Then it got brought back at the suggestion of some of the big clubs for two reasons. One was that having more championships gave the more opportunities to win trophies (and trophies look good, trophy droughts don't) and changing the relegation system made it harder for a big club having a bad year to be relegated. (This is why it's so exceptional River Plate to have just been relegated.) Wiki suggests the advantage to a two part season is that it takes longer since Latin America has fewer cup competitions than Europe. However, Argentina, at least, doesn't have a playoff structure, they just play two seasons in the time it takes to play one in Europe and end up with two champions. (I believe each half is a single round robin, rather than a double round robin.)

*My perspective is really skewed. My brain broke during Euro 2008 when a guy in the pizza place where I was watching started talking to me about 'our' team, being the US. I'd never met anyone who supported the US, let alone someone who would assume I would. Someone caring about the MLS is even weirder.
posted by hoyland at 3:48 PM on June 29, 2011


However, Argentina, at least, doesn't have a playoff structure, they just play two seasons in the time it takes to play one in Europe and end up with two champions.

Ah, you're right. Most CONCACAF A/C tournaments do finish with a playoff "postseason", I missed that Argentina doesn't. I was confused by reading about the first season of the Argentine A/C structure, in which the Apertura champions played the Clausura champions in a one-off overall final, which they don't do anymore. Mea culpa.

It had never actually registered in my brain that MLS teams have supporters.


Try being in downtown Seattle (or, I'm guessing Portland, who seem to pack their stadium) during matchday. It's pretty nuts.
posted by Errant at 4:03 PM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Brimstone bitches, clap clap clapclapclap

Sure it's a one sided rivalry, but that makes it more fun!
posted by First Post at 5:16 PM on June 29, 2011


The Chicago Fire fans are a pale imitation of the Turkish "Besiktas" fan club, this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAao3IkDvqI is stunning. It's going to be fun to see how the Chicago Fire Section 8 club grows over they years, and see if they can approach this level of insanity.
posted by Runcible Spoon at 11:17 PM on June 29, 2011


Putting aside debates about the future of the MLS, which I'm more than unqualified to add to, I have to say that these fans make it look very healthy indeed. They're passionate about their club and some of them to a ridiculous degree. Loved the mario 'tifo'.
Are there other MLS teams with such exuberant support?
posted by Colourpackagingdesign at 2:03 AM on June 30, 2011


Just about every club in MLS has one or more fervent supporters groups. Off the top of my head, look up ECS (Sounders), Barra Brava (DC), Sons of Ben (Philadelphia), and the Timbers Army (Portland).

I'm going to refrain from my customary taunting here; you'll discover that Sounders support is the best all on your own.
posted by Errant at 2:55 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


One thing to remember about the balanced schedule - it's going away next year when Montreal joins the league. And it's only the first or second year we've even had a balanced schedule in the league's 15 year existence, so I wouldn't say this is a characteristic of MLS so much as a happy accident. I would LOVE to have my team win the Supporter's Shield this year.

Re: support, Section 8 'brings it', whether they're cheering for the Fire or the Timbers (zing!). They've put together some nice tifo, and they have above average pyro and cheers. Other groups like the previously mentioned Barra Brava, Timbers Army, and Sons Of Ben are close to or on their level in some ways, but I've always felt S8 brought more passion to the game. I believe they also are working on a shorter leash than these other groups when it comes to what their front office will allow (see: the Revolution supporter's groups for why this is important)

Being a Sounders supporter, I believe ECS et al. sets the bar for quality and class among MLS support, but S8 does great work. I am also seldom sober, so what do I know?
posted by squared at 12:56 PM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Uh oh, two Seattle fans in here, at least... *waves nervously*

I'll give it to them, though. Colourpackagingdesign, check out this ECS display against Timbers.
posted by 7segment at 4:14 PM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ah, all we're going to do is sing loudly, swear vociferously, and buy you beers. It's my favorite part of MLS fandom: at match time we'll scream at you, but in the end we're all fans having a good time.
posted by Errant at 6:58 PM on June 30, 2011


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