Thursday, August 22, 2013

Oh, go die in a Fire Danny boy. Literally.

I have a confession to make. I’m a new Chicago Fire fan, having been hired to oversee communications for the club just six months ago. But according to some folks, I was also a “shitty hire.” The only professional experience (“zero soccer experience”) I have is “promoting a video game” and I do “not belong leading the Communications department.”

Additionally, I also “need to shave.” To be fair, that one is true, but my wife thinks I look weird totally clean shaven. To be fairer, all of the other statements might also be true, but I would like the opportunity to prove how shitty I am first. To be fairest of all, maybe I already have proven it six months into the job.

But I’m more interested in learning what made me a shitty hire on day one? What brought about the warm reception from a vocal few as I was introduced as a new member of the “Fire family?” My best guess is that because I work for an owner who is supposedly “cheap,” “doesn’t care,” and only sees the team as a “toy.” Or maybe it’s because I’m joining a front office staff that just “doesn’t get it” or only makes “bad decisions.”

Really? Yikes.

Fortunately, those are the only things that I’ve read about online, or have had forwarded my way, or that I have seen on the supporter message boards (I would hate to read the non-supporter boards). That was until the experience at the U.S. Open Cup semifinal when the Fire laid a giant egg against D.C. United. I don’t pretend to know all the history, but from what I’ve heard, the stories told to me, watching the videos, hearing from staff and our owner, I knew how important this game was. I knew why the Club decided to promote the heck out of it (Facebook ads, on broadcast, social media, letter from ownership, ads at the Messi & Friends game, ads at the U.S. Soccer Viewing Party, free parking, make-up games, discounted food, etc.), and while the crowd and atmosphere led by a robust showing of Section 8 were great, unfortunately the result was gut wrenchingly disappointing.

Yes, ownership and family were at the game. And yes, fans have a right to boo and show how disappointed they are, especially when the Club they love doesn’t perform up to expectations. Look, I’m an unabashed Detroit Lions fan, I know the mentality of a fan going an entire season without winning or watching a team go longer than a decade without a playoff appearance. It’s the thrill of victory and agony of defeat that makes sports great. And from what I’ve seen and heard from Fire supporters, I know it runs even deeper in soccer than anywhere else in sports.

But are personal attacks, threats, accusations, etc., that happened at that Open Cup game OK? Are shouting obscenities to staff, our owner and his family, or other supporters attending games with their families the norm? There’s a fine line between love and hate and being critical vs. being destructive. Certain incidents in particular related to that game have given me and others at the Club pause.

It has been shared with me that
the Club’s charter (co-written by our owner and Section 8 leadership) makes it clear that all who enter Toyota Park are to be “respectful of all other supporters, participants, match officials, entertainers, athletes, stadium personnel, staff members and stadium property.” Are to “behave in a responsible manner and not interfere in other supporters’ enjoyment of the match.” And are “to refrain from using foul, sexist, racial, or offensive language including any type of obscene gesture.”

In the aftermath of that game, we/I have heard from many longstanding supporters who were afraid, fearful, disgusted with certain attendees behavior. Our role as a club is to draw a line and protect the sanctity and honor of the organization and all its supporters.

While I may be new to the team, I know the Club isn’t delusional. Owner Andrew Hauptman has set high standards that he hasn’t shied away from. And while these standards might not always be met, you can tell that he has instilled into this group a focus on performance, community, collaboration and connectivity. In many ways, the club is more successful than ever by these standards, including the footprint of its foundation, social reach, growth in corporate partnerships, expansion of the season ticket base, deep investments and exponential scale in youth and recreational soccer, broadcasting and so on.

But beyond that, there’s the other side that you don’t always get to see. Chances are that if you’ve met our owner or even just had a conversation with him, you know he tells it like it is, for good or for bad. There’s also a real sense of caring at the Fire, be it regarding the business of the club, or on a more personal level. One “Fire family” isn’t a cliché. The inclusive and authentic nature of our culture starts from the top down. Hopefully you see pieces of it in action by just attending a game and being welcomed at Toyota Park, or from our partnership with the Greater Chicago Food Depository (including upcoming Food Drive at our September 1 game), our annual Practice in the Community event coming up this Saturday, our commitment to inclusiveness by participating at the Pride Parade or the upcoming Pride Initiative on September 28, staff members lobbying City Council on behalf of LGBT athletes, honoring important community leaders on Hispanic Heritage night, partnering with Chicago Public Schools, and so on.

Even going back to the field, earlier in the season, ownership was the first to tell you that the team on the field was frankly just not good enough (even though the jury is out on this year). And in sports, because of that, there will always be those who want ownership to sell. Want to make calls for front office firings? Find me someone who doesn’t think they could be doing their job better. Telling me I suck at my job? That all comes with the territory I guess. But don’t also be surprised that if someone personally goes after anyone in the Club or its supporters in a way that defies the inclusive culture being built at the Fire, that the Club will respond sincerely and want to know why they would still want to be a part of it?

Our integrity within this Club actually matters to us. For me personally and others on the staff, this is our livelihood. Failure isn’t an option. Why would we choose to work together on building this Club with anyone who takes a stand that prevents progress, espouses negativity and is just downright not truthful, inhibiting us from doing our jobs to the best of our ability? Or worse, make attending a game for a supporter a fearful experience?

I don’t pretend to know everything there is to know about soccer, the Fire or MLS. But what attracted me to the job is working in sports, connecting with passionate fans, being part of an organization that stands up for values like integrity, hard work, and humility and a 24/7 desire to bleed for this incredible Club. I heard every one of those elements in my conversations with our owner, AK, and others I met before making the decision to join. I knew that I was becoming part of a bigger movement, tasked with growing the game and the Club, leaving a positive impact on the community and Chicago as a whole. And with all its inherent challenges, that’s what we are going to do. For me personally, I would love your help to get there. In fact, I know how much I need it.

I have another confession – the majority of folks I’ve met since I’ve joined, the staff, supporters, bloggers, media, Club Seat Holders, Section 8 members, etc., have all been more than welcoming. I’ve felt that they want both the Club and me to succeed. While there will always be those who might choose a different route, I’m glad to know that there will be thousands of others that will have my back.

-Dan Lobring

BoBA 2013 ISML Predictions: Topaz Match Day 8

ARENA 01: Eucliwood Hellscythe [Shiina Mashiro] Aisaka Taiga Hasegawa Kobato Misaka Mikoto Kuroyukihime Kōsaka Kirino by >=1000
Over/Under: 14000

ARENA 02: Komori Kiri Mizutani Shizuku [Himenokōji Akiko] Evangeline A.K. McDowell Rias Gremory Tsuruya Sawachika Eri by <=1000
Over/Under: 14000

ARENA 03: Fujibayashi Ryō Hiiragi Tsukasa [Dekomori Sanae] Elucia de Lute Ima Tainaka Ritsu Kushina Anna Inaba Himeko by >=1000
Over/Under: 14000

ARENA 04: Yūki Mikan Tōsaka Rin Natsume Rin Oshino Shinobu Victorique de Blois Charlotte Dunois
[Makise Kurisu]
by >=1000
Over/Under: 14000

ARENA 05: Totooria Helmold
[Milla Maxwell] by <=1000
Over/Under: 14000

ARENA 06: Hato Kenjirō 
[Goidō Yui] by >=1000
Over/Under: 14000

2channel Anime Saimoe 2013: First Round Odds, Day 1

08/23: Round 1 - Group A, Day 1

Yuuko Kanoe @ Dusk Maiden Of Amnesia: <<庚夕子@黄昏乙女×アムネジア>> 3-1
Shizuku Mizutani @ Tonari No Kaibutsu-kun: <<水谷雫@となりの怪物くん>> 10-1
Yuka Hanaki @ Natsuiro Kiseki: <<花木優香@夏色キセキ Festival -15回目のナツヤスミ->> 20-1
Iwai Mushanokouji: <<武者小路祝@断裁分離のクライムエッジ>> EVEN
Prediction: Iwai Musannokouji by <=70
Over/Under: 500

Mayaka Ibara @ Hyouka: <<伊原摩耶花@氷菓>> 30-1
Snow Black @ Accel World: <<黒雪姫(ブラック・ロータス)@アクセル・ワールド>> 5-1
Fate Testarossa @ Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha: <<フェイト・テスタロッサ@魔法少女リリカルなのは The MOVIE 2nd A's>> EVEN
Prediction: Fate Testarossa by >=50
Over/Under: 500

Reika Aoki @ Smike Pretty Cure!: <<青木れいか(キュアビューティ)@スマイルプリキュア!>> 40-1
Himeko Tsuruta @ Saki: <<鶴田姫子@咲-Saki- 阿知賀編 episode of side-A>> EVEN
Emilia Justina @ Hataraku Maou-sama!: <<遊佐恵美(エミリア・ユスティーナ)@はたらく魔王さま!>> 6-1
Prediction: Himeko Tsuruta by >=40
Over/Under: 500

Sera Eguchi @ Saki: <<江口セーラ@咲-Saki- 阿知賀編 episode of side-A>> 7-1
Mikoto Urabe @ Mysterious Girlfriend X: <<卜部美琴@謎の彼女X>> 40-1
Sumire Hirose @ Saki<<弘世菫@咲-Saki- 阿知賀編 episode of side-A>> 3-2
Prediction: Sumire Hirose by >=50
Over/Under: 500