Forum: Luke Seemann04.10.98
Chicago Fire takes
soccer fans on sexy ride

Long ago my family spent Sunday afternoons at the ballpark, taking in minor league doubleheaders. Bleachers were our pews; the wafers of nachos and the beer in its plastic chalices constituted holy communion.

I saw divinity in baseball. Between the grace of the deep fly ball and the Edenic green of the infield grass, who could deny the existence of a higher power? The perfect geometry of baseball -- the number of innings, the 90 feet between bases, the circumference of the ball -- could never have been calculated by the hands of man alone.

But after going to a few professional soccer games -- and last week's inaugural game of the Fire, Chicago's entrant to Major League Soccer -- I contemplate switching religions.

If a baseball game is the quiet, monastic search for Self, a soccer game is Mardi Gras: a carnival to precede the Lenten workweek. The rhythm of the former is set by an organ and seventh-inning hymns; the latter by drums, whistles, trumpets and thunderous airhorns.

Baseball is a three-hour meditation, punctuated by the occasional pitch. Soccer, on the other hand, is 90 minutes of enthusiasm, cheering your team and harassing the vile opponents: ugly, motherless brutes who probably eat babies for breakfast and veal for lunch.

Soccer faithful have more fun.

When a home run is hit in baseball, fans shake hands or exchange high fives. But when a soccer goal is scored, we embrace, toss confetti, stomp our feet and scream with patriotic abandon.

Soccer players have more fun, too.

When Sammy Sosa hits a home run, other Cubs give him a fraternal slap on the butt. When Frank Klopas scores a goal, however, he strips to his shorts, dances with the corner flag and winds up on the receiving end of a massive dogpile.

Drama and urgency are the principle differences between these churches of sport. There is drama in baseball, but it is the drama of an Ibsen play, not a pulsing "ER" episode.

It doesn't mean much if the home team loses in the 162-game odyssey of baseball. If they don't win, it's a shame. There's always tomorrow. But if your team loses in soccer, it means you painted your face, draped a flag over your shoulders and pranced in the aisles for 90 minutes for naught. That, and the unspeakable shame.

Some say soccer is boring to watch. These people must make terrible lovers. They are accustomed to sports like basketball, in which a score is made every few moments.

But soccer turns on foreplay. The throbbing pace, the advances, the retreats all come together to make the ultimate climax -- a bicycle kick to win in the 89th minute -- so much more ecstatic.

Although the first day for the Fire drew just 3,000 fewer fans than Friday's Opening Day at Wrigley Field, it is unclear if fans will continue to turn out, and the Fire's future is uncertain.

So I invite you, gentle reader, to join me at the next Chicago Fire game next Friday against the N.Y./N.J. MetroStars (boo! hiss!).

I'll be the guy with the red tinsel hair and the red, black and yellow face. I may or may not actually be on fire. Olé!

-Luke Seemann is a Medill senior. He can be reached at [email protected].

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