2018 will be a year not easily forgotten for Fire supporters. Another year of failure on the pitch was compounded by one of the worst years in supporters’ relations this community has ever seen. It has been a turbulent year to say the least, and there is much work still to be done by the 2019 ISA before these problems are behind us.
This year was demanding on many levels for the community. Difficult decisions needed to be made on both the community and individual level, whether it was the stance on active support or a personal decision about what your relation with the team will be next season. No matter how you feel about these questions, I would like to acknowledge the difficulties that many members of our community faced this year, especially my fellow board members. We are all people with jobs, families, some of us even have hobbies and passions outside of soccer. Balancing our real lives and the demands of serving this community has never been easy, but 2018 asked many people on the board, and in the community at large, to go above and beyond. Next year will almost certainly ask the 2019 ISA to rise above also. First and foremost I would like to thank all of those people who gave, and will continue to give, so much of your time volunteering for this community.
Despite the challenges faced this year, and maybe even in defiance of these challenges, we also saw some of the best aspects and the true camaraderie of this community. At times when we were faced with some of our hardest decisions in the stadium, the community reached new heights outside of the stadium. The ISA continued the work started by former chair Scott Greene over the previous two years to shore up the ISA’s legal and financial standing. While our coffers, and patience, have been seriously drained at times by this endeavor, I can say Section 8 Chicago, as a legal entity, is now ready to move forward in good standing.
The 2018 board also elected and helped empower a whole new subcommittee for the Fire community, the October 8th Committee. This three person group was elected to a five year term with the goal of preparing the next anniversary party and having a general mandate to preserve an independent history of the team and it’s supporters. This group has already overseen another successful Malort 5k and you will be hearing more from them over the next four years as we gear up for the 25th anniversary of the team. I would like to thank Betsy, Scott and Tweed for serving on this group.
The ISA also started and executed several new projects this year that will hopefully continue through next year and the future. One of my goals as chair was the protection of our various intellectual properties. I am happy to say, with the help of Fire supporter Heidi Thole, we have filed six marks that can be found on page four. We tried new approaches to away games and watch parties, giving us unique new experiences like our early season train journey to Minnesota or the watch party at the Davis theater in Lincoln Square, special thanks to Nikita for organizing this watch party to benefit immunotherapy research at Northwestern Medicine. We had some great times with our sisters and brothers from both Local 134 and Portland’s 107ists for an amazing doubleheader early in the year. The list goes on, but overall this year was not all doom and gloom.
This is especially apparent when I look at the accomplishments our Fire family made in the larger community this year. With the help of Oliver Kolb we continued our work with Buckledown Brewing on creating Lager 97, an S8C beer available in cans this season, and with the help of Marty Tomszak we started growing a new partnership with Goose Island to create the Keller 31 beer and get it on tap most of the places you could actually watch a Fire game this season. We renewed and furthered our work with many community partners and kept our tradition of donating tickets to several CPS schools in order to get kids out to games who may not normally have that opportunity. Last but not least, we raised and gave back a lot of money this year. Our community gave back over $20,000 to charitable causes across this season, including our crown jewel of charity projects, the Fire for Food Drive. Piloted by Marty, the Fire for Food Drive raised a total of $10,000 which was donated to the Greater Chicago Food Depository, allowing those without access to stable food resources to live with greater dignity and security. While the team may not have finished top of the table, Fire supporters are still one of the league leaders in charitable activities and we have every right to be proud of that.
All of these accomplishments leave me feeling no despair when I look at the future of this community, but a strong belief that no matter what the circumstances of the team or league, this group of people, our identity, and our values will remain strong. You don’t need to agree with the stances of everyone on the board next year or all of your fellow supporters to remember that this is still a rare group of like minded people that are capable of accomplishing great things. I have full confidence that the 2019 board will only build upon the successes of 2018 and keep this momentum going with our projects outside of the stadium. While the team and management may not always reflect the passion and expectations of our community, always remember this is OUR community and we can make of it what we will. Despite any set backs, we can, and will, still deliver amazing results in our own efforts and can remind people of the greatness Chicago and what it’s supporters are capable of.
It has been a pleasure serving this community,
Dan Giroux, ISA Board Member 2015-2018