13 October 2011
Posted in Chicago Fire
If you read the two quick articles I threw together before kick-off or at halftime, or read our Twitter feed at all - you undoubtedly know that Ryan and I were granted media access for last night's game. It was an incredible experience, one that I hope to have again soon, and one that I hope continues for us in the future. However, seeing the game from a completely different angle was definitely an eye-opening experience, it really showed us a completely different side of the game.
When Ryan and I started our blog on Wordpress earlier this summer we had no idea where it would go. We were just adding our thoughts post-match to every match, and it turned into a more analytical look at the team and eventually at the league as a whole. We started getting a lot of feedback via Twitter and quickly had a rapport with some of the other Fire bloggers out there. We applied to move our site to Bloguin and were both shocked and excited when they accepted our application and started the process. The last couple months have been great for us to meet a lot of other Fire fans and get to share our thoughts and bounce ideas off of the other writers we've gotten in touch with. Last night was definitely the high point for us so far.
First of all, thanks to Brendan Hannan for allowing us the access to the press area last night. Ryan was able to go on the pitch during the match and take over 2700 photos. I was up in the press box getting to meet a lot of the people I've been in contact with for the first time. We were both in the post-match press conference with interim head man, Frank Klopas and then afterward we were shown into the Fire locker room to get individual player interviews with the other members of the media. It was all a whirlwind, so I'm going to back up to the beginning.
6:20 PM - I arrived at Ryan's house to pick him up and we made sure we had everything we needed for the match. Camera? Lenses? Laptop? Notepad? Media parking pass? Okay, we were all set.
6:23 PM - As we're leaving his house and making the short drive to Toyota Park my nerves are at an all time high. I have no idea what to expect when we get there, and we feel like we're going somewhere we're not allowed to be. This is right about the time that Ryan says, "I'm actually kind of nervous about tonight". Amen. I can tell him I totally agree, and we can have a laugh about it before we turn down 71st St.
6:32 PM - As we're heading down 71st St and driving past our normal STH entrance Ryan says, "I feel like we're going to get in trouble for driving into a lot we don't belong". As we pull up to the lot marked, "Employee Parking", I roll down the window to hand the attendant our media parking pass. My hand was probably a little bit shaky but he grabbed it and pointed us to our parking area.
6:35 PM - As we gather our stuff at the car I pull out a little piece of paper from my pocket. It was the paper I had scribbled down where to find our media credentials and other important information on. This still felt too weird. As we walk up to the press table Leah Hendrickson says, "Are you guys Hook n Ladders?" We told her that we were and she got out our passes and explained to both of us how to get where we were going.
7:00 PM - I've finally found my way into the press box and after some help from Mr. Hannan have found my correct seat. I'm seated next to David Gubala, Jeff Krause and near Jeff Harbert - three people whom I've never met, but have interacted with plenty via Twitter. All three are great people and really helped me find my sea-legs while I was still walking around all bright eyed.
7:15 PM - 15 minutes until kickoff, Ryan has headed down to take his place along the side of the pitch and I have eaten my share of the excellent food in the press box. I sit back down at my spot along the rail and begin to open up the Google Chrome windows I'll need for the match - ESPN (Baseball scores), Twitter and Hook n Ladder admin (for a quick post). I decide to look through the match notes again and rip out a quick post to try to calm the nerves.
~7:30 PM - The two sides take the field and I'm ready to get going - took a picture of the pitch just before the kickoff.
~8:20 PM - The first half has come to an end and Ryan comes back up to the box so we can compare notes on our experiences so far. He tells me he's getting cramps in his head because he's taking so many pictures. I take this as good news. He hangs out in the box a bit longer and heads back down. I head back in to do my quick halftime post and get ready for the second half.
~9:25 PM - The match is over and we're heading down to the post-match press conference with Frank Klopas. After the press conference we thought we were done, we started to head back up to the press box to gather our stuff and leave. As I'm asking Leah how to get back across the stadium and up to the press box she says, "Don't you want player interviews?" "What?!? We can do that? Yeah we do!" Just then a security guard laughs at us. I tell him it's our first time down here and we're a little clueless. He tells us to act like we belong here. Noted, Mr. Security Guard.
~9:50 PM - We're standing in the locker room listening to Dominic Oduro talk about the match. We then go and talk to several other members of the club, and I'm so awed that I forget to hit record on the voice recorder on my phone for one of the interviews. Oops. We hang around in the locker room for a while to get as much as we can and then we finally head up to the press box to get our things and leave.
What a night. And hopefully for us it will be the first of many opportunities to cover the team that way.
Now - what did I learn? The answer is a whole lot.
First of all, your sole mission as a supporter is to throw on as much red as possible and yell and sing for a full 90 minutes. You have to be dedicated to the club, and you will get passionate about the players. At times you might even call for certain players to be benched or sold because of the way they're playing. You might be tempted to yell things at them to try to spur them on. Your whole purpose for sitting in Section 8 is to be as loud and proud as possible, to let everyone know you're there.
It's the complete opposite upstairs. You look around the press box and you won't see any Fire jerseys - a lapel pin or hat here or there, maybe. There's no yelling at players, or refs. There's no gesticulating wildly when you disagree with a call. There was no loud roar of cheers when Sebastian Grazzini netted his goal - a few fist pumps to be sure. There's a flurry of typing and writing as you try to watch the game and take notes so you can write about it accurately later.
And then comes the part where you get access to the locker room and actually get to ask questions to the very same players you may have complained or been critical about from the safe distance of Section 8. As a writer you definitely have to be critical, be it's a lot more difficult when you're face to face with the guys, and you actually meet them. You see the disappointment on their faces - and it hits you, they actually do care as much as the supporters do. It hurts them as much as it hurts us.
I laughed on my way out of the stadium last night. I love sitting in Section 8, yelling, cheering, singing, but being on the media end of the match is any fan's dream come true. You get to sit there and write about your team. You get access to some great resources to help you write better, and you get access to the head coach and the players. It's an amazing experience, it's a different experience to be sure - but it's one I hope we get to have over and over again.
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