I think everyone has that list of things they'd do if they had unlimited time and money.
One of mine is called 'the 92,' or more specifically, attending a match at every professional soccer venue in England and Wales. They call it "ground-hopping."
Well, international travel is expensive and my means are modest. So, I did the next best thing and hit the road last weekend for my first Major League Soccer match.
I was visiting friends in Madison who had both seen pros play abroad, but for me, it was an idea of something different because our usual trip, the Brewers, were both a disaster and out of town.
Many of you reading this may not be all that familiar with MLS, because, at 427 miles, they don't have any other teams within shouting distance of the U.P. This presents a problem, since I would have to root for a Chicago team, something I don't do easily. I'm just now getting "Chelsea Dagger," the Blackhawks' goal song, out of my ears.
The Chicago Fire were hosting the Montreal Impact, and once I got over the cognitive dissonance of two teams whose nicknames are plurals not ending in 's,' a pet peeve of mine, we settled down and enjoyed the show.
Many a sportswriter has maligned soccer in print and many will continue to do so, especially since there's a World Cup next summer.?One of their more popular straw men is the 0-0 draw. The Fire haven't played a 0-0 draw since March and they weren't going to this night either, as they scored less than 10 minutes in off a bad deflection.
About 20 minutes later, the Fire made it 2-0 after a fellow named Dilly (actual first name: Dilaver) Duka tiptoed through some sketchy defending for a fancy finish.
Unfortunately, we were on the opposite end of the field in the corner near the "Section 8" fans, which get rowdy with songs and instruments. Of course, whenever we start talking about soccer fans, there is another boatload of lazy stereotypes, but it's just like having a student section at a college hockey game. In fact, they sang the theme song from the video game "Tetris" for at least 10 minutes, which the Michgan Tech Pep Band would probably do if hockey didn't get in the way.
Soon after halftime, a guy from Montreal who went by just Felipe scored and the Fire spent most of the last 45 minutes holding on for dear life to three much-needed points, even going as far as to head a shot off the goal line just before the finish.
Of course, this all happened on the opposite end too, but there was a big scoreboard down there and behind it, planes taking off from nearby Midway Airport every two minutes.
And then, back into the night.?The Fire, who are close to the playoff cutline in the Eastern Conference, needed this win bad, and the loss puts Montreal into the danger zone for qualification.
The attendance was 17,297 - pretty solid for just about any professional sport and big enough to be the 50th largest of that previously mentioned "92."
Meanwhile, the night before, thousands more paid significantly more to watch a thoroughly meaningless waste of time and kvetch over preseason (NFL) football. Don't get me wrong, I'll watch the Packers when they tee it up for real, but anyone who thought what went on Friday night at Lambeau Field was good value for their money was doing so through green-and-gold colored glasses.
So, what did the Chicago Fire provide for this off-duty scribe last Saturday? A good show, a good time, a decent value and a Chicago-style hot dog or two.
Would I have liked if we'd been fortunate to be a little closer to a goal? Yeah. Would it be more fun if Michigan had a team of their own to cheer? Definitely.
But to dismiss a competitive contest between high-end professionals on the pitch to debate the storylines originating from a tepid gridiron exhibition is ignorant. Quality is quality and a good time is a good time.
There are 19 teams in MLS, 20 for next season. Maybe I can round up some cash and do a little domestic ground-hopping some day?
Brandon Veale can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/redveale.