Hauptman's Letter

On Tuesday, the Fire distributed a letter that owner Andrew Hauptman wrote to fans of the club.  The letter, which ran a relatively short 293 words, was sort of Hauptman's wrap on the season.  It details how he felt after the Real Salt Lake game and reminds fans that the club is already working hard to bring a championship back to Chicago next season.

Here is the end of Hauptman's letter.  It goes into what he specifically had to say about 2010:

Looking ahead, I can share without hesitation that we remain as focused
as ever on winning an MLS Cup championship. While our players will now
get some well-deserved time off, the rest of the Fire organization is
already working tirelessly to prepare for 2010.

I'm confident that next season will prove to be one of the Fire's best yet -- both on and off the pitch.

Thank you again for your support and I look forward to seeing
you Opening Night on April 10, 2010 when we kick off the home portion
of the 2010 schedule against the San Jose Earthquakes. Go Fire! 

-Andrew Hauptman

The above part of the letter is what I have a problem with - and is why I'm writing this post.  Why?  Well, if this offseason plays out like anything we expect it to (i.e. with the Fire unable to retain Blanco, Rolfe, Prideaux, Segares, Conde and possibly McBride, Brown and Pappa) than in no way the season will "be one of the Fire's best yet" - at least on the field that is.  

So to me, it looks like Hauptman is kind of sugarcoating the 2010 situation (full disclosure: I originally wrote Hauptman is kind of "hiding the truth" from his fan base, I thought that was a bit harsh so I switched it up) - and that's something that I'm not a huge fan of.  Sure, I understand that he is trying to be a salesman for the club.  After all he's the one putting millions of dollars into it and he has more than every right to try and earn a little return on his investment.  

However, I think it would say a lot about the club if Andrew would have been more honest and transparent of what next year could be like for the club.  I think he should have addressed this offseason and talked about what he wants to see happen for the Fire before the 2010 season begins.    Maybe something like this...

Looking ahead, I can share without hesitation that we remain as focused as ever on winning an MLS Cup championship.  I can also say that next year will bring a lot of new faces to the team.  But I can assure you, that despite the departure of some big names in Cuauhtemoc Blanco and Chris Rolfe, the front office is working around the clock to bring in other players who not only meet, but go above and beyond their caliber.

We're all looking forward to 2010 and even though the team will be losing some key players this offseason, it's incredibly important to me that there isn't any drop off in on-the-field product.  I know that if one thing is important to the fans, it's winning and I promise you that the same is true of me.  I want to make the Fire the best club in MLS and we'll be working hard throughout the offseason and into the regular season to ensure that we're on the right track towards achieving that goal.

Thank you again for your support and I look forward to seeing you Opening Night on April 10, 2010 when we kick off the home portion of the 2010 schedule against the San Jose Earthquakes. Go Fire!

-My edit of Hauptman's letter

I find that to be far more transparent than Hauptman's original letter and thus far more respectful to the fan base.  The front office has to assume that the fans know what is going on with the club this offseason and being transparent (like the letter directly above) is something that would gain much more of my respect than speaking in vague terms like the letter that was sent out did.
 
That's just my two cents though.  I wanted to post this so I could give the opportunity for you guys - the people who determine whether or not Hauptman makes a profit - to have your say about the letter (and what you think the Fire needs to do to bring you back to Bridgeview next year).  Hopefully the team will read this and who knows - they might even take a suggestion or two into account.

All of that said, it's still nice to see that Hauptman is making efforts to communicate with the fans.  I've been told that he's been out to Section 8 tailgates/met with them and actually sitting down with the fans and taking the time and effort to do that is a lot more than most owners can say -- and is commendable in itself.

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  • Sam,

    Very well said. As a season ticket holder something like your edit is what I would have wanted to hear. The original letter sounds like corporate pandering babble.

  • totally disillusioned with the fire. no season tickets until they get serious
    sam they should hire you to do pr

  • Nice work Sam. The end of the season letter can be uplifting or can summarize the issues the fan base has with the team. I've seen it on my beat on the Wolves too.

  • Did you attend that Q&A with Andrew that you mentioned at the end of this piece, Sam?

  • In reply to joemccusty:

    Unfortunately I did not. You?

  • In reply to SamuelStejskal:

    That is an interesting response. Here, Sam says "Unfortunately I did not." I would have been more receptive to a response like this:

    "I chose not to go. There are better things to do with my time than take advantage of an opportunity to have a frank and candid discussion with the owner of the team about which I write."

    I find it far more transparent, and respectful to your readers.

  • In reply to joemccusty:

    I would have preferred that Hauptman address all fans in a frank and candid manner for those who could not attend the Q&A. If he did address questions by skipping the corporate garbage strewn about in the letter I'm sure we'd all like to hear about it.

  • In reply to joemccusty:

    My apologies Joey. As you may or may not know, I am a full time college student and had a midterm the next day. Because grades are important to me (as is covering the Fire) I chose to study for my test instead of go to the Q + A. Again, my apologies. Had it fallen on a different day I would have definitely tried to be there.

    Sorry I didn't mention that earlier.

  • In reply to SamuelStejskal:

    Also here's a link detailing what was discussed at the meeting.

    http://section8chicago.com/jm3/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=455:isa-meeting-with-andrew-hauptman&catid=1:general-supporter-news&Itemid=158

  • In reply to SamuelStejskal:

    That link details a different meeting entirely, a private gathering between ownership and Section 8 Chicago leadership on Thursday, November 5th.

    The meeting last Friday night was a public Q&A that covered many more topics. There are some details on our forum, but Andrew asked for a candid discussion so there is no transcript or recording. http://www.soccerpubs.com/boards/index.php?showtopic=35618

    Not to be rude, but I think you have a bit of catching up to do in terms of the history of fans and their relationship with the ownership of the Fire to understand why this letter from Andrew, combined with a public Q&A, is actually quite a significant step forward in openness.

    Either way you cut it or worry about the phrasing, in that letter he made a public commitment to the Fire to a successful 2010 on and off the field - that's some of the public accountability and commitment we have been asking for, and ensures the staff understand what needs to be done. It puts pressure on himself to invest to make sure it happens as well.

  • In reply to goldstone97:

    Thanks for clarifying Tom. I would agree with you that I do have some catching up to do in regards to the history of the fans and their relationship with the Front Office.

    I'll work on improving that aspect of my coverage in the future.

    Also, apologies to Joe. I definitely did not have a midterm the day after the actual meeting so my bad on that one. Didn't mean to come across as rude.

  • In reply to SamuelStejskal:

    Appreciate that response, Sam. Anytime you want to sit down for a chat, I'm happy to give whatever input I can to help. Email me at tom@section8chicago.com anytime.

  • In reply to SamuelStejskal:

    Good stuff sam, probably one of my favorite posts of yours since you got on the job. I gotta be honest that one of the things Luis did that I loved while he was around was really go into interesting details, give really conflicting but interesting opinions. This was really good stuff, keep it comin.

  • In reply to SamuelStejskal:

    I liked your take Sam. And anyone out here criticizing someone for criticizing Fire management surely has one very well ventilated glass house.

    I'd love more details because it is s scary offseason looming. With lots of changes coming. But I also take that fact that he took the time to (have someone) write a letter to fans as a good thing.

    Already renewed my tix and just hope that there's a good team on the field next year. I'll wait until we've actually had a bad season before withholding my money in a defiant stand agaisnt team management.

    Sam - let's talk expansion draft and who the Fire shoudl protect. Goff has the rules up on his site.

  • In reply to NaperSteve:

    I don't think this issue is something Fire management should be criticized over. It's clearly a step in the right direction, a direction that they have been failing at for a bit now.

  • In reply to SamuelStejskal:

    You really think Andrew should reveal his master plans, to any degree, in an email to fans in the middle of contract negotiations and transfer planning? Absolutely not! Do you realize how much leverage you lose in negotiations with current and prospective players when you tip your hand even in the slightest, as you suggest?

    This letter was spot-on. Andrew established something fans can hold him accountable to in the future, and did it in an honest and personable manner. Anyone who thinks it was corporate PR babble needs a reality check, and probably a better understanding of this club's history and its relationship with fans. This was an honest commitment to do whatever it takes to make sure this club remains an elite club, even in a time of change.

    Finally, before I get off my soap box, I find it very offensive and irresponsible that you did not attend the Q&A, yet you sit here and criticize Andrew's letter. Really?!?! So you complain about a lack of transparency, and arrogantly suggest something else, yet don't spend the time to go to this event? Come on.

  • In reply to m311ton:

    "Finally, before I get off my soap box, I find it very offensive and irresponsible that you did not attend the Q&A, yet you sit here and criticize Andrew's letter. Really?!?! So you complain about a lack of transparency, and arrogantly suggest something else, yet don't spend the time to go to this event? Come on."

    Fair enough. Though I would like to be clear that in no way was I trying to be arrogant -- only trying to express my view on the situation. I can understand that it came across that way though.

  • In reply to m311ton:

    I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to mis-attribute this quote to Voltaire.
    -- Avram Grumer

  • In reply to m311ton:

    Good blog post. I took Hauptman's letter to be the spiritual launch of the season ticket renewal selling season. It didn't strike me as the least bit personal. It might be a step forward, but it's a very small step.

    So, I'm not surprised Hauptman didn't address your concerns, because they just emphasize to fans why they should hold onto those season ticket renewal forms. Mine has found the bottom of my desk drawer. I'm sure there will be plenty of good seats available in the spring.

    I would have never said this 5 years ago, but I see no reason to have season tickets through a rebuilding process. If the qualify on the field is basically advanced college level, I'll ride my bike to Northwestern games and watch for just about free.

  • In reply to m311ton:

    Sam, always put your studies first. This blog is a cool thing and you're very good at it but keep your dream alive. thank you

  • In reply to m311ton:

    Get off Sam's back, everybody. He is a student and I relate to that, I am too. He couldn't come to some Q&A Because he had to study. Teachers don't care about whether or not you are a part-time reporter, when you flunk their tests they get ticked. I liked this post a lot, and I agree that this letter is very impersonal. Although it might be important not to reveal anything, he owes it to us to treat us like we deserve to be treated. We are the 2000 people who come to the home opener in the freezing rain. We are the ones who have actually attended a practice, also in freezing weather. We are the ones who get mad when the person behind you says, "What's a yellow card?" (happened to me once 2 years ago). We are the ones who are sick of this coach and we are the ones who watch all the games and say why we're sick of him. We are the ones who check this blog every time we go online, just to see if there's a new designated player rumor. We are the logs on the Fire. We deserve to know.

  • In reply to patrickhattrick:

    Patrickhattrick -- what would you have wanted the letter to say exactly? Do you really have zero appreciation for an owner stepping into the limelight and taking any questions from fans at an open forum? How many owners in American sports have done that this year? Has Fire ownership ever done that before?

    Steps in the right direction help.

  • In reply to goldstone97:

    That's a baby step. It's not enough to makes and a few other fans who have felt disrespected by the Fire despite what we do for them. When Ive been with this team for four years(I've only been around for twelve) and, though I hate to bring him into this, on Luis

  • In reply to m311ton:

    I need a reality check I guess since I'm expecting the owner of the team that I spend thousands of dollars on every year to address issues honestly and not issue standard boiler plate letters.

  • In reply to m311ton:

    Sam, good luck with your midterms, obviously it's more important than a Q & A session where all you'll hear is generalities, cliches, and an unwillingness to answer the hard questions.

    It's nice that Mr. Hauptman would write a letter to us although I don't really care whether he thanks me. It's corporate mumbo jumbo but I suppose the thought was nice.

    I'd agree that there are a lot of issues that are going to be decided but I'm not so sure things are as bleak as some are suggesting; a lot of questions but not bleak.

  • In reply to billj:

    billj -- Can I ask, were you at the Q&A? If so, please inform me what parts of it were "generalities, cliches, and an unwillingness to answer the hard questions" as I did not notice them. If you weren't there, why are you saying that?

    Fans do not encourage openness from the club by being closed-minded themselves.

  • In reply to billj:

    So, for only the second time in club history, a high-level (in this case, the highest) representative publicly communicates his disappointment in the way the season finished; and some fans respond with venom.

    Not unexpected, and yes, actions speak much louder -- but the letter in and of itself is not a bad thing, folks.

  • In reply to SamuelStejskal:

    One other comment on the article; the rewriting of the owners letter came off as a Big Soccer message board look at me I'm smarter than the owner, elitist moment. I don't know if you were going for that but if you were, kudos.

  • In reply to merwin:

    I was not. Only trying to communicate what I personally would have liked to see from the letter. As I stated in the article, I really like the fact that Andrew is getting involved with the fans and is showing interest in increasing the dialogue. Definitely not trying to show him up or have an elitist moment.

  • In reply to SamuelStejskal:

    It initially came across to me that way, on a second reading not so much.

    Keep up the good work around here, I do enjoy the blog.

  • In reply to SamuelStejskal:

    I agree, this is a great blog Sam, and I know it won't earn you points with the Fire staff, but it will earn you the respect of your readers and eventually the Fire staff. You are the voice of the fans right now, and you can voice our concerns to them. I know Hauptman wants a winning team, and it is also his right to try to earn a return on his investment, but the truth of it all is, he should be in this for winning.

    He could go a long long way in letting us know what's going on, and then there are times where we can be perfectly understanding if something stays within the Fire staff, but right now, there are many things that we know, and we need clarification. that's the right thing to do, because as a Fire diehard, we deserve to be informed.

    anyway, i am proud to go to the games, and am working towards being a season pass owner, so yes, I am invested in this, and want to become even more involved as a fan. as much as we want MLS and US Open cups, we want honesty and truth from the team we love.

  • In reply to SamuelStejskal:

    Your criticisms really bother me. What is wrong with saying to the fans "we are going to be good next year" during a critical off season? Most (if not all)observers of this team know its a critical off season. This is MLS where parity reigns supreme (Red Bull NY 2008 MLS Cup participants). It isn't out of the realm of possibility for this team to be good next year even if they loose everyone they possibly could. Having the owner express that he expects his team to be good next year sets the tone for the offseason. This doesn't mislead fans at all. Look at how DC United ownership expects to be good every year, they don't say "hey we are rebuilding and expect a tough year so please be patient". They expect to win trophies every year and when they don't they make changes.

    Be critical if/when they don't follow up on the promise to be good, hammer at signings you don't like, but don't criticize Andy when he says he expects to be good next year. We can only hope that our ownership begins to care as much as we do.

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