The Secret?


In November,'s Bill Simmons - affectionately known as the "Sports Guy" - published *The Book of Basketball* with one goal in mind: to answer every question that could ever be posed about the NBA. One of those questions deals with what Simmons calls "The Secret." Simmons learns of the "secret" on the deck of a Vegas topless pool, where he and Isaiah Thomas (the Hall of Fame point guard and former GM who was a longtime object of barbs in Simmons's columns) are hashing out their differences. After each gets over an initial stage of awkwardness, they begin discussing Thomas's playing career, leading to the former Pistons star dropping some knowledge on the "Sports Guy":

"The secret of basketball is that it's not about basketball."

Thomas's point is that basketball is about chemistry and how teammates get along (not really much of a secret there...). The same could be said of soccer. In both sports, short-term success can be achieved through individual brilliance (see a free kick goal or a player scoring 50 points in a game) but more than that is needed in the long run. Simmons elaborates: > These teams were loaded with talented players, yes, but that's not the only reason they won. They won because they liked each other, knew their roles, ignored statistics, and valued winning over everything else. They won because their best players sacrificed to make everyone else happy. They won as long as everyone remained on the same page. By that same token, they lost if any of those factors weren't in place.

> -Bill Simmons in his book, *The Book of Basketball*

After reading that passage, I began to think about whether or not the 2009 Fire possessed Simmons's prerequisites for winning. Did the players like each other? Did they know (and willingly perform) their roles? Did they ignore stats? The short answer is of course no. Though last year's version of the Fire seemed to get along fine with one another (for the most part anyway...) I thought that there was a lack of understanding of each player's role. Much of this had to do with Cuauhtemoc Blanco.


Blanco, who is now with Mexican club Veracruz, was somewhat of a square peg in a round hole for the Fire last season. Don't get me wrong, Blanco put up great numbers (five goals and eight assists in 21 league games), it was just his that his style of play never really meshed with the team. Specifically, Blanco was too much of an individual player. His consistent dalliances on the ball (which slowed the attack and allowed opposing defenses time to track back and get in position) didn't fit with the rest of the style of the rest of the team which - for the most part - was to attack with passes. Blanco's style of play did work well from time to time (after all, even at the age of 36 Blanco still has tremendous skill) but the fact that it was a different style than the one the rest of the team employed directly prohibited the Fire from establishing an offensive identity - something that a team needs if it wants to win a championship.

In terms of what I'll call Simmons's "qualifications for winning," the individuals of the 2009 Chicago Fire didn't seem to understand their roles all that well. Maybe those roles were never clearly defined. Maybe they were. Regardless, the Fire needs to create a system where every player knows their role. Without such a system in place, a championship in 2010 would be impossible to achieve. And that's no secret.


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  • I think Blanco didnt care at all about the team. I bet that he thinks this league is a joke and that all he wanted was the paycheck. The way he would show other players up was insane. He has no respect for the league and the players in it. He needs to realize that he is maybe a 60 minute player in any league in the world. It just sucked that The Menace didnt have the balls to take him out of a game because of the scene he would cause. I'm glad to see him go. And 5 goals and 8 assists in 21 games is not by any means "great numbers." Especially when those numbers are also getting paid more than the rest of the team combined. I really hope they don't bring him back this season. Especially if we get another walkover as a coach. We will be back to the same ways. 4-5-1...

  • Sam do you know the date of the Super Draft?

  • In reply to MythosFC:

    January 14th

  • In reply to SamuelStejskal:


  • In reply to SamuelStejskal:

    Sam any new news on the Head Coach and player acquisitions?

    And also, do you know anything about how much longer the Sponsorship deal runs with Best Buy and/or any new jersey designs for this next season. I think the fire's jersey right now looks pretty dull and could use a redoing

  • In reply to Andrew1:

    Some of you probably noticed that I said I would have an interview with Frank Klopas last week to update that situation but it turned out that he was unavailable so that did not happen. However, I've been in touch with the Fire media relations people and should have an interview with him this week.

  • In reply to Andrew1:

    The Best Buy deal has one more year to go. There will also be new jersey designs for the 2010 season. The road version will be different but the home jersey will be similar to last year's with some new tweaks.

  • In reply to Andrew1:

    Sam--you are 100% on target with Blanco and the rest of the team. I think he had a negative impact on a lot of players including Pappa who had a great start to the season and faded greatly in the latter part of the year. The best thing to happen to Pappa will be for Blanco not to be on the field next season.

  • In reply to SamuelStejskal:

    Stan, you should read The Soccer Tribe by Desmond Morris. There is a chapter on the importance of players interacting with each other. There are some interesting statistics from a France - Argentina game from several years ago about working together on the field. A good read for any soccer fan.

  • In reply to Gladbach:

    Where on Earth did you get Stan from?

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