Nothing to do with family - Fire continue to shoot themselves in the foot

To call Wednesday night’s “editorial” posting at unfortunate may be an understatement but it was exactly that. Among many other things it is also a misguided cluster of a piece that simply failed to get a coherent point across without angering the club’s fan base. To make matters worse it comes at a time when it appears that there will be no playoff soccer in Chicago for the third time in the last four seasons. A loss to New England coupled with a thoroughly disappointing loss to DC United in the US Open Cup Semi-Final calls into question whether or not the folks that decided that this was a good time to run this piece really put any thought into how supporters might react or that most rational, objective observers would read this and see it as nothing more than a whiny, self indulgent, fluff piece that served no purpose.

The purpose of the “editorial” seemingly was to highlight a vague incident or confrontation that allegedly occurred between a fan(s), Fire staff, Andrew Hauptman and his family, and possibly even other supporters. We don’t know what the specifics of the confrontation are because the “editorial” doesn’t bother to offer a clear explanation of what happened during or after the match on August 7. Instead of being specific it meanders into a clumping of internet insults and derision of the owner and the way the club is run and combines that with a veil of concern for the safety of supporters while attempting to keep Toyota Park from becoming a “fearful” place for fans.

We may never know exactly what happened during the incident(s) in question unless Andrew Hauptman himself would like to expound and explain what exactly what said and what was taken exception to. Of course, there is enough out there from the supporter’s perspective to piece some of it together. One fan claims to have hurled a post game comment directed toward the owner’s box suggesting that he “spend some money on someone who can score”. That’s hardly an incendiary insult worthy of fearing for one’s safety but an expletive laden response allegedly came down from the owner’s box which may have inflamed and exaggerated the entire fracas. Regardless of what started the problem, the “editorial” manages to not only generalize fan conduct at Toyota Park based on an isolated incident but it also drags its most ardent supporters into the mix by invoking the club’s charter. The tenets of the charter which call for respectful behavior and acting responsibly are quoted in order to chastise a singular few who may or may not have said something inflammatory after the Open Cup loss.

This again is veiled by a vague reference to random complaints by stating, “we have heard from many longstanding supporters who were afraid, fearful, disgusted with certain attendees behavior” in reference to the USOC semi-final. If this is the case, why not work with supporter’s groups and season ticket holders to help identify and correct abusive behavior instead of drafting an “editorial” under a false premise of concern for the family? It would appear on the surface that the true purpose of the piece was meant to take aim at anyone with a negative thought towards the owner and the club. That’s the way it comes across whether it was meant that way or not.

It’s certainly concerning that anyone in the organization thought that the “editorial” wasn’t going to receive overwhelmingly negative backlash and that anyone felt it was perfectly reasonable for a professional sports organization to call out its paying customers in such a manner. If the problem truly lies with a few isolated jerks that created a dangerous scene (that nobody in the stands seems to have witnessed) then why start the “editorial” with one particular fan calling Dan Lobring a “(crappy) hire”? Why mention that some supporters have called Hauptman “cheap”, say he “doesn’t care”, or thinks of the Fire as a “toy”?

What this is not is the singular opinion of the writer meant to convey and confess that he’s still learning about the game and supporter’s culture. The convoluted way in which all of the concerns about negativity among supporters thinly disguised as a fear for the safety of individuals is presented should be enough to dissuade anyone who believes that this is just one man’s opinion. Senior Director of Communications Dan Lobring has borne the brunt of the responsibility for penning this disaster under his name but it’s clear that the intent of the editorial was fashioned in the mind of someone above him. This was essentially confirmed by Chief Operating Officer Atul Khosla via his twitter account when he verified that Lobring’s piece was reviewed before it was published. This doesn’t get posted unless it’s green lighted from the top.

Even if there is a kernel of truth in the “editorial”, and there may be a valid point in there somewhere about unnecessary personal attacks it still comes off as amateurish, petty, thin skinned and completely uncalled for in the form that is was presented. It really has no place on the club’s official web site.

What the Fire have done is continue to paint themselves as a minor league organization toiling away in a second rate league that can’t handle the pressure of criticism on the big stage of major league professional sports in a major league city where results are the ultimate driving force in the arena of public opinion. It’s akin to Jerry Reinsdorf, Rocky Wirtz, Tom Ricketts, or the McCaskey family releasing a statement condemning their fans because of something a few uninformed, meatheaded callers uttered on WSCR or ESPN1000. Over reactive, unprofessional, thin skinned, ridiculous, insulting. The Fire have managed to perpetuate the stereotypes that they’re fighting to dissuade when it comes to their own fan base internally. To make matters worse they tried to disguise their contempt for a portion of their own fan base behind the veil of an “editorial” essentially telling everyone, “this is for your own good”. I guarantee you it’s also spawned a litany of questions about what’s going on in Chicago from sponsors, corporate partners, national media, supporters of other clubs, and more importantly from within the league.

While the Fire are starving for mainstream media attention, they gained some in the worst possible way with this “editorial”. By coming off as unproffesional, thin skinned whiners they have managed to also perpetuate the “minor league” perception of professional soccer in Chicago. This has done absolutely nothing to aid the club from the business or public relations end. One day of negative headlines in the Tribune, Sun Times, and Deadspin is nowhere near as valuable as losing the trust and confidence of the people who are paying the freight every day to support the club. Those people who were made aware of the Fire via any headline will remember the organization as a joke and move on. Those that will stick around aren’t laughing.

Unfortunate indeed.




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  • #hauptmanout

  • And not a speck of response to the fans and media outcry appears on the Fire webpage. Though they have produced a flurry of "news" items in an apparent attempt to move it out of sight.

  • This could all be worthwhile if it leads to Andy's Carnival Hucksters deciding to let go having fun owning a soccer franchise and electing to sell the Fire to a new responsible owner.

  • Orrin Schwarz shares his thoughts on this fiasco in the Daily Herald......

  • Can you imagine if Hauptman would have owned the Sox, Blackhawks, Bulls, or Bears? He would have to be placed on suicide watch.

  • I'd like to see section 8 sit for the first 10 minutes of the match today. Let the club know that there mistake isnt going to just go away and let Andy see what the atmosphere would be like for 10 minutes if the loyal fanbase that they didnt mean to call out, but did, weren't there.

  • In reply to Rubberbandman189:

    this is an idea we need to spread

  • it really does highlight what a disaster the hauptman era has been so far. lowlight after lowlight on the field, low ambition rankings, crap signings, not putting money where his mouth is, no accountability in the FO. it's really a sad situation in bridgeview. if there is one owner in chicago i'd like to see sell, it's hauptman, hands down.

  • Dan Lobring appeared on NASN's Soccer Morning today. Here's a link to the interview......

    Sean Spence from HTIOT and Jeff Krause also called in to discuss the debacle.

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    I don't think I can support this club anymore...

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    In reply to Kao Xiong:

    Of course, right when I say that, I don't mean it. This is a heavy blow to my heart. I hate looking silly.

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    As a season ticket holder since day 1, I feel embarrassed that part of my payments are funding this communications BS. Pay attention to your fan base! They are a bit upset with how things are going. It may be upsetting to you and the ownership, but that is life! If some people said some things that upset the poor kiddies, oh well. People brought their kids to the game and expected something that was promised to them that was not delivered. 1% of the fans may have been vocal, but their passion was shared by many more. Pay attention to your fan base! I go to every game. More so out of loyalty to the team than actual enjoyment. Sitting two plus hours in weekday traffic to see a minor league sporting experience tends to piss one off. Treat the sport like it deserves! Go to Kansas City! Go to Seattle! Go to Portland! That is how a soccer experience should be. Don't treat it like some crap minor league daycare experience. You have passionate fans. Don't blow it!

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    They are clarifying their communications director's comments. I thought that was the job of the communications director?

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    Why is the Chicago Fire management sending official communications blasting its passionate fan base? I was at the US Open Cup game with my son. It frankly was a disaster! Two hours in weekday traffic, long lines to get into the parking lot, limited foodservice options, running out of promoted hot dogs at half time and a total lack of product on the field. Yes, it was a PR disaster! The fans in my section were deeply disappointed with the entire situation. Many voiced their displeasure and left well before the game ended. Yet no acknowledgement from the team on this situation? And then we get some communication guy lashing out at some fans on their complaints. Worse yet, senior management approved this communication piece? What a pile of crap! Treat us fans with some respect! We love the game and the team! Players come and go. Staff members come and go. Owners come and go. The fans are what remains. The season ticket holders are the foundation of the team. Never undermine the fans. If you want to play in front of an empty stadium, then fine, continue doing what you are doing. If you want to replicate what is going on in Seattle, Portland, Kansas City, then treat the game and fans with some respect. Soccer is a total disaster in the city of Chicago. it doesn't have to be that way. I have been a Chicago soccer fan since the Sting days. This city has greatly supported the game in the past. Understand the market and the sport and start moving forward. No one is satisfied with this level of mediocrity.

  • I am not looking forward to hearing the Rainbow Warriors' fans next to our season seats tonight. Not that their insults are bad or crass (though every fan base is guilty of the latter), the bad thing is when they make comments about this incident tonight, I won't be able to argue against it.

    I would offer that supporters emulate Manchester United fans with their "Green and Gold until we're sold" campaign and wear black and gold (Sting colors) but I believe Fire fans now have more of a grip with ownership than ManU fans and black/gold are Columbus colors and well, no one wants to be them...

    ...then again they were just sold...

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    Black and Gold will always be Sting colors! Great idea. I will be wearing my Sting shirt tonight.

  • Amid the nonsense, there is a game tonight. Here are some picks on the weekend.....

    DC 2 Toronto 1
    Montreal 1 Houston 1
    FC Dallas 1 San Jose 2
    Vancouver 2 Los Angeles 2
    RSL 2 Columbus 1
    Chivas 1 New York 2
    New England 1 Philly 1
    Seattle 2 Portland 1
    Fire 1 SKC 1

    record 107/230

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    I'd be surprised if there was a game this year the fire organization wanted to win more than tonight (well, maybe the Open Cup game). A loss tonight would really fire up the fan base even more as they would slide into even deeper trouble playoff wise.

    I'd love to hear what the players would have to say about the editorial if they could be fully honest.

  • In reply to Drew:

    I was at the Open Cup game, and I wanted to see how the players would respond to the crowd after the game. A few, very few, went over to Section 8 to thanks for the support. A couple of players did a short walk-around to thank all the sections. I thought the crowd was really into the game, until it turned sour. I know the loss was very frustrating, but spending a few moments to thank the fans for showing up,especially after their display, would be nice. Honestly, it was a foul night for everyone. Except DC, of course.

  • Is it sad to say, I'm still pissed off about the USOC loss?

  • I flew in from Baltimore for the USOC semifinal. Happily I went with my brother, but what happened on the field was totally forgettable. What I'll remember, unfortunately, was that my brother missed both goals because he was trying to score a couple hot dogs and the concessions were understaffed.

    Guillermo, I think you were spot on with this piece. Is there a legitimate place for the club to point out that fans should act responsibly? Sure. I can't say whether fans acted irresponsibly or not. I didn't see any of the alleged situations, so I don't know. But to tie in complaints about FO hirings, criticisms of the owner, and gripes about on-field performance is weak.

    I can't wait to hear how they treat this on the All-in Podcast. Those guys don't deserve to be defending this "unfortunate incident."

  • and one more final outlet for this...

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