A letter to Chicago Fire fans

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Dear CFFC faithful,

I’ve been wrestling with the idea of writing this letter.

It popped into my head as I laid awake following the back-and-forth loss at Orlando City SC in September. This typically happens to me following a game. I lie awake with the residue of adrenaline fading from my bloodstream.

While the life of a broadcaster is certainly a fun one, it comes with its quirks. Late nights watching games across the League, the preparation, the work week reaching a climax in the heart of the weekend and, yes, a strange sleep schedule because of that lingering adrenaline.

Don’t get me wrong, I am truly one lucky dude. I get to commentate professional soccer games in one of the greatest cities in the world with a former MLS and U.S. Men’s National Team great in Tony Meola.

And I get to do it from one of the most historic sports venues in the world.

Back to one of my restless nights of sleep following that Orlando fixture…

Tony and I came out of that game feeling like we had our best call yet. Our team in the truck all felt the same way. But why?

It was a pretty quick realization: There were fans. Yes, there were a number of other factors like it being our fifth-straight game without interruption, the game was open and entertaining, etc. But that was the first time we had called a game since March 7 with fans in attendance.

I was able to adjust my inflection with the scattered sounds of fans getting out of their seats at the hint of a chance. I was able to react and feel the moment through the groans when the Fire were awarded a penalty. I was able to pace myself and shift gears, in unison, with the crowd.

I think I speak for every commentator in the league when I say that this year has been by far the most challenging, no different than it has been for the fans, players, staff, front office - everyone.

The lack of sound in most MLS stadia this year was eerie.

The lack of sound at Soldier Field in the Club’s return to the lakefront…it hurt.

Most home games for the Fire I would find myself pacing the barren concourses of Soldier Field before we hit the air. It was always an out-of-body experience. An empty Soldier Field is a humbling sight. It speaks to the colossal and venerable nature of the venue, but constantly reminds you of the times we are living in.

This was supposed to be the ultimate homecoming for Chicago Fire FC. A homecoming, as a newcomer, that I still don’t think I can fully appreciate or ever will.

I’m a Chicago transplant who had been living in Fort Lauderdale for the past few years. I’m originally from New Jersey. I think it would be naïve of me to say that I have any idea what it was going to mean for Chicago Fire fans to be back at Soldier Field this season.

I have come to love Chicago and call it home, though. I’ve biked the entire lakefront trail from start to finish. I’ve plunged into Lake Michigan on a sunny fall day. I’ve sat at the picnic tables of Wiener Circle and enjoyed a double char dog. I’ve wandered aimlessly on the Riverwalk just looking up and admiring the masterful and unique architecture.

But I kept on coming back to, I still don’t know you.

I don’t know what you sound like after a Djordje Mihailović equalizer in stoppage time. I don’t know what your collective “OOOOOHHHHH” sounds like after Álvaro Medrán splits two defenders and switches the point of attack. I don’t know what you sound like after Robert Berić finishes off a sweet move that started out of the back.

Because I don’t know you, I haven’t been able to do my job to the best of my ability. My words, my energy, my everything when I’m calling a game, stems from you, the fans.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll show up every match and try to call a game just like you were there. I’ve found different ways to create that energy, and luckily, I’ve had experience with more than a few CONCACAF games that were played behind closed doors.

My job is to paint a picture of what is taking place during the game. That picture is incomplete without you.

I won’t speak for the players and make a comparison that they miss you ten times more than I ever could. I’m not a professional footballer. I could take a guess that I’m not far off though.

All I can speak to is my experience. It’s an experience that - for better or worse - is unfinished.

This will be a long offseason for a whole host of reasons, including our shared anticipation for clarity on when we can all be together.

When I can hear your “ooohhh.”

When I can hear your collective roar.

When I can finally meet you.