I grew up in Chicago. It’s actually one of my favorite things about me. During my teen years, I saw the expansion of the MLS to Chicago and it immediately sparked a passion in me for the sport that has grown to border on obsession. I was instantly attached, both to the experience and the players. And while the experience part has morphed into something different as I’ve gotten older, the player part has never changed.
The thing is, you can always tell when a player is there in your town to collect a paycheck and look for his next move, as fans of any sport would agree. It’s obvious, it’s part of the “business” I suppose, unavoidable to an extent, but certainly gross.
It’s the players that dig-in, play for the badge, embody the city and carry the fans on their back that are loved for lifetimes. To me, no greater example of this is former Chicago Fire defender, CJ Brown, who will be inducted into Chicago’s “Ring of Fire” tonight.
Brown holds the club record for most MLS regular season appearances (296), MLS Cup playoff appearances (35) and Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup appearances (25). Serving as Fire captain from 2008-09, Brown’s 372 appearances across all competitions are also a club record and rank him third all-time behind only Jaime Moreno (415) and Cobi Jones (392) for most competitive games played for one MLS club.
He joins a ring consisting of former Fire captain Peter Nowak, former Fire defender Lubos Kubik, former Fire forward and current head coach Frank Klopas, the Fire’s first General Manager Peter Wilt, former Fire head coach Bob Bradley and former Fire midfielder Armas in the club’s Ring of Fire.
And while I can’t be there tonight for when one of my favorite soccer players of all-time is honored, I want to put it on the internet (in case he Googles himself) that I appreciate everything he did for me and my love of the game.