Early Starts and Broken Hearts: The Terrible Saga of the Chicago Chelsea Supporters Club

There are certain aromas, that when encountered, evoke strong feelings and associations in the person who inhales them.  To some men, the slightest waft of a fragile, delicate perfume enlivens the senses. Wafts of baking bread brings forth long forgotten neural connections of safety, well-being and parental love.  Napalm, as Robert Duvall’s character Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore enlightened us, “smelled like victory.”

So it is with The Globe.  This hole-in-the-wall type bar, which at one point before the expansive renovations you could barely see into (it was like looking into the singularity of a black hole, you could make out furtive movements and nothing else), has become a light, airy Mecca for followers of the beautiful game in Chicago and beyond.

My irregular weekend pilgrimages to this Midwestern home of football, will now always be associated with the smell of a bar at opening time.  The particularly heady fragrance of a combination of cleaning fluids, old beer, and before the ban, stale cigarette smoke, would be considered anathema by many; but to myself and others, it is the aromatic primer that precedes a morning of shenanigans.

Due to the time difference, watching the EPL in the U.S. is a labor of love.  It involves forsaking all others, committing to the game and friends alike and usually the abandonment of all other activities for the day that don’t involve the word ‘pint.’  The early games are, on the face of it, screened live at an extremely inconvenient time.  But what else as a supporter are you supposed to do? Sit at home like Billy-no-mates? Or drag your carcass up to The Globe and make a day of it?  If you had to think about that dilemma, give yourself a slap.

I have found myself at The Globe with the other handful of Chelsea supporters, jostling for position, eschewing coffee and breakfast sandwiches and going straight for the golden Carlsberg jugular at some ungodly hour of the morning.  We have sang, we have heckled and we have directed some good natured abuse at fans from just about every other team in the EPL for what seemed like a lot longer than the regulation ninety minutes.  Our fan club has been dwarfed by the traveling circuses that are the Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal supporter’s clubs.  On occasions we’ve all been in The Globe together at the same time (you show me anywhere in England that can boast that), but our small, flag bearing group has always stood its ground.

We’ve experienced soaring highs together, like the 2007 F.A. Cup Final victory against Manchester United; and we’ve suffered catatonic despair inducing defeats together, like the ignominious end to the 2008 European Cup Final against the Red Devils yet again.

We’ve wound people up and conversely suffered at the hands of the wind-up merchants, but we’ve always walked out of The Globe into that harsh sunlight with our heads held high.  As I’ve wobbled off down Irving Park Road, past the normal people out with their kids and dogs getting a coffee and a paper, I’ve always thought I detected a little bit of envy in their eyes.  Could they possibly be envious of our motley crew? We have somewhere to go, people to meet and claims to be staked. We have the EPL and The Globe, and they don’t.

(A version of this essay appeared in The Globe, published by Dark Lark Press LLC on May 15, 2010.)

© 2012 Jamie M. Bradley All Rights Reserved

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