Friday, May 09, 2014

My AUDL Fan Experience (Chicago, IL)

A noon game on a Saturday is not an ideal time/day for a pro Ultimate game because 1) the target audience (ulti players) is probably playing ultimate, and 2) midday traffic in Chicago is a real bear. This 12pm game on May 3rd was the earliest starting time on the Chicago Wildfire's 2014 schedule, against a team - Detroit Mechanix - who just 15 hours before finished their first game of the weekend 300 miles away in Cincinnati, Ohio.

After strolling through Roscoe Village, I eventually arrived to the campus of Lane Tech High School. The lack of signage along the busy Addison Street seemed like a missed opportunity to promote the pro Ultimate game - present and future. Furthermore, some signs could have helped me find the main entrance (it was in the alley in between the school and the stadium).

I bought a $12 ticket and then grabbed a mini schedule and a tri-fold color Wildfire brochure/program. I followed the path around the north end of the stadium passing by sponsors' booths. Zipcar doled out some sweet (free) swag - wristband, sunglasses and a mini-disc. Generic stadium-food was also available for sale.

Thankfully, the announcer over the speakers was my first clue that I was not crashing a pre-game scrimmage. The stadium was really empty.

Lane Tech Stadium is a well-positioned venue against the backdrop of the high school's Gothic style red brick. Lane Tech's field was used for some parts of the classic 1986 movie, Wildcats, starring Goldie Hawn. Finding seating on the west-side bleachers, you can get a gorgeous view capturing the field and downtown's skyline. Another cool sighting was the number of "Helton - 00" jerseys worn by youth fans.

View from Chicago Wildfire's stadium
As a fan sitting watching a sporting event, the wind was welcomed in the warm sun. As a fan sitting watching ultimate, the wind was a nuisance impacting the flow of the game.  There were a total of 66 turnovers in the entire game -- Chicago 30, Detroit 36. Additionally, Detroit had 17 drops while Chicago had 14; and, this seems low. Another low number was the attendance, which I generously estimated at 75.

Detroit had a chance to be competitive in this game, but lacked discipline within the playing conditions. I'm no Tom Skilling, but would have described the weather as: windy with gusts. Kind of like playing at the beach where there's a consistent wind, but with moments of heavier gusts which ruin any floaty throws and make you second guess your abilities of throwing a plastic disc. The Mechanix could not catch the disc one-handed, nor should they have tried. Attempts of 15+ yard throws by the Mechanix were usually incomplete, yet they kept trying to throw them. Overall, the Mechanix had no set offense. The Wildfire were more patient and effectively utilized cross-field hammers to propel their offense. The game was hard to watch (and enjoy).

There was not a lot to cheer about. The top 3 biggest cheers from the crowd group of people at the game, were (in order):
1. During one of the between-quarters, children younger than 8 years old were tossing discs into a lacrosse goal. They had decent form by keeping the disc low to the ground. When they scored into the net, it was exciting!
2. Detroit scored only 2 points in the 2nd half, so when they were close to the end zone, it was thrilling!
3. Goose's superman layout for the Wildfire's 15th point, it was super!

Wildfire won 18-9. No, 16-9. Okay, 18-9! At the end of the bland match, a few Wildfire players greeted fans as they exited. The Wildfire store tent suffered from premature "dismantlation" less than 10 minutes after the game's end, so I didn't have time for an extensive look. Though, the store did have a wide variety of baseball hats.

What I paid $12 for lacked "professional" game elements. Regardless of the day/time and attendance, I expected the Wildfire to offer more for the paying fans. More than the chance to watch an ultimate game in a stadium.


I'd be remiss if it wasn't mentioned that Brodie Smith was on the sidelines for the Wildfire. There were a few questions for people in the stands about his presence.
Q1. Will Brodie play today?
A1. No, not in the game. Yes, throwing short tosses into the wind for almost-self-caught flight action on the sidelines. Yes, tossing during warm-ups while out of uniform.

Q2. If Brodie is not playing, then is he scheduled to do trickshots during halftime?
A2. No, he did not do any trickshots for the fans. Actually the only halftime "entertainment" was 4 guys playing Spikeball on the field, none of whom uttered the words "dark horse."

Q3. Will Brodie suit up for the Wildfire today, or even this year?
A3. Yes! He actually donned the Wildfire jersey for a team picture at the end of Saturday's game.
Chicago Wildfire team photo

1 comment:

Lucius said...

Brodie injured again?