Chicago is a well-known sports-crazy city, but the craziest fans in the area are nearly unknown. There’s the Madhouse on Madison cheering wildly during the national anthem. There are 60,000 frenzied fans at Soldier Field in the frigid winter when the Bears are playing a key game late in the season. The Cubs and White Sox have large crowds for important games.
But none of these are the craziest Chicago sports fans. Not even close.
Just southwest of the Chicago city limits, in Bridgeview, there is a group of fans that makes other Chicago teams’ games look like minor league sports.
Section 8 Chicago is the Independent Supporters’ Association for the Chicago Fire Soccer Club of Major League Soccer. It was established in 1997, just after the announcement of a Chicago MLS team was announced. They adopted the name “Barn Burners 1871” until 1999, when the supporters’ section was moved to Section 8, hence the modern day name.
The motto of Section 8 is “Stand and Deliver.” And that’s exactly what they do before the game, during the game and after the game. It’s non-stop singing, cheering and flag waving.
With scarves and flags waving, people screaming, singing, yelling, jumping and being rowdy, it’s almost chaos being in Section 8. The fans belt out songs as loud as they can to spur on the Fire by providing a strong home field advantage. Standout goalkeeper Sean Johnson said what he thinks of Section 8 both on game day and on off days.
“They are a supporter group devout to our team,” Johnson said. “Just the craziest fans tailgating hours before the game. They’re very popular amongst the team and other fans, they do more than just cheer. They do a lot away from the game such as fundraisers and getting involved in the community, which brings in more fans for us.”
Section 8 has become a community that holds events, fundraisers and large tailgates before games. Fire players are involved in Section 8’s happenings also. It’s not out of the ordinary for players to come out before a game and chat with fans. Left back Gonzalo Segares has been injured for most of the 2014 season and has been seen many times taking pictures with fans.
Devin Dismang, game presentation & production coordinator, is in charge of the music on game day and part of his job is to keep the crowd into the game. He says that Section 8 amps up the atmosphere on game day.
“As our main supporter group, their energy can set the tone for how other fans react and cheer for the team that day,” he said. “Never underestimate what a great fan section can do for a team.”
Section 8 contributor Marc McCormack tells why he thinks Section 8 is different from other sporting events.
“Everyone is participating in a chant altogether doing choreographed things like that,” McCormack said. “It’s a lot more organized than you’d see at a Hawks game or a Sox or a Cubs game.”
But Section 8 is not just a group of crazy people yelling until they lose their voices. They have purpose at the games, and the players know it, according to Johnson.
“For sure the enthusiasm is contagious, you may get down, but the energy is still high in the stands so you get yourself back in to the game,” Johnson said. “To have that kind of support is really incredible.”
Matt Dunphey, Section 8’s director of merchandise, has been in his position for a year. He spoke about what he loves about being in Section 8.
“Supporting the Fire and being crazy and meeting people.” Dunphey said.
He added, “It’s our passion and our commitment to the Chicago Fire. And I think if more people would realize that, more people would come out. Chicago’s a great sports town, and I feel like the Section could really be something huge.”