By Ashley Kouba
On Sunday, October 20th the Chicago Wildfire defeated the Indianapolis AlleyCats in an abbreviated competition during the Bears vs Saints NFL halftime in Chicago. The exhibition game was the first time professional ultimate has ever been played at Soldier Field. Over 62,000 fans were in attendance.
After a slow start in the first point, both teams kept the crowd entertained as they finished the 6 minute exhibition with a final score of 4-3. Drew Swanson led in stats for both teams with 1 score, 1 assist, and 1 block. The 11-member Soldier Field maintenance crew and Saints kicker Wil Lutz were also given joint credit for the suffocating defense against both teams and contributed to 7 throwaways on the stats sheet.
"It was wild getting to play in front of a big crowd like that. Looking up at the lights and the crowd was a surreal experience," Swanson said of the halftime showcase. "I've heard fans react to different things in our games before, but they were really into it, and they were loud. Like, real loud." When asked if the atmosphere made him play any differently, Swanson replied simply, "I was there to have fun. That’s why I play ultimate. It was nice to share the game with thousands of others."
This was the second time the Wildfire have competed during an NFL game after last year’s appearance against the Minnesota Wind Chill during the Minnesota Vikings' Week 17 home game against the Chicago Bears. Swanson noted that there was something very special about doing it in front of a home crowd. "This sport has meant so much to me in my life that I want others to be able to experience the kind of joy that this sport has brought me. At the end of the day if one kid goes home and decides that he wants to give ultimate a try it makes an event like this worthwhile. That’s what makes it special."
The Wildfire continue their offseason training and are gearing up for open tryouts, which will take place on January 4th. Athletes from all backgrounds are invited to register for the combine and try out for a chance to make next year’s Wildfire roster. Wildfire 2020 season tickets are also on sale now through the team’s website.