I collect used Champagne bottles. I have a lot of them. In fact,
I have as many empty Champagne bottles as my current team, the Milwaukee Wave, has years of existence – 26! Most of them I poured into flutes and drank the traditional way. Eleven times, however, I sprayed the Champagne over half naked men, poured it over heads and gulped it from the bottle!
A couple of the bottles aren’t actually Champagne, but they all have meaning to me and the eleven that were sprayed are extra special. Of those eleven, a couple have been lost to history.
Here are the stories of the eleven bottles:
I. Chicago Power: My collection began in 1991 – it was a bottle of Tott’s – when the indoor Chicago Power clinched the NPSL regular season title on the final game of the year. Defender Larry Sunderland, Goalkeeper Mark Berry and I all left the Milwaukee Wave in mid-season and were rejuvenated in Chicago that year. I still cherish the T-shirt with a picture of Larry, Mark and me celebrating in the cramped visitors locker room of the Canton Memorial Civic Center. The clinching victory came on a late goal by Brazilian star Batata.
II. Chicago Power: A few weeks later, the Power won the playoff championship in OT in Dayton. Mirko Castillo scored the game winner again in overtime, but alas, I didn’t keep a bottle from my first playoff championship.
III. Chicago Power: The Power stormed through the NPSL the next season and we celebrated the regular season championship in front of 11,835 fans at the Rosemont Horizon (where we were 19-1 that season) with bottles of Franzia.
IV. Minnesota Thunder: Three years later I had moved on to the Minnesota Thunder and we defeated the Milwaukee Rampage twice (the second a mini-game) in one day to win the 1995 USISL Midwest Division and celebrated with Andre.
V. and VI. Chicago Fire: The week after bottle #IV, Chris Armas, Giovanni Savareses and Tony Meola took away another Champagne celebration and began another three year drought before the bubbly poured again. When it began again in 1998, it became a fairly regular occurrence for the next few years including twice in 1998 when the MLS expansion Chicago Fire did the double. Both times it was Cook’s.
VII. Minnesota Thunder: I missed snagging a bottle from the Thunder’s 1999 A-League championship that I celebrated as a part owner!
VIII. Chicago Fire: The following year I got bottle VIII, another Cook’s, when the Fire won the 2000 US Open Cup. A week prior, however, Tony Meola took another Champagne bottle away from me when he led the Wizards to a 1-0 victory despite the Fire’s 22-6 shot advantage in the MLS Cup Final. I looked on with envy and admiration as Kansas City Owner Lamar Hunt and Head Coach Bob Gansler celebrated instead.
IX. and X. Chicago Fire: I received two more Champagne shampoos in 2003 in Dave Sarachan’s first season as Fire head coach. The first (Korbel) was for beating the MetroStars at Giants Stadium for another US Open Cup victory. I couldn’t find video of Damani Ralph’s game winner in the final, but I did find these highlights of the semifinal 3-2 victory over the Los Angeles Galaxy in Naperville. Being a passionate Chicago Cubs hater, the celebration at Giants Stadium happily coincided with the northsiders game 7 loss in the 2003 NLCS to the Florida Marlins.
A month later we celebrated with the good stuff – Moet & Chandon – when Chris Armas scored an overtime goal to defeat the New England Revolution and sent the Fire to the MLS Cup final in Los Angeles. While 2003 was special for the two celebrations, I missed out on another that year and one more the following year. The Fire came up short against Landon Donovan and the San Jose Earthquakes in the 2003 MLS Cup final and Meola, for the third time, denied me a ring and a bottle of Champagne, by shutting out the Fire 1-0 in the 2004 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.
XI. Milwaukee Wave: Meola’s third denial of Peter was part of a 6 ½ year stretch without Champagne celebrations until 11 days ago when the Milwaukee Wave beat Monterrey 17-12 to clinch the MISL Regular Season Championship and the Andre Champagne from Blatz Liquor sprayed the Wave’s US Cellular locker room. I’m really hoping my 12th Champagne jam is only ten days away.
Following are the bottles in my collection along with a short description of each. Those in bold were part of locker room celebrations.
1. Tott’s – NPSL National Division Title Canton Civic Center 1991
2. Blue Nun – Cool Papa Bell Division (Fantasy Baseball) 1992
3. Blue Nun - Coronet Cup (Fantasy Baseball) 1992
4. Franzia – Chicago Power Clinch NPSL National Division title 11,835 attendance 3/13/92
5. Andre – USISL Midwest Division Final 3-2 in OT then 1-0. 1995
6. Cook’s – Coronet Cup (Fantasy Baseball) 1995
7. Korbel – MLS Western Conference final over LA 10/16/98
8. Cook’s – MLS Cup over DC United at the Rose Bowl 10/25/98
9. Cook’s US Open Cup over Columbus at Soldier Field 10/30/98
10. Cook’s – US Open Cup 2-1 over Miami 10/21/00
11. Korbel – US Open Cup/Cubs lose game 7 NLCS to FL. At Giants Stadium. 10/15/03
12. Moet & Chandon – Chicago Fire over New England in OT. Eastern Conference Final 11/14/03
13. Moet & Chandon – My final Chicago Fire staff meeting - 4/11/05
14. Ron Zacapa Centennial (rum) – Parting gift from parking lot valet guys – 4/05
15. Farnese Sangiovese – Farnese Hall of Fame Induction. 2005
16. Moet & Chandon – White Sox win pennant 10/16/05
17. Moet & Chandon – White Sox win World Series over Houston 10/26/05
18. Chandon – Toyota Park opening 6/25/06
19. Moet & Chandon – My Ring of Fire induction. 1-1 vs. DCU 7/22/06
20. Moet & Chandon – US Open Cup. Matt Pickens gave me his championship medal. 3-1 over LA 9/23/06
21. Bushmill’s: Signing Chicago Red Stars incorporation documents in 2008
22. Chandon – Denis Hamlett’s 1st win as Chicago Fire head coach 4/03/08
23. Chandon – Chicago Red Stars unveiling 6/3/08
24. Jenlain Printemps – US Women’s Soccer Gold Medal Beijing Olympics. Autographed by Gold Medalists Carli Lloyd, Lindsay Tarpley and Kate Markgraf
25. Freixenet – Milwaukee Wave 12, Baltimore Blast 10 in overtime on New Year’s Eve 12/31/09
26. Andre – Milwaukee Wave clinches MISL Regular season over Monterrey 3/14/10