Glad I am getting to post this the same day Ryan posted his piece. And like Ryan, I’m curious how other people feel about this, particularly people not native to the Philadelphia sports scene.
I am not a fan of Philadelphia sports. There, I said it. Let’s get it out there. Growing up some 90 miles north of here in suburban New Jersey, I’ve never had much cause to root for any Philadelphia team. Soccer and hockey are the only two sports I follow with any regularity, and yes, I am a NJ Devils fan. So not only do I not cheer for the Flyers, they are a hated rival. When I follow American football, I am a Green Bay Packers fan (I am not sure how this happened, as my father is probably the biggest NY Jets fan on the planet). So there is not that instant rivalry with the Eagles compared to if I were say, a NY Giants fan. But I hate the Eagles. I don’t even like baseball, but I’ve grown to hate the Phillies. I have lived in Philadelphia for about 7 years at this point, and the teams have not grown on me. In fact, I’ve grown to hate them all more.
Why? It’s easy. Philadelphia sports fans are assholes. This is not an indictment of every fan, because I’ve met quite a few Philadelphians who are both passionate and intelligent when it comes to supporting their team. But for every one of those people, there are 5 others who are willing to kick your ass in the parking lot for wearing the wrong shirt or throw beer on you while you are sitting in your overpriced seat trying to watch the game. I’ve seen a small child called “faggot” by Flyers fans for wearing Devils jerseys. I’ve seen reports of Eagles fans bloodying women wearing Cowboys jerseys. But this is a soccer blog, so the question here is what will Union fans be like?
I want to believe that Union fans will be the class of Philadelphia sports fans. I really do. And I do want to be a fan. For all my ties to north Jersey and sports in that area, I am undoubtedly tied with Philadelphia when it comes to soccer. It was here I met a lot of my good friends in the pick up games of West Philly. It’s here where I am involved in organizing what I believe to be a fantastic soccer league. It’s here where I can count on heading down to the 700 on the weekends to talk soccer with anyone that is there. So when it was announced that we would finally be getting an MLS team, I was stoked. Finally a team in this city I can cheer for.
But then I began to think about sports fans here. And about all of things I have mentioned above. How much of that Philadelphia sports machismo will be visible when the Union begin playing in a few months? I already have a love/hate relationship with the Sons of Ben. I love the passion. The fact that supporters group existed before the team is a tribute to the enthusiasm that fans in the city have for soccer. But have you been to an official Union function also attended by the Sons of Ben? Occasionally they make you feel like you are in overgrown frat party. A bunch of manic middle aged white men (sorry for the gross generalization) being the loudest, most visible group at any of these functions. It borders on obnoxious. And I know a number of friends with season tickets for the Union (two of the contributors to this blog) that went out of their way to sit on the other side of the stadium from the Sons of Ben when it came to choosing their seats.
So Union fans, I am calling you out. Right now. There is still a choice. Do you want to be Phialdelphia fans in the sense that away supporters will fear for their safety when traveling here? Or do you want to be something else? Something better. Do you want to be know as a group that supports the hell out of your team, but also has the common sense to realize that people from other cites with different jerseys are not enemies? Are you willing to recognize your similarities with these people? We’re all fans when it comes down to it. And it’s just a game. Can you be a better sports fan than your Philadelphia brethren? I am willing to join in if you are.