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The moments that create traditions

It’s moments like these.

That one moment when something remarkable happens and sport transcends the mundane.

The deck is stacked against you.

You fight back.

You take it down to the last minutes.

And in one moment of simple, sudden brilliance, you win it.

A spontaneous, mass explosion of joy occurs.

There is nothing contrived. No clever dance, no elaborate plan, no pretentiousness or selfishness.

Just simple, unfiltered, raw fire unleashed in a rapturous moment of joy shared with those who appreciate it like no others could: Your team’s fans.

This is Jack McInerney’s game-winner for Philadelphia Union on Sunday night.

This is the best goal celebration ever involving Philadelphia Union.

This is how traditions start.

You don’t start a tradition by telling fans one day, “As is our tradition, you the fans will sing tonight’s national anthem.” People don’t need to be informed what their traditions are. They created them. They already know what their traditions are, what their traditions aren’t, and which ones were copped off Portland.

You don’t need to imitate European soccer fans or feel inferior because you don’t have as many original chants or songs or their storied heritage. This is the American game. Own it. Make it yours.

And you don’t need to apologize for who you are. Have a drink with the Bearfight Brigade before the game. Tailgate like it was an American football game. Crack Peter Nowak jokes for years after people have forgotten him. This is Philadelphia, not London. Make your own traditions. Let them emerge with time.

Portland has their chainsaw and logs. It fits them: Quirky, earthy, locally inspired, and decades old. That’s a real tradition.

Seattle has their faux Euro thing going. Their pregame march through downtown Seattle shows Sounders games are THE thing to do in Soccer City, USA. Score one for liberal America.

D.C. fans perform halftime drum battles and toss their beers in the air after goals. Two unique traditions, and one seems appropriate for a city known for wasting money.

Philadelphia is something different. Always has been, always will be.

It’s not a place for big talk. Philly’s real, gritty, a little surly, and big on its history. There’s an inferiority complex with New York. Philly fans get angrier than most at their teams, but when something special happens, they cut loose like nobody’s business. (Remember the overturned cars after the Phillies won the World Series?) You have no idea where the emotion is going to go. You just know it will go. It’s simple, chaotic and explosive. You can’t control it. It’s why Philly fans are the most notorious in America.

Union fans did something with this trait that surprised outsiders. They used their powers for good instead of evil. (So much for comic book caricatures of Philly fans.) That raw intensity endemic to Philly fans is what created the Union. Sure, MLS had to have an interest. Investors had to step up. Politicians had to make much-debated decisions about building a stadium. But none of that succeeds without the Sons of Ben fighting for a team that didn’t exist. No Major League Soccer team owes its existence to its fans as much as the Union.

So it seems right that the best goal celebration ever involving Philadelphia Union wasn’t a choreographed performance or dance. It was a sheer, unadulterated explosion of joy shared with the fans, and nothing more, initiated by a guy who perfectly encapsulates Philly with his bluntness, fearlessness, and chip on his shoulder.

Maybe Jack’s jump becomes a tradition like the Lambeau Leap that probably inspired it. Maybe not. It doesn’t matter.

You see, it was true. It was shared. It was pure Philly.

That’s how every Union tradition should be.

35 Comments

  1. Good read. Agree with everything in there.

  2. JediLos117 says:

    “You don’t start a tradition by telling fans one day, “As is our tradition, you the fans will sing tonight’s national anthem.” People don’t need to be informed what their traditions are.”
    .
    Well said! I effin hate our imposed tradition…get a local talent with a voice to sign our anthem. Did you ever hear me sign it?! Nobody should!

    • i, for one, want our tradition to be for you to sing the anthem, jedi.

    • All you need to do is search that 11-year-old “singer-songwriter” singing the national anthem before the FC Dallas game. You want THAT before every single game? I don’t.

      Screw local talent. That’s what the Phillies and the Eagles are for, let ’em ruin their atmospheres. I get goosebumps when the crowd sings the anthems.

      When I’m commissioner of this stupid league, I will put a moratorium on anthem singers.

      Cheerleaders too.

      • Ed Farnsworth says:

        I love singing the national anthem with the crowd and I think more and more folks join in every game. I don’t think Dan wants that to stop, just that the “as is our tradition” bit sounds a bit forced.
        Nevertheless, the tradition of Union fans singing the anthem has some great legs – one of the fun things about going to away games when the Union’s traveling support is present in numbers is out-singing whatever “talent” has been brought out by the home team to sing the anthem. A fine tradition, indeed.

      • I agree, when I saw that, and I’ve seen other games as well( I believe the USA game that was in florida was worse) I always think ” this is why you don’t sing in huge stadiums if you’ve never done it before you sound horrible and a lot of times through no fault of your own. I agree with the sentiment of the article, the announcer needs to stop saying it, but I still want to sing the national anthem even though I sound 10 times worse than those people, as long as I have some none singing people around me to join in

  3. I’d prefer our players don’t commit a bookable offense every time they score a goal, so let’s hope it doesn’t catch on.

  4. Preach it, brother.

  5. How can it be the start of a tradition or “pure Philly” when you yourself point out that it’s ripped off from Green Bay? Nobody yelled louder than I did when Jack Mac scored but come on. Spontaneous celebrations are great but let’s look for something original before we start talking tradition. I, for one, hope jumping into the stands does not become a tradition at PPL. I’m not big fan of Dooping either but, at least it’s ours. We didn’t poach it from another fan base. Slow down a bit. Tradition will come and as you so eloquently stated we need to “let them emerge with time”.

    • the doop thing was poached from europe.

    • Doop as nice as it was for like 2.5 seconds was promptly shoved down our throats. Doop is a marketing slogan not a tradition.

    • Doop is Petr. I like Doop more now that Petr is gone. Doop acknowledges where we’ve been, how we started. Not a perfect Union, but not embarrassed by our past, ennobled by it. Strong. Moving forward. It’s OK to have Doop from Europe. The game came from Europe. We have Doop, use it more than others, better than others. A little bit cheesy, but nicely displayed. Us.

      • And can we take DOOP back from the Flyers. I love the Flyers, but one Philadelphia team started DOOPing, we don’t need any of the others copying it(even if we poached it in the first place).

  6. Jack himself said he just reacted after scoring that goal, didn’t think twice about what he was doing. That goal was huge, and hopefully we can start the tradition of becoming an unbeatable team at home right about now!

    • That’s definitely the tradition i want too. Was shocked Jack didn’t get a YC (assume that the ref was catering to the “occasion” – but if he continues then referees are going to be told to make sure it gets the YC, just like removing your top is an automatic YC, no matter who/what/when. When you are as aggressive as Jack on the field, you are going to pick up YCs anyway. Don’t go getting stupid ones.

      As a 1-off – certainly was fantastic though 🙂

  7. … and Jack copped the celebration from two Union alums, Zimmerman and Jackson. Said so himself.

    • Regardless, it was a helluva lot better than Gomez and, more recently, Valdes prancing around with their respective national flags.

    • Dan Walsh says:

      Yeah, Ed mentioned that to me. We hadn’t seen or heard it directly though and remembered Zimmerman and Jacobson hadn’t scored for the Union, so we thought maybe it wasn’t credible. So I didn’t mention it.

  8. i thought the “river end leap” was awesome although it does look alittle sketchy..lol

  9. Dan Walsh says:

    Great discussion, everyone. I obviously used the incident as a means for writing about American soccer traditions through the lens of Philly. Yeah, maybe the celebration was inspired by someone else, but it definitely fit the team, fans, place and moment. Green Bay is the only other major pro sports team that owes its existence as much to its fans. (The team is owned by fans as a coop of sorts.) It doesn’t matter whether this becomes a tradition, as I wrote in the piece. It’s just an example of how traditions could and probably should form over time.

    By the way, great point about yellow cards. Pretty stupid rule. Refs need to look the other way on that one, eh? 😉

    • I thought it was an excellent article, it gave me goosebumps as I read it and I felt like I was right back in my seat at PPL watching the whole thing over again. Thank you, Dan. Oh, and my family & I love DOOP! My license plate even boasts it…

    • I thought that I was the only one with a negative reaction to the pronouncement that “our tradition” includes singing the national anthem. I always have sung the anthem at ballgames, everywhere, but the idea that it was suddenly announced by the Union after another MLS team (that shall remain nameless) was nationally broadcast with THEIR tradition of singing the anthem, made it a clear case of ripping off the older team. Manufacturing the Doop was enough-let’s let the grassroots process for determining “tradition” take over. The Orioles, emphasizing the “O” at the end of the anthem, the hated Braves harping on the “home of the Braves”, they make sense. As with marketing, there is a difference between the grassroots effort and the astroturf campaign. Let’s not make the attendees at a Union game into puppets that degenerate into beachball bouncing, wave standing clones of the clueless crowds elsewhere. If the crowd sings, great. If Jack jumps, great. Just don’t force Tradition in a club playing its third season

      • jamie Campbell says:

        i could be wrong but didnt we start doing that in our expansion season, before that team joined MLS?

      • I would hardly call what the other MLS team does “singing”. It’s more like screaming.

  10. Petr Nowak says:

    IM GONNA SUE YOU GUYS

  11. swing and a miss says:

    reminded me of stage diving. which is good.

  12. I know a great PPL Park tradition: no Mexican wave. Let’s keep that tradition going.

  13. I was in the middle of The PPL Plunge and it was completely insane of Jack Mac to do it, but between the nasty last minute goal and the celebration it’s a legendary union moment that I’ll never forget.

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