Photo: Paul Rudderow
The Philadelphia Union, in year 3. The season is essentially over, the team playing for pride, players playing for jobs next year, coaches trying to take the remainder of the season to install their style of ball. However, with all of this said, as I walked from the very “far out” Lot C to the game on Saturday night at PPL Park, I saw something that the local soccer press is not talking about.
Maybe I took more time to look around on Saturday night on my walk to the stadium, maybe it was the truly bizarre season we’ve all been through together, maybe the post Nowakian world has brought the fans tighter. Whatever the cause, the Union culture was on display, and not just the Sons of Ben, who always do a fantastic job of representing the Union and always seem to be having a great pre game tailgate.
By the way, SOBs, who programs the music? It’s fantastic, passing by I was pretty happy to hear a little Rancid “Fall Back Down.” Kudos, SOBs, kudos indeed.
Anyway, what I saw, way out in LOT C: I saw tents up, tailgates set up in every part of every parking lot, I saw kids as young as 2 years old being taught the game by their moms and dads.
Every week, I see pickup games before and after the game, I see HUGE cookouts with tons of people. I see old crusty throwback jerseys worn with great pride: FRED jersey owners, Jordan Harvey jersey owners—I look your way and I tip my cap. I applaud throwback jerseys. Even though we’re a 3 year old club, we have a LOT of throwback shirts—I even saw UNION HULK on twitter talking about a Shavar Thomas throwback. I sincerely hope that wasn’t a joke and a real jersey he owns.
I saw my first live Union game at the Linc, pre PPL in Year One. When we/they (come on, we can get all “Bob Rigby” here and refer to the Union as WE right?) played Manchester United, that stadium was 95 percent red, and I was in the middle, wearing my Le Toux shirt listening to guys who drove in from Ohio sing “Glory, Glory Man Uniiiiited!” I think, right now if Man United played the Union in a friendly, yes, the stadium would still be red, but I think the Union culture—we’d make a (louder) case for ourselves.
I saw Union fans in Portland for game 1 of season 3. I’ve seen U fans EVERYWHERE. Heck I attended Liverpool vs Tottenham Hotspur on their pre season match in beautiful Baltimore and I saw a VERY solid bit of Philadelphia Union representation, and walked up to every single one to say hello.
Let’s get back to that Liverpool game for a moment. My brother in law is a native of Liverpool. He was unbelievably impressed with the representation that Liverpool supporters put on that very hot hot summer day in Baltimore. He said “I haven’t seen LFC representation like this since Liverpool itself!”
His line stuck with me: How a club’s supporters can bring out the best in their fellow supporters can really make a fellow supporter proud.
This was me on Saturday night before and after the game. On the way back to Siberia (the fine fine LOT C), I was stopped by a group of folks who liked my shirt (it was a Kai Herdling throwback) and asked me if I’d like to stop in, have a beer and talk a bit. For no other reason than my shirt—they were just a welcoming bunch who didn’t mind sharing their keg.
After that, I saw a late pick up game under the lights in the now almost empty lot C.
Year 3 may be looked on as a “failure” by some. But this night, deep into a season filled with many disappointments, I was proud. I was proud of all of the fans and supporters for together they/we have developed a wonderful, warm and friendly culture. We should be proud of what this team has become, on the pitch, off the pitch, in the parking lots and beyond.
I’m really proud to be a supporter with you and I can’t wait to see you all again. Because of you, because of your always growing sense of loyalty to and solidarity with one another, I consider year 3 to be an HUGE success.
See you all again. Next time, the parking lot beers are on me.
Keep singing loud, and singing proud.
You’ll never DOOP alone.