Fans' View / Union

Fans’ View: Blah

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When Philly Soccer Page editor Dan Walsh asked if someone could write a post summing up life as a Philadelphia Union fan this year, the only word that came to mind was “blah.”

It’s not that I don’t care, but I don’t.

Even during the off season, I didn’t put the countdown up on my white board in my classroom like I have in years past. I guess I was mentally preparing myself for being disappointed yet again.

(Side note: I am not from Philadelphia, so don’t lump me in with the Negadelphians.)

I tried to be optimistic with the signing of our new guys. I shrugged off the first few draws as a learning experience. Then there were losses and more draws, and I stopped working my entire schedule around sitting down in front of the TV to watch an away match.

In the midst of this, my friends stopped wanting or being able to go. Lives got busy as there were soccer games and musical rehearsals. Nobody was tailgating in Lot A any more. The excitement of hanging out with friends, drinking a few beers, and watching the kids kick around a ball on a Saturday afternoon vanished. My eldest didn’t want to go to the games. My husband didn’t want to spend hours tailgating and watch a losing team.

So we cut back on tailgating and would often get there in time for the game. And the season went on…there was a bump in interest from my eldest when he could convince his girlfriend to go. That lasted for a few games before tailing off. Then I had an extra ticket, so my youngest could bring a friend. He now had somebody to hang out with in Toyota Plaza before the game since we weren’t tailgating anymore.

As the season progressed, I found that I was reading about the team less. I wasn’t listening to the podcasts as often because there just wasn’t anything to get excited about.

And that is my fear. Not that the team didn’t make the playoffs, but that the excitement and interest I had in this team is fizzling out. Yes, we bought season tickets for next year, but we only bought three and we moved to a less expensive section. Our friends with whom we have sat for the past two years decided not to re-up. When the team is not exciting, it makes it difficult to sell your tickets when you can’t go to a game – I can’t afford to take that hit. There were a couple of games I couldn’t get any folks to take, so I’m thankful that the Union allows STH to trade tickets for a different game or I would have lost $300+ dollars.

In the past, I believed that a team didn’t need an aging superstar to create excitement and desire to go watch the team play. And to a point, I still agree – I wouldn’t have necessarily bought season tickets to see David Villa or Kaka, but I would buy season tickets to see a team work hard and progress throughout the season. I can’t say I felt the Union fulfilled that this year.

Instead, I’m left with blah.

41 Comments

  1. Well said, Staci. I’ve posted a few frustrated messages recently, but I think your view is more accurate. My frustration stems from knowing that this is our lot in MLS: continue with business as usual and hope one of these seasons we can catch lightning in a bottle. Otherwise, we’ll see the same ennui set in next year, too.
    .
    It’s sad to think that we were so excited for years, and that has all been drained.
    .
    I think I know how Cleveland Browns fans feel now…

  2. sums up my apathy over the last 3 seasons. my final season ticket year i couldn’t get anyone to go. i can barely get a taker for free tix when i get them (which is often enough). last year’s rookie wow and Blake’s incredible performance didn’t get me wanting back in for this season due to the back-end implosion.
    .
    this year in has been watching a train wreck. next season it seems the same guy is driving another one. what’s to get excited about? we’ll be all proud of our shiny new DP while the rest of the league is 3 steps ahead of us.
    .
    so i won’t be getting down to Chester often, again.

  3. Yep, spot on. We also requested to move our seats to a less expensive section. I gave serious consideration to not renewing at all.

  4. I think this is also where the stadium location is a factor. If it was easy and quick to get to and from games, if it was less of a hassle to actually physically go, I would go to more games.
    .
    To get to a Union game, you have to go to Chester, which is a half hour from any major population center. Driving, the parking situation (at least as of last year, I didn’t actually bother going to a game this year) is a nightmare, taking forever to get in and out, with no paved public parking lots, no lines, tailgaters taking up way too much space because there are no lines. The public transportation option requires a long train ride and a shuttle. It’s just inconvenient to go to a game.
    .
    When you’re apathetic, why inconvenience yourself?

    • There are really only a few places that you could live that Chester is legitimately harder to get to than a stadium in the sports complex or downtown Philly.
      .
      That said if the product is bad and boring why go. I know my games have been significantly decreased.

    • To add to the ledger column of “inconveniences,” Adam: street parking got even tighter a couple months ago, when Chester planted “resident-only” signs for several blocks around the stadium.
      .
      – another founding member and STH who has not renewed for a seventh go ’round.

      • … restrictions that Chester is completely entitled to exercise, no matter how quickly the waterfront revitalization promises vanished.

      • Yeah, one of the places Chester is harder to get to than the sports complex is called Philadelphia.

      • wow. that’s pretty ridiculous. if they actually had a developed waterfront i’d understand, but there’s nothing there and $20+ isn’t what i want to spend to only go to the game.
        .
        i spent $50 to park at the Braves’ new stadium last month. you’d understandably reel in horror at that first, but it was completely comped if i hung out at their (Xfinity Live-similar) bars and shop area. all i had to do was spend the equivalent (a meal and beer) which was easily done w/ 4 people. it was literally next to the stadium, covered garage and all. took the stress out of leaving in gridlock.

      • Bucci – I’m about 95% sure the signs are fakes, probably hung by local residents to discourage street parking. Read them, they make no sense. They’re hung very unprofessionally, one of them is on a wooden post in a block of concrete that’s not even secured to the ground. And people continue to park there, and I’ve never seen one car ticketed. That said, I still park 2 blocks farther away just to be safe.

  5. Well said Staci. I didn’t re-doop last season and this season my ticket partner and I didn’t go to a single game.

    There were a few entertaining games I wished I had gone too, but there were alot more boring, frustrating painful performances I was very happy not to have schlepped down to Chester for.

    Maybe I will go to a couple of games next year, if they are against a good opponent at the right time. Or maybe not. I will be much more hopeful if Curtin is fired and some high quality additions are brought in.

    This organization had so much opportunity to win over fans, and they blew it, at an institutional level.

  6. +1

    Only one quibble: David Villa isn’t just an “aging superstar”, he’s been a dynamic, 100% committed, leader and star for NYCFC. We would have been blessed to have a player like that on the Union.

    • David Villa has been a complete stud and plays his heart out. I was wary of someone in his status/age coming but man that dude is a player no matter what.

      • Aha! I always suspected that he lied about chipping Blake from midfield because he was tired … 😉

  7. Thanks for the effort Staci. Its hard to believe that the Union have been able to create “blah”. We renewed for next season. I’m cautiously optimistic. We the fan base deserve better. I feel like the players take their cue frome the coach. Might really be time for a new one! Hope you continue to contribute to the PSP site!

  8. Regarding the last point on an aging superstar – I agree with philsoc8 on Villa, but wouldn’t seeing Jones, Najem, Rosenberry, more Epps down the stretch, especially in Chicago, at least put more excitement into the game? Think about Rhys Hoskins – people actually cared about the Phils for a hot second there. We don’t need an aging superstar, we have a bunch of young kids who could’ve filled that void down the stretch.

    • Rhys Hoskins got attention because he succeeded.
      .
      How did the four you mention do in their Union opportunities? They did not hit 18 homeruns in record breaking time.
      .

  9. Well put, Staci. I didn’t renew this year after being a STH from Day 1 because of all these reasons.

    What’s worse is that I just stopped going this year and left my seats empty. Even though I had already paid for them, I opted to not go and do something else. Weird thing is that I did not miss any aspect of it at all.

  10. YUP. We’ve always had two seats, but I went down to 1 seat for next year. Partly because cotton candy and crab fries no longer outweigh a boring game for my 4-year-old daughter. I thought about not renewing at all, but I still want to be a part of it in the future. I’m optimistic about bringing in some new players for next year and getting rid of the chaff, but I also worry that nothing will change with formation, tactics, or lineups.

  11. Meanwhile, the apathy described is happening at the same time as the play on the field in (non-Union) MLS has never been better or more entertaining and the Philadelphia teams in other sports are all on an upswing.

    The Union have missed an open window to be relevant in MLS and/or in Philadelphia and it’s just so frustrating.

  12. As per Zizouisgod
    .
    Well put, Staci. I didn’t renew this year after being a STH from Day 1 because of all these reasons.

  13. OneManWolfpack says:

    Good article. My dad and I renewed but coming up will be our last, unless ACTUAL CHANGE occurs. I’m not holding my breath.
    .
    Really sad to see what excitement, anticipation, hope, joy, etc. has been PISSED AWAY with 8 years (give or take, maybe one) of slop and a half-assed commitment to being competitive. I remember that hot June day in 2010, when the team played it’s first game at PPL, vs Seattle. Place was packed. In less than a decade you have STH after STH professing they are done, or will be done, or just don’t give a shit anymore. That takes a serious commitment to sucking. HELL, two years ago ES was hired, Sak was out… and things were looking up again… yet here we are. Sad.
    .
    Prove me wrong Union. Please. I really enjoy going to games and supporting the team, but enough is enough. Prove me wrong.

  14. Agreed. Founding member here who is not renewing for next year. The Union asked for feedback, I provided it. Tried not to be mean, but to be completely honest:

    Firstly and foremost – the organization just isn’t cutting it anymore on the sporting side of the house. For me, it is all about the product on the field. I really don’t care all that much that parking lot A is still unpaved, I can live with that. Though I’d much prefer that the stadium had been built somewhere in Philadelphia proper, I’ve found a way to deal with massive unpredictable backups on the blue route. The utter dearth of neighborhood pre- or post-game options in Chester, and the general condition of the city through which I have to drive to get to and from the games is sad and bleak, but nothing that would stop me from going. The traffic flow problems in the concourse during halftime are ridiculous…but in the end, that doesn’t matter either. It is a minor inconvenience that wouldn’t be enough to keep me away. Yes, it’d be nice to maybe be able to buy a beer or a meal or a T-shirt or a cap at a reasonable price, but I can just manage to avoid purchasing things at the stadium instead. The perks of being a season ticket holder (little gifts, reduced ticket prices, reduced parking) are niceties, but not enough to make up for the lack of a quality on-field product. In the end, I want but one thing…a consistently competitive team that plays with a deliberate and identifiable soccer personality and system, and which makes the playoffs more often than not. Put more simply, my team needs to be relevant. The Union are, sadly, not relevant in the sporting sense.

    Nine years ago, as a long-time soccer fan, I was excited and happy to hear that we would be getting our very own MLS franchise. Back when the USA hosted World Cup 1994 and MLS was about to become reality, I had plans to adopt the closest team as my own, and thought about getting season tickets to the Metrostars…but decided that the Meadowlands was just a touch too far for me. It was a l-o-n-g wait for my very own MLS team, and I wasn’t about to miss out on it. I signed up for season tickets pretty darned early, and looked forward to being a part of something from the ground up. I was there at City Hall when the team name was unveiled. I still proudly own and wear my original jersey without that annoying “BIMBO” across the front. (As an aside, WOW. Major screwup getting in bed with those guys. Might seem like a little thing to some people, but I have first-hand knowledge of more people who refuse to put that word across their chest than people who love the cute little bear. Or who even realize that it is a baked goods company, for that matter. I guess you gotta take your dollars where you can get ‘em, though, huh?) That ‘new’ feeling and everything that comes with it was more than enough for the first couple of seasons. After all, success doesn’t just happen overnight, sometimes you have to be patient. (Well, except if you are Atlanta and have Arthur Blank. Might be a few lessons to be learned there.) But at some point, you aren’t the ‘new guys’ anymore, and we’re way past that point. Seeing Seba score that hat-trick in our first-ever game at the Linc, and his hustle through the 90th minute when he played…making the playoffs in our second year with Mondragon…hoping and cheering for a kid named Roger…Kleberson’s free kick…Conor Casey…Barnetta’s quiet on-field leadership and skill. There were some fun moments in there that I’ll never forget, but far more flops, fizzles, and failures…I’ll spare us both some embarrassment and pain by not enumerating them…especially that guy who turned out to be the opposite of Mondragon, and who we didn’t even need in the first place. But moments here and there are not enough for an 8-year-old franchise. You have had plenty of time to build a contender, and haven’t done so yet. And it looks like we’re starting over again!

    I was very pleased when we brought in Earnie. His off-season moves that first year, combined with the fast start last season and the building of the facilities made it seem like the organization had turned a corner. From the outside, it looked like a very conscious decision to grow up and do things in a more professional and considered way, and to bring some class and maybe even some innovation to the table. I was even OK with the idea of being a generally middle-of-the-road team that made its way by developing players with an eye toward selling them off. That’d be perfectly fine, assuming the product on the field was up to snuff. Well, something very strange happened, and as near as I can tell it all revolves around Nogueira’s decision to go home. For those brief few months at the beginning of last season, the team was EXACTLY what I need from my team. They played such aggressive, stylish soccer…so watchable…so fun! They had a distinct personality and style of play…and it worked. All of that wonderful stuff we saw on the field disappeared in a flash. Sad to think that a single player can be such an integral piece to the puzzle and hold the key to success versus failure, but the evidence is there and the results speak for themselves. Since then, the team’s been inconsistent at best. In fact, the only consistency they’ve shown is long stretches of boring, confused, uncommitted, and BAD soccer. Ironically, my last game as a season ticket holder was the one against Seattle. Couldn’t have been a nicer day, the sun was bright, and the team played a darned watchable game. Was enough to remind me of what this team could be, but if you look closely and admit it, you realize that game was the anomaly. That kind of game should be the norm, every game. I really want to believe that the organization wants exactly that same thing…but after all I’ve seen, I have to come to the conclusion that you just are not committed enough to doing what is necessary to make all of that happen. Therefore, you get no more of my hard-earned money. Yea, I’ll still be a fan. I’ll watch games on TV, maybe even go to a few each year…but when I do, I’ll get my tickets on the resale market. I’ve sent enough of my money your way, without sufficient sporting value in return.

    • This is excellent! Did not have the time but would have given them exactly the same feedback,. Will see Earnie on Sunday and will ask him whether he read some of this feedback of why we are not renewing.

    • Outside the Box says:

      That’s exactly what I was going to say! Thanks for saving me the half an hour! Yes, I am another STH from day one that isn’t renewing either. Something has got to give, and it really shouldn’t be the fans anymore.

    • Have you thought about writing for PSP? That was amazing!

    • UnitedPenn13 says:

      Same for me. I also am a Founding member that had 4 tickets for the first 7 seasons in 107. My wife really got into soccer and really enjoyed going to the matches with me and our granddaughter and assorted family and friends. But for some of the reasons you and Staci stated, I did not renew this season. I played in HS and college back in the early and mid 70’s and couldn’t wait to purchase season tickets when I heard we were getting a team. The first 2 seasons were exciting until Novak lost his mind. Since then it’s been mostly disappointing and sad.

    • Great post, Robby!

  15. John cipriano says:

    All fair weather fans especially founding members
    You worked your ass off to get the franchise here and now you piss on it because you think you know more than the professional staff what a joke!! If you can’t see the bright of the future they are building than you have something to learn about this game

  16. SaveTheCrew.com #savethecrew
    .
    We need your help. If you believe in the fans of MLS, and what MLS means to the fans, help us show this greedy ‘Mergers & Acquistions Specialist’ Anthony Precourt that he has no place in MLS.
    .
    Ways to help
    Show your solidarity this Sunday by wearing yellow to the game
    Bring signs denouncing Precourt (and Garber who is entirely complicit)
    At minute 10 (Crew was the first of the original 10 teams in MLS) begin a Columbus Crew chant – i.g. clap,clap,clap COLUMBUS
    Anything else that you can do that would show the league that this is not the way to do things in MLS!

  17. John Harris says:

    Adam Schorr, stop with blaming everything but Sugarman. He is 1,000% more the problem than location. This team would be thriving in Chester if they had 3 legitimate DPs. Do you work for the Union? Is this site subsidized by Sugarman?

    • Just because Adam made a comment on location, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t see other issues.

      Also, read http://www.phillysoccerpage.net/2017/05/02/an-open-letter-to-jay-sugarman. No, the site is not subsidized by Sugarman.

      • John Harris says:

        My apologies Walsh. I should not have written that. Please forgive me. The comment came from a tendency to read things that I see as excuses while the real, core, and seminal problem is Jay Sugarman’s lack of investment.
        .
        I appreciate your work with this site. Please consider republishing the open letter and pointing out that nothing has changed since its ironing publication. We still have a charity coach, only 2 lower paid DPs, and no scouting. Improvements in any of those the areas puts this team in the playoffs (although a good organization would spend on all three areas).

      • It’s cool. No harm, no foul.

        Reposting the letter as new might not be a bad idea. We’ll see. We’ll be addressing some of these issues next week as we start our season wrap-up.

  18. PhilInWilmington says:

    The stadium is easy to get to if you drive, even if the lots are shit.

    This begins and ends with the fact that the front office has NEVER fielded a complete and competitive team. At a time when the 76ers and Phillies and Eagle and Flyers were hitting upon rough times or reloading.

    A golden opportunity to build a winner and establish themselves as a winner in a town starving for one.

    No such luck.

    People aren’t idiots. They’re tired of empty promises. Maybe Sugarman is tanking the club to force a move, I dunno. Regardless, we’re still waiting for a full team to take the field.

  19. Just want to point out this is one of the most commented posts on the site in months. We’ve been to the edge of the Cliff before, I’d say we’re tipping over it about now. Some great voices here.

  20. I keep getting pulled back in…

    Staci, I may not always agree with you, but again you’ve done great work. Thanks also to the commenters for your passion as well (Robby O, awesome post).

    To Mr. Sugarman,

    You’ve taken something beautiful Mr. Sugarman and shit all over it. You had something no one else had, a Team that was started, nay demanded, by it’s fans. A fan base that was primed and ready to give themselves for their club. And they did for 8 years. What have you done, Mr. Sugarman?
    What you’ve done Mr. Sugarman, is taken a passion project, because that’s what it really is, and you’ve killed it. You’ve found a way to take the heart out of this country’s greatest fans and crush it. Does that feel good to you Mr. Sugarman? You’ve half-assed it. You felt like throwing a little money here, a little money there, that will appease the crowd. Well it doesn’t work that way Mr. Sugarman. These people deserve better. They deserve a better owner who doesn’t show up on a whim and land a helicopter in a local soccer field cancelling a day of children’s soccer play (could have been future STH’s, not going to happen now is it). They deserve an owner who cares enough to sit in a box during matches, good or bad, and take what may come. These people deserve an owner who doesn’t see this passion product, as a money maker.

    Basically Mr. Sugarman, these people deserve better than you. You can see that can’t you? You aren’t totally blind. Take that cold dead rotting heart of yours, and your little pile of money, and go buy a package delivery service. You can be hands off there. It will still make you plenty of money and you won’t have to ruin some child’s Saturday of footy, nor that of your STH’s because your team is incapable of consistently good play. Go away Mr. Sugarman and creep back under that rock and become again the unknown figurehead who hides in the shadows.
    I can only hope this is the last time I have to write to you like this, but I fear it won’t be. You’re to thick Mr. Sugarman. You don’t get it. Which is why you should sell this team, sooner rather than later.

    • UnitedPenn13 says:

      I noticed that Sugarman wasn’t on the field for Brian Caroll’s retirement ceremony before the kickoff. Real class move.

  21. i’m in a similar boat. we’ve had season tickets from the second season on but next year we won’t. its mainly because we can’t really afford them, but in the past we have definitely been in tighter spots but we were able to save up and pay for them. this time it just doesn’t really seem worth it. the part that is most disconcerting is that i thought it would bother me more that i can’t get tickets. it really isn’t bumming me out too much

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