MLS / Union

I am a Union supporter, Union til I die.

I was born into a Philadelphia sports family; I never really had a choice. I grew up nestled against my dad’s side watching Dutch, Kruk, and the Phils come up short in the ’93 series and tasted bitter defeat over and over again as Andy and the Eagles couldn’t win the big one. You learn to live with disappointment when you watch Philadelphia sports – the moments of joy and success that much better for having endured the near misses and the “there’s always next season” comments. But, as you experience fandom in the family or community setting, there’s a personal buy-in, a point at which “they” becomes “we” – a commitment that is difficult to duplicate. I learned to bleed with my teams and my fellow fans from a young age. But right now, my oft-absent optimism about Philadelphia sports couldn’t be greater – there’s a new team in town.

With the announcement of an MLS team to Philly, my passive observance of soccer became a subject I must master. I set Google alerts for MLS news, added favorites to my bar of soccer bloggers like Ives Galarcep, and hung on each announcement and word. No longer was I going to be a casual observer at Harrisburg City Islanders games, nor a hopeful and distant observer of America’s World Cup efforts – I was getting involved. While following the progress of the still unnamed MLS team, I happened across the Sons of Ben, the supporters group which helped bring the team to Philadelphia.

Here was a group of men and women who, though quirky and sarcastic, represented a level of excitement and committment I had seen few other places.  The SOBs, as they are aptly nicknamed, had the inside line on news and rumors and gave me confidence that all of the moving parts to getting a well-supported team on the field were being handled. They even let me chime in from time to time with suggestions for their tifo or card stunts for the River End. While news of the team and stadium was slow in coming, I followed the progress of the Sons of Ben.  I saw rec-soccer teams spring up, Men’s National Team viewing parties and bus trips, and philanthropy efforts in Chester, near the stadium site. The growth of the supporters group was just as interesting to me as the growth of the team.

As the news became more frequent, and the team naming contest was announced, I found myself telling friends and family about the MLS team from Philadelphia and encouraging them to vote. Then it happened. My friend asked me when the team started play and I replied without thinking, “WE start play next season”. No big deal right? I didn’t think much of it at the time but before a ball had ever been kicked, before the team had a name, and before there was ever a player in uniform or a uniform to wear, I was a fan. The distant “they” had become a “we”. How had that happened?

Being a fan does not happen in isolation. It is about sharing excitement, emotion, and anxiety with others. Even though I had never met most of them, the Sons of Ben provided me with the opportunity to buy into the Union before it ever existed. I fed off of the anticipation and rumors just as I am sure the founding members fed off the opportunity to share their passion with others. I caught the bug. I didn’t really try to; it sort of happened by accident. But I am glad it happened. I doubt I will always want to stand through games, or sing songs and toss Frankenberry cereal about, but I will always consider myself a Union supporter. The Sons of Ben helped “they” become “we”  for me and I will forever be indebted.

I was born into a family of Philadelphia sports fans and got caught up in another by accident. Whether you plan on singing along or are bringing earplugs to Seaport Drive, it is hard to overlook the passion and excitement supporters bring to games. Who knows, the bug may get you too.

Jugite aut Perite

Read more fan perspectives:

Mike Serevido – I’m Not A Union Supporter, yet.

Ryan Pine – Goodbye Plasticity!

7 Comments

  1. We won’t always toss Frankenberry either. Too expensive for confetti. But it was a fun, one time, shot at one of the co-founders and their face color and head size.

    On another note we just got 30 more tickets to sell for the opener in Seattle – https://sonsofben.wufoo.com/forms/seattle-ticket-requests/

    And check sonsofben.com for a special announcement regarding our first game in Red Bull Arena.

  2. Fcphillyboy9 says:

    Although the sons of Ben have done a lot for soccer in Philadelphia, much needs to be said in regards to corporations which may have pledged interest in the organization along with any politicians who approved the funding. Also, Philadelphia has long been a soccer hotbed with great clubs like fc delco and 6 division 1 programs in the area. The SOBs did a lot I suppose but they can’t fill the stadium alone.

    • Well said. We are given a lot of credit for things and some of our members who aren’t involved in the the daily operation of what will be the largest paid membership supporters club in the league like to boast about what “they” did, though I can assure you, it was the work of 8-9 officers and a small group of volunteers.

      I am happy that they are proud to be part of SoB, but please have patience with the brashness of some members. There are many ways to support the Union, all of them right. Buy season tickets, buy merchandise, bring a friend, read Union related blogs, read every Union article on philly.com and delcotimes.com, join BigSoccer and join in the conversation there, and last and maybe least, stand and sing for 90 minutes. The last part isn’t for everyone and probably won’t be for me in the near future, but for now, it is the way that I most enjoy a match.

  3. Fcphillyboy9 says:

    7 d1 programs I meant

  4. Ed Farnsworth says:

    So far the Philly Soccer Page has had three articles giving different fan perspectives on the Union – a longtime Man Utd fan, someone who grew up in a different sports market, and someone from a longtime Philadelphia sports family – as well as the perspectives of those who took the time to comment on the articles.

    Clearly the Philadelphia region’s soccer fans will all be bringing different perspectives to what they think about the Union. Some may barely follow the Union, perhaps thinking the MLS is below their attention. Others may already have formed loyalties to other MLS teams. Some are waiting for the labor negotiations to be finished before making a commitment. Others are chomping at the bit.

    That Sons of Ben members will fervently support the Union is a given. That some Union supporters are indifferent to the Sons of Ben, others are turned off by them, and still others have never heard of them will only matter to those who think the Sons of Ben style of support will be the only way “a real Union supporter” expresses his or herself.

    Whatever. I suspect most Union supporters – whether they belong to Sons of Ben, or not – won’t be bothered by such thinking. They’ll be able to support the Union however they see fit, with family, friends and total strangers, whether they are at the game or watch on TV. It’s a big city, big enough for everyone. And it has long been a soccer hotbed, one that is long overdue for a team at the top flight of the American game.

    It’s going to be a fantastic year, the first of many to come.

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