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Philadelphia, unions, & why you should’ve known

Philadelphia Union sounds like a great name for a club, absent of context.

Too bad about the context.

A PSP reader sent me an email today titled, “Is my Seattle trip in jeopardy?”

He plans to fly to Seattle to catch the Union’s first match on March 25 against the Sounders. Now, he suspects there won’t be a game, thanks to the increasing likelihood that a players strike could delay the season after players and management left the bargaining table Wednesday without a new collective bargaining agreement.

So will they get a deal done? It’s 50-50. Labor negotiations often go down to a key deadline, because pressure increases on both sides to compromise. The key issue remains free agency, with players now unable to freely join another MLS club even if they’re released. If they strike, nobody loses like Philadelphia.

The sad thing is that Philadelphia sports fans should have known something like this was coming. Life as a Philly fan is a continuous cycle of kidney punches that hit you when you least expect it, but the bottom line is that you always should. It’s like Charlie Brown repeatedly going to kick that field goal, only to have Lucy pull the ball at the last moment.

Here we have a brand new team, thanks in no small part to the dedicated and well-organized fans who pushed for the club.  Now those fans, right on the brink of realizing their dream, are about to get welcomed to the league with a boot to the head. Thanks for coming, guys. Take a souvenir on the way out.

To add insult to injury, the team is called the Union.

When I first learned the team name, I didn’t think of the union of the 13 colonies. I thought of the notorious Philadelphia labor unions, who seem to go on strike every other year and dominate city politics. There was the latest transit strike last November, the carpenters union strike in 2006 that shut down construction projects around the city, and the infamous “Johnny Doc” and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, known for their political influence and intimidation.

It took a while for the name, “Philadelphia Union,” to grow on me, but eventually it did. It has an elegant simplicity that great soccer club names have and draws on the regional history with a nicely Americanized version of the English “United.”  Other clubs around the world include “Union” in their name, but there are so few that it still feels original.

But now it’s nearly strike time, and we’re back to harsh reality. You’re hopeful, but this is Philadelphia. We should be used to this by now, don’t you think?

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