Fans' View / Featured

Fan’s view: The work of a fan

Photo: Earl Gardner

EDITOR’S NOTE: We asked for people interested in writing about local fans’ experiences, and so many of you responded that we decided to run one fan post a day during the MLS break and then make this a regular weekly feature. We’re starting with this great piece from Chris Rudderow

As the adage goes, “Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” Well, to pile on a cliché, that ship sailed a long time ago. With maturity came things like marriage, mortgage, children, and the reality that I would, in fact, have to work Every Day Of My Life.

The funny thing is, I don’t mind it that much. The gifts that come with maturity are damn rewarding, and the small joys, taken when available, add interludes of brighter light to the routine. These particular thoughts, as a matter of fact, were first collected and organized while enjoying a beer after a post-lawnmowing shower. It was awesome.

For two years, I had the most frequent, and greatest, of these small, joyous moments at PPL Park cheering for this team of my own. This team that I had waited for since the Penn-Jersey Spirit faded away. This team that I bought into before they even existed.

Then came Year Three. Walking across Lot B into the San Jose game, I turned to my uncle and confessed that there was no joy in coming this year. It was lost somewhere in the trades, the lies, and the on-field performance. Coming to the games, just being a fan, had become work.

It’s taken a few more games and a lot of reflection to come around to being OK with that.

Maturing as a fan may mean putting in time and effort even when it is not so fun. It may mean cheering when you struggle to find anything worthy of the song. It may mean loving, even though you fear the love is not reciprocated. It may mean finding smaller joys.

So far this year, my personal “shower beers” are the emergence of MacMath as a legitimate starter, Gaddis as a second round steal, and seeing flashes of the player Michael Farfan could become.

I stay for these moments. I stay to keep the team viable. I stay to hold my place so I can transition from going to games with my grandfather to going to games someday with my grandchildren, while hugging whatever ragged, smelly remains of my “Founding Member” scarf that linger on.

In that time, there may be great joys. There will definitely be smaller ones along the way. Through it all, there will be the work.

54 Comments

  1. The Black Hand says:

    Nice job Fan’s View.

  2. James "4-3-3" Forever says:

    Ill ask this here: Anyone know what channels the Euros are going to be shown on in America? Is ESPN covering it?

  3. Here-Here. A testimate to all true fans out there. I struggled as a PSU fan through many awful seasons/scandals to see many fair weather fans fall away. I found that after a few seasons it was more of a honor (though a painful one) to know I was there win or lose. As it is now with my other love in sports, the union. Many have responded through this painful time of trades lies and losses with threats of not coming or giving up their season tickets. I hope that is the view of the few and not the many. I hope that many will read the above fans view and realize that support of the team is not conditional. Thanks for the reminder fans view.

    • The idea that “support for a team is not conditional” has to be one of the most idiotic ideas ever. Its that type of moronic thinking that leads to cult followings.

      It is OUR JOB to make our support conditional. We are consumers. Would you keep buying your favorite brand of car if the car manufacturer started making crappy cars?

      More importantly, we should always make our support for anything, conditional upon the supportee acting with integrity and honesty.

      I would say that the ownership of the Union are only going to be motivated to make changes if they know that the fans will hold them to the standard of a good product in terms of on field performance and in terms of acting with honesty and dignity.

  4. Sorry, I follow sports to be entertained. If I decide this team doesn’t deserve my money and don’t renew my season tickets, I will still watch on TV. We don’t owe this team anything.

    • Jeremy L. says:

      That’s okay, too, but many of us look for more than a transaction when supporting our teams. We want to feel a part of something worthwhile, a narrative, something with meaning to us, either because of our geography, or other, more intangible reasons. The Union is, technically, a business, but by playing a game we love, in (or near ;-)) the city we love, we allow the Union to represent a part of ourselves, and so turning our back on it when things don’t go as we’d like is akin to turning our backs on parts of ourselves, too. That’s why I mourn my season tickets from afar, even in what has been a pretty shitty season-to-date.

      • Having it be a part of yourself is what differs a casual sports fan from a supporter. A follower from an observer. He who follows only for entertainment will never understand the fire a true fan/supporter feels from simply being there to do what they can to lift the team up. lets hope the team turns it around, the FO wakes up and does what it needs to support the team, and the manager gets over himself and does whats best for the team. I will watch faithfully from the stands

      • Dan Walsh says:

        It seems strangely appropriate that a comment like this on a post like this was the 10,000th comment on this site since we launched PSP in November 2009. Thanks for weighing in — Matt and everyone.

      • Congrats to all the fine folks at PSP for doing such a great job!

      • A true supporter will affect change if he believes that the status of the team and the integrity of the manager are in question. A true supporter should be threatening thew front office with not renewing the season tickets in the hopes that the front office will “get it” and make a change. The results would be a better atmosphere, a better team and bring more fans to the game. Being a bling supporter who does nothing to let management know they are at risk will simply be the last person in the stadium as they are closing up shop. Management is obviously not listening or they would not have let the Califf fiasco take place after we made noise when Le Toux was traded. Its time to turn it up a notch.

    • WilkersonMcLaser says:

      Yeah I have to agree with you here. I applaud the author’s lemons-lemonade view of things, but we fans we absolutely HAVE to have some kind of a transactional view of things when dealing with the Union as a business entity. If we stay loyal despite bad management, poor performance, and mistreatment, then we are only further empowering those very things. If we want it to stop, angry facebook comments and op-eds can only go so far: our real power is in their bottom line.

      From an econ perspective: the fans’ elasticity of support is the ONLY real tool we have in our box when being taken for granted. If we roll with the punches over a long period, where’s the real incentive to improve? Fans should be inelastic and demand a quality (or at least a promising) product.

      • I’d rather have a shitty team then no team at all. If we all pull out because we are dissapointed in the team then it will fold and ill be stuck rooting for some team 2000 miles away that has no correlation to where i live

      • WilkersonMcLaser says:

        Presumably, it wouldn’t get that far. A little economic embargo to shake the complacency out of the front office is what I’m calling for, not for the team to disband.

        This is to get the FO to 1) recognize that the fans have legitimate grievances and 2) make changes as necessary. Our loyalty isn’t to the Union’s ledger, but its status as a civic institution. When it ceases being the latter, fans should respond in kind.

      • I have seen in Scotland a few times what true fans do when they are disgusted with management: they tear up their season tickets and throw them at management in the stands. I agree that a true fan should not stay loyal if the management is bad.

      • It is all well for someone in scotland or england to show disgust at the ticket window with a firmly supported(financed) team without worry of financial ruin or for a fan of Man U turning to Man city five miles down the road (though i doubt any real fan would ever think of this) but for us three years in to turn our backs would surely not spell increased spending on the part of the union but at best bunkering in at worst moving the team to new york etc where I could not attend 18+ games a year.
        I think for the supporters to express disgust and make waves is one thing( and surely is already happening) but to turn your backs on the team ie. farfans, mcmath, valdes, mwanga, jack mac, williams, etc would be a shame as none of this is their fault. Be angry with the FO, an individual player not giving his all, the slow serice at the concession stands but not the players leaving it all on the field. They deserve our support and watching at home does not provide this. Also lets not forget what a boost to the youth development and general recognition of the game in the area just from having the team here. Those who don’t follow that aspect may not be aware but I have seen first hand the impact having a MLS team in the area has had on youth soccer.

      • WilkersonMcLaser says:

        So now the argument is to support the players? What about the players that carried us to the playoffs and a winning season, who were unceremoniously dumped because of the egomaniac helming the USS Second-to-Last-Place?

        It’s amazing to suggest that holding off on tickets and merchandise is somehow going to force the Union to disband. That’s an incredible claim; if it IS true, then there are a lot more issues here than are even being moderately disclosed (e.g. where is the money going??). But I doubt that’s the case.

        I care about the Union because of its civic and sporting role, not its prowess as a profit center. I respect that they need to think about the bottom line, but I don’t think that’s a particularly compelling excuse for the team’s performance this year (as a look at the salary tables show, there’s a lot of deadwood that could have been axed before shipping away high-performing fan favorites).

      • Wait are you saying that English or European teams don’t have to worry about financial ruin? Are you kidding? 🙂 Capitalism! The Union may sound like a socialist entity but it is still a business. Well actually MLS sounds like a socialist entity. So don’t worry about the Union going down. Worry more about the terrible on the field product they are putting out.

      • Although, we shouldn’t take MLS for granted. There are enough disfunctional team in MLS as it is.

      • Yes many teams have issues across the pond with finances but it is a staple there and there is no risk of a top tier team really going under. That is being moved to another city or being put under entirely. A new ownership group comes in and assumes debt and moves along or the fans by the team. I don’t think that donald trump or warren buffet are looking to bail out the U. I also don’t think we could raise 40-60 million amongst the U supporters to bail out the team.
        Even teams in the NFL MLB and NBA get moved around when the money is not there and they are established sports with lucrative contracts Imagine Everton moving to Leicester. You can’t right cause it’s not going to happen. Now imagine Chivas moving to another city. Could happen right with enough disgust amongst fans coupled with lack of financial viability. Heck there has been a lot of talk about DC moving over the stadium issues. Again a three year old franchise can’t be compared with a 100 year old institution. That’s all I was getting at with the scotlland comment.

      • If the front ofice runs this team ino the ground by trading off the marketable and succesfful players and creating a soap opera of lies in the process, then you can kiss the atmosphere at PPL park goodbye. If you keep showing up, the FO will have know reason to change. Blind support is stupid. It will do Mwanga, Jac Mac, Valdes etc more harm in the long run.

  5. Kensington Josh says:

    This piece may be a post-shower beer in the midst of the general rage I work through while reading about this disjointed Union.

  6. For 27 years I rooted for the Red Sox, enduring all of the tough times and games against the Yankees, watching Clemens walk away, only to emerge seemingly stronger with Toronto and then the Evil Empire. Watched Wade Boggs ride a NYPD horse around the outfield of Yankee Stadium, wearing that atrocious NY on his chest…several images that, prior to 2004, made me cringe and sick to my stomach. My friends and family always asked how I could continue to follow a team that was mired in misery…and all I said back was, “One day, they will win, and when they do, it will be the biggest party ever.” Sure enough, 2004 happened…and it erased all the sickness that came with the images, and Sox fans even forgave Buckner.

    The experience of being a Sox fan has prepared me for the experience of being a member of the Sons of Ben, and cheering for the Union. Even at the darkest times (Mondragon leaving, LeToux on his heels, Califf being traded) I take comfort in the knowledge that one day, somewhere, somehow, the Union will make good on all of the frustration, anguish, and heartbreak. And with that will come the biggest party ever thrown in Chester…and it will all be worth it.

    • I hear you, but I disagree. To me, blindly supporting a dysfunctional organization is akin to blindly supporting a dysfunctional person. All you intend to do is help them, but you only succeed in enabling them to continue to operate in a self-destructive manner. The only way to actually help them is to force them to return to a functional lifestyle.

      Blind support in a case like this only facilitates the organization decaying to a place where it can only win a championship every 86 years or so. 🙂

  7. best conversation on an already great soccer page. I fully support the either be a supporter or be a casual observer and the OP’s posts – no question. We can and should support the Union – do or die. The raising of our hands in the press, online, boo-ing Peter N during pre-game, and maybe not buying all that gear year in and year out (but still being STH’s!) can be the things we do to ensure the FO knows how we feel. We stick with the U and attend, rise up the team and support them but we call out the things we dont’ like as we are there no matter what and it can be ‘work’ as the OP mentions but i’d rather have this ‘job’ than not have one at all….

  8. DarthLos117 says:

    Win, tie or lose, I love the U!!! I just prefer they win. And I’ll still complain win, tie or lose, its just my passion.

  9. Philly Cheese says:

    Good piece…..and good discussion.
    Patience is something that can be stressed when injuries damage the team performance. When bad decisions, lack of effective coaching, and treating professional players like school children occurs, anger and frustration cancels patience.

  10. I mentioned it before: if the FO does not watch it then the stadium will only be half-full next year, and we’ll be like NY Red Bulls and others who only have half-full stadiums. I know many who already told me that they will not renew their season tickets and know many who are soccer fans but dispise the MLS and only watch EPL or other foreign matches. The only way to bring them to PPL is to offer a quality and exciting product; not what is offered now.
    /
    Look the potential is there: Dallas packs their stadium with 85,000 over the weekend. This reinforces what I wrote above.

    • WilkersonMcLaser says:

      +1 Yes.

      Also, it’s a little tiresome to hear that people fed up with sending cash to the Piotr Nowak Project are somehow just “casual fans” or somehow less than real fans. That’s preposterous. On the contrary: I’m not going to support an organization that has so little regard for its fans out of a hope that it does better, not worse.

      A casual fan might drop by a game as a decent way to spend an afternoon with their kids. If the Union wins, great. If not, not a big deal. Well, I’ve had it with this organization’s complete disrespect towards its fanbase and I’m not the only one.

      • I agree that we can’t sit by and allow it to continue. I agree with your anger and need to hit management where it hurts so to speak but if you forgo your season tickets you are a casual fan no doubt about it. The only way to support those players who left is to be a fan of the game and show the union our displeasure but this is not liverpool or MAN U worth a billion dollars plus. this is a franchise that at best breaks even and has no billionaire oil baron to fund it. The U have to earn the money. If those who have season tickets all stop going we won’t be half full we will have 1000 per game. We aren’t selling out now which means the max we get without any season ticket holders is half full for the best games at the best times.
        So when is enough enough. how does everyone fly back into the fold when money is needed. How and where will the union get money to keep/find better players. We don’t want to be the pirates or the MLS.
        Direct your anger at the right areas. Get the word out at all the proper media outlets, yell in your house, yell at the game but please don’t suggest that we can maintain a team in philly if we don’t have supporters and rely only on fans.

      • “The U have to earn the money.” The keyword in that sentence is “earn.” They aren’t doing that right now. Giving them charity isn’t going to help the situation in the long run. If they get their act together, the market will support them (don’t worry about that).

      • Agreed.
        I’m really disappointed by all these “casual fans” references here. I have season tickets and watch every away game. But if the organization continues to be poorly run, the only thing to do is to stop giving them your money. Do you think the FO reads PSP on their lunch break and says “Oh my, fans are quite upset, better change!”

      • WilkersonMcLaser says:

        I dunno. By enabling the beast, one could make an argument that those who continue to attend games despite the organization’s apparent disrespect for its fans is an act of “casualness.” In a sense, the one who is willing to take the financial hit to make a statement is the more dedicated. Now, I’m not necessarily making that argument, but it’s a plausible one and illustrates how your categorical labeling is pretty damned faulty.

        What I’m looking for isn’t the purchasing of new players necessarily, but a little discipline and something to show that the FO hears its fans. Even with the current player pool, a little consistency and a more open attitude towards its fans would go a long way. I just want to see that things are on the right track. I don’t even expect us to make the playoffs this season at this point.

        I think our options and outcomes are more a gradient than a selection of discrete options. We ramp down on the de facto rubber-stamping and the Union ramps up on the respect and visible attempt to fix this disaster of a season.

        No one, me least of all, wants MLS soccer in Philadelphia to fail. But fans need a mechanism to be heard, and this is it. There are gradations of response — we needn’t go to a complete boycott immediately (that would be irrational and probably just backfire), but we do need to send a message.

      • Dan Walsh says:

        It raises the question of whether Seattle’s model, with the ability of fans to vote out the general manager, is the best way to go.

      • So in other words to wrap up your opinion we should take a financial hit by not buying tickets, support le toux and Danny by not supporting those on the roster right now, have a gradation in options by not renewing our season tickets, and all the real fans are actually those who take the stand of not being in the stands.

        Though I understand your want to give a clear message to the team but I believe there are many other ways to make our voices heard besides turning our backs on the team.

        I am not taking the stand that it’s black and white as far as fan, supporter or casual interloper but I can’t condone the thought that coming in and out of the fold as we see fit makes us good fans. This not a choice or deodorant or video games.

      • WilkersonMcLaser says:

        Matt, you should actually read the comment. I’m not saying you aren’t a real fan, I’m just pushing back against your assertion that the only way to be a real fan is to sit there and happily gulp up the FO bullhonkey-donkey.

        And, actually, I don’t recall ever seeing me say anything specific. What I call for is some kind of way to put substance to our bulletin board griping. I’m not totally sure what that is — maybe it’s just something token like not attending a friendly or more substantial like embargoing merchandise. I don’t know. But my point is that since the FO seems to only respond to fluctuations on the ledger, then it’s the best way to get their attention.

        And, I’m sorry but I’m not convinced that we’re doing Mwanga or JackMack much good by acquiescing to the Nowak regime indefinitely. How’s that pine-riding going for the team? For their careers?

  11. Jeremy L. says:

    Taking out our emotional responses, this back and forth does raise an interesting game-theory-type question; a sort of Prisoner’s Dilemma. The team only exists through fan support, who want it to continue, but also want to be respected and to have the team be run in a way we approve of. Yet, as has been noted, our only effective tool for ensuring that is by not participating, which could lead to the team’s eventual dissolution. The FO could choose to do the bare minimum to field a team and sustain itself economically, but screw the fans in all other ways, betting that enough fans will still come out. Conversely, fans who opt out could be left out of their season tickets (their good seats) if the team takes the hint and improves things. The best option for both parties is to work in good faith, but there’s no guarantee either will, and there are costs associated with doing so.

    • WilkersonMcLaser says:

      I like the way you think! 🙂

      I’m actually, for the most part, on the side of giving the Union the benefit of the doubt. That said, I think that time has long come and gone.

    • Sorry to digress, but your comments make a math teacher and Union fan proud! I’d love to use your example in class next year when teaching Game Theory.

  12. Excellent discussion, guys!
    /
    We don’t have to look far to see how it is done properly: DC United! Were terrible for a couple of seasons. Then they kicked out a useless coach and installed ‘our’ Ben Olsen who came up with an excellent well executed plan. Soon we’ll see them crush the Union; if not, then I will be very surprised and you can declare me a fool.

  13. I don’t know about the rest of you but I feel better that we have enough followers with passion to have such a great discussion. Also thanks to psp for allowing us to have a venue.

  14. Mike Servedio says:

    I’ve always thought the readers on PSP were some of the smartest out there. This thread proves it and then some. Great discussion!

  15. I’ve been a season ticket holder since the begining. Although the Union have frustrated me tremendously this year, I would never get rid of my tickets. I LOVE TO WATCH SOCCER. I remember being about 13 years old when the MLS came into existence, I was so excited….then I found out there wasn’t going to be a team in Philly, well let’s just say I can count on my hand how many MLS games I watched before we finally got a team in Philadelphia.

    • WilkersonMcLaser says:

      I can almost see the Union FO huddled around a basement CRT tallying support off this comment page! “Well, we got Phil G!” ::Nick high fives Nowak::

      • I agree that you may be right that what the union FO takes from these things is the 1%. Ie those who are truly unconditional. I also agree with all of you that are angry at the apparent lack of respect for the fans, team, city and game. What I think we need to do is make our support apparent for the players while making our disdain for the FO even more so. If more civilized measures are not met with a response then we need to take obvious protests of non team related activities ie jerseys, hats, and other union events ( rugby, college tourneys etc) but they need to know why we are doing it and it need be organized. Like when the supporters left the revs game and announced they were doing it. That bought them a meeting. One would hope that would not be needed but a wake up call is in order.

        We also need the media to hold feet to the fire. Novak quieted everyone on the le toux thing and the media was not aggressive enough in their pursuit of the califf trade. The media will respond to what we want to hear and we all need to ask the questions on blogs and websites and it will get picked up and asked.

  16. Great little peace. However, I’m not sure the analogy is correct. Work is about making money. Making money is pointless if you can’t enjoy it. One makes money to support ones family. You enjoy money by spending it on yourself and your family. One of the things one spends money on is to go to games with your family. Its a pass time. So if you don’t enjoy the games why are you spending the money?

    The only way fans can affect change at the Union is by voting with their feet, that is not showing up to the games, because going to the games is simply not worth fighting the traffic, poor parking conditions, and mediocre on the field performance.

    People, the Union is not a country. You are not committing treason by not supporting the team with you hard earned cash.

    • Chris Rudderow says:

      Please understand, I’m not promoting unconditional support as an abdication of our responsibility to hold the team and FO to account. When Novak’s name is called pre-game, I do me some booing but I will not let him drive me away.

      What I am working on is talking a longer view where being a fan is a vocation taken on for myself personally and for all the fans collectively. Look at other teams in the city (or anywhere)…Provided the team can remain viable long enough to establish a presence, we the fans will remain long after these players, after these coaches, and most likely after these owners… In the end, they will all go. We will remain.

      • But if the ownership does not respond to that booing (along with the facebooks and newspaper artcile posts) and the ownership does not consider a scenario like the Califf trade an embarrassment (“umm, yah, he wanted to go to California and he has been injured for the last three weeks. Yah, thats it…”)WHAT ELSE DO WE HAVE LEFT TO DO BUT TO PULL OUR SUPPORT. Ownership will have to respond if they want thier product to reamin viable.

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