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Fans’ View: Anger, enlightenment and a blood feud

Photo: Barb Colligon

The first vengeful thoughts came in the immediate aftermath of the Montreal game. They soon grew darker as I read reports of the paltry penalty paid by those faux French bastards to the north who had dared damage our second best, but fresher, real French brother (via New Jersey).

The rage burnt out quickly, as it is wont to do when I have a “real” world of family and work to get on with. Hoppenot seemed no worse for wear, and other story lines took over.

This weekend’s DC tilt has made me revisit these dark thoughts.

Thought One: Mindless, bloody, revenge in the form of “Jody Shelly — One-game contract”

If the Union can be so gracious as to loan the Doop song to the Orange and Black, surely the Flyers could reciprocate in the form of letting a goon or two suit up in Blue and Gold. I’m sure Mr. Snider’s sense of justice would impel him to help right the universal wrong inflicted upon us by the MLS league offices on on-field officiating.

Thought Two: I miss The People’s Elbow

This springs right out of Thought One. Why do my dreams of revenge take me outside of the Union organization? Easy. Because there is zero fear of physical pain, or meaningful retribution, found in our current roster. I love me some Carlos Valdes. He tackles hard and often, but he defends mostly through positioning and guile. Sheanon is a winger who happens to defend well. Garfan has the snarl, but lacks the size.

Without Danny Calliff, there is simply no expectation that violence against the Union is not in the best interests of your long-term health. Without Danny Callif, teams feel free to offend without any fear of reprisal.

And then, Thought Three…  The upside

It has taken me many hours to reach any upside. If I have found one, it is this: Rivalry.

While I have the hatred of the Red Bulls that comes free with our season tickets package, it feels a bit forced. It is a league-wide hatred of that team. It is a Philly-wide hatred of the city they squat adjacent to. It is a hatred met largely with indifference from their side.

Now, with Montreal and DC, there is earned hatred. Hatred bone deep and bloody. A rivalry (or two) created on the field, not out of habit.

This is the way traditions should be built. This is how truly bitter rivalries are born.


  1. I always thought that the Union-DC United matchups would make for a better rivalry, especially with some/many/most of the SoB founders and charter members being supporters of DC United prior to the Union’s inception. A team with the success DCU has had is better to contend with and battle against than one with an empty trophy case, although I still despise RBNY and their fanbase, just because of their geographic location. Oh, and vive les gens du coude!

    • I agree. Given that the RB supporters don’t reciprocate the hatred, it’s hard to deem that a true rivalry. D.C. is a natural rival like NY – just about the same distance as well – and the games with them have had a rivalry feeling. Not to mention the 2 epic Open Cup games we played, which of course included their fair share of cards and extra time. Montreal has the makings of a natural rival as well, seeing that we’re both new to the league and both of those games have been physical dramatic encounters. I’d personally rather have a rivalry develop out of drama and on-field action than have one forced through one-sided hatred. RBs will always be enemy # 1, though.

  2. You’re a passionate fan… very nice!

  3. Rivalries always seem to me to be something organic- they develop slowly, and not from being forced, or simple jealousy. For years, the Eagles and their fans beat the drum about their heated “rivalry” with the Cowboys, while the Cowboys were primarily focused on the Giants and felt that to be the rivalry. Similarly, the Sixers were always talking about the rivalry that they had with the Celtics, while the Celtics were looking at the Lakers as their rivals. Looking at Montreal, in their first year of existence, as a rival is probably more likely to lead to a satisfactory result than looking at either NYRB or DCU. The Red Bulls have rarely to date been good enough to warrant anybody getting too hot and bothered about them, and while it would be fun to have a local rivalry like that with a New York team, I would prefer it to be a worthwhile opponent. DC seems to have more of a history that warrants taking them seriously as potential rivals, but they will not do anything with the Union for a while but to treat them as their thuggish new upstart cousins, whether that treatment of the Blue and Gold is deserved or not. As with the goal scoring and other “traditions” that were discussed earlier in the year, let’s see what happens with this team. They are still young; “tradition” comes with age and repetition, not just something cool that we want to develop into a habit.

  4. CityHeroesSpursZeros says:

    How long were the founders of the SOB DC Unitied fans? How can they just ditch a team they are fans of? They don’t seem very loyal, I am going to have to rethink my memebership.

    • Nate Emeritz says:

      Agreed. That sort of allegiance-shifting reflects the difference between appreciating entertainment as an outsider and following a team that you feel a part of. Some people view sports from the perspective of movie-goer, and would have no reason not to turn on their team like an actor who started making bad movies and failing to entertain. Others view the role of fans as part of the team which involves active participation and commitment during good and bad times.

      That said, in the ‘fan as participant’ paradigm, a fan’s loyalty to a team is not the same as a player’s. Players’ commitment/loyalty to a team is limited by age, injury, transfering teams, and other components of on-field participation. Fans can follow and support the same team from birth to death, and while living in any place in the world. In short, players have good reasons, many of which are outside of their control, for changing loyalties, but ‘fan participants’ do not.

  5. I know I’m late to the party, but the idea behind the piece is great. Maybe it’s because I’m from the Jersey side of the bridge, but while the Red Bulls are contemptible, it’s mostly because they’re a fully transparent marketing ploy, not because they’re any sort of actual rival. Hard to hate on most of the hard-luck fans that have stuck it out with that team for year, after year, after year, of utter failure.

    Everyone’s already made all the salient points about Montreal, and who among us wouldn’t love to have some French-Canadians to kick around? That rivalry has a ton of potential.

    For my money, the real hate is reserved for DC. I despise everything about them – their Nazi-esque logo/imagery, the entitlement of their vile fanbase, and the utterly unlikable players they field. I spent a few extra bucks for tickets to the 9/20 rematch on front-row seats so I can make sure that Olsen and his thugs can hear the bile I spew at them. I can’t wait.

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