Fans' View

What if we throw a party and nobody comes?

Photo: Barb Colligon

Anybody notice how easily you can read the “UNION” lettering on the East-side seats this year?

It’s a bit worrying. A good chunk of my ability to mock other team’s fan bases is going to be severely diminished if more folks don’t start showing up.

That said; I’m torn. Do I want a full stadium if I don’t get to pick the crowd? I maintain a certain level of soccer snobbery and have built in expectations of what my game day experience should be.

My uncles and I have held the same seats from the team’s inception. For all of that time, we had the same two, non-familial, partners in crime on the aisle. Joe and his wife anchored our row for three years. We were buying each other beers (and many a dollar dog) before we even knew each other’s names. We cheered and booed, loved and hated, sang the anthem and cursed the invading team each and every match. Together.

At the end of the 2012 season, they broke the news that they would not be renewing for 2013. It was both shocking and not. Shocking, in that they had been there from the beginning and clearly, deeply, loved it… And, not, in that those were dark days for the team, for us fans and, out in the real world, of the economy. Hard decisions had to be made by many.

This year, two new strangers share our row. They do not trade beers, or hot dogs, or shared celebrations and/or commiserations about our team. They come. They clap a bit. They leave with ten minutes left.

So, what do I want? Butts in the seats keep the team viable. The right butts in the seats keep the team vibrant.

Spring is upon us. With some warmer weather…with some better play… with some new hope, perhaps the park will reach full volume again one way or another.

It has a good start.

The other day I was heading in and, to my great and happy surprise, saw Joe (sky blue Stewie Doop shirt and all) leaving the Victory cart. He and his wife renewed after all, just not in time to keep their old seats.

In the end, I suppose it will have to be an unholy alliance of SOB, soccer moms, and the random hipster Eurosnobs slumming it.

Maybe that’s the answer. Be open to all. Welcome whoever is willing to be part of this with us and then hope we can be a really, really, bad influence on them (in all the best ways of course).

29 Comments

  1. I was quite happy to find the all of the folks in our small chunk of 109 redooped…however, what makes me sad is how much harder it is to convince my friends to come to a game this year. I agree that it is part the play on the pitch and the economy off the pitch. PPL is not helping by not allowing us to bring stuff in like you can at Citizen’s Bank park.

    • Brett Krasnov says:

      “PPL is not helping by not allowing us to bring stuff in like you can at Citizen’s Bank park.”
      Good point msklem. My tipping point the 2nd season was on a blazing hot afternoon when they not only would not let me bring in a sealed bottle of water, but would not even allow an empty water bottle to fill up at a fountain. I guess they would rather I throw a $4 bottle of Aqua***a on the field instead. That and the increasing prices reallu=y put a damper in my going to the games… of course their answer is to expand the stadium :rolleyes:

  2. I’m one of those “soccer dads” who came to a game – the first back in 2010 – with no knowledge of what a soccer match is like in person. In fact, at the time I pretty solidly disliked watching soccer; we went to the game for my daughter. After one game, we were both hooked. When we got home that night, I purchased my season tickets.

    We’ve since upgraded from corner seats to sideline (also section 109, actually – up in the last row). We sing, we clap, we celebrate goals, we yell at the referee (especially this past game). We stood and cheered for Califf when he came to the bench. We wondered whether Cruz’s foot is made of granite or marble.

    My point – if there is one – is don’t totally discount the “soccer mom/dad” types who are coming with our kids. Some of us get hooked and become part of the faithful.

  3. It is much easier to leave the stadium after the final whistle; that is an indication of his ’empty’ the stadium is. I would say maximum 3/4 ‘full’. Quite sad. But it is at least fuller than other places seen in NBC sports…. But the Union has to step it up otherwise we’ll be only 1/2 full next year.

  4. John Langan says:

    Fill the stadium. I don’t care who or how. Today’s filler may be tomorrow’s fanatic.

    I’ve been that fanatic from the beginning, but I have to commit to selling a few games each year so I can afford season tickets. Our section (110) has had a nice group since the beginning, and we did lose a few this off season too.

    I’ll gladly wait a little longer to get out of the parking lot in exchange for a packed house!

  5. Kenso Josh says:

    First season= First Season. Second= improvement + playoffs. Then the trajectory changes. And excitement wanes.

  6. Definitely fill in the stadium. Some of those causal or even skeptical fans like John will become die-hard fans. I love the atmosphere at PPL Park and I see two key reasons for it: 1) by far the most important: Sons of Ben!!! as they make it fun even when performance on the pitch is not great. 2) full (or close to full) stadium

    • Agree. Fill the stadium, and let the casuals see how much fun a game is. It was the atmosphere that sold me and my daughter on the Union. Now, in hindsight that was clearly added by Le Toux’s hat trick and a very back-and-forth game that maybe isn’t the norm for MLS.
      .
      Since getting my season tickets, I’ve converted my dad to a soccer a fan. He now watches Union games on TV, buys merchandise, and attends the River Cup and US Open Cup games with us. I’ve also sold my brother on it, and he was an out-and-out “soccer is for pansies” style hater.
      .
      Getting those people to a game can do wonders for building the fan base.

    • Totally with you. Son and I back in 130 again this season but ….. though our immediate neighbours redooped and we have 2 new STHs on the other side the majority of the row is empty. Such a pity, Prices are a bit steep for a casual visit but really, once you’ve been you have to go again and again etc.

  7. Good stuff Chris. I was one of those original ZOLO STH’s. Stood in the crowd at the convention center during the SuperDraft for Mwanga/Jack/Okugo. Even walked out with Brian Perk giving him tips for places to go. Went from 2 in 120 to 4 in the corner. Took a lot of people to their first game. I just can’t justify it now that I’ve got a kid heading to college this fall. I am headed down in the next few weeks, going to continue to go to at least a few games.

  8. Erin Blank, Keystone Mascots says:

    I’ve been saying since Day One – get a mascot. Why? Because a mascot can be out in the community 300-500 times a year, plugging the team, passing out promo info – building relationships with families. But NOOOOOO – Nowak and the FO and the SOB’s couldn’t have such a taint on their brand….. despite every Premier League team having one…..

    I suggested “start a ‘Soccer Moms Group’ but NOOOOOOO – Get the female college interns that look pretty, as if they have league connections in the area, as if they drive four or more warm bodies to and fro and could bring revenue directly to the team….

    There’s been too much – WAY TOO MUCH snobbery in our Park. I took my kids and husband to Sec. 136 and was happy to see kids scurrying around the flinger-flickers, and SOB’s giggling when we yelled “Your socks have holes!” From the get-go there has been too much of “this is what we are NOT”.

    Now we are paying the price.

    Maybe it’s time to expand our brand to more diverse groups. Kudos to the few STH’ers who are doing the FO’s job and getting Latinos involved. Shame on the SOB’s for not making a greater extension to this Philadelphian and Eastern Pa. subculture.

    It’s time to drop the superiority complex and become a more perfect Union. For the Beautiful Game.

    • ^^ lol that was funny. “I’ve been saying since day one – get a mascot. Why?” (Because you are part of a company that profits from mascots). It’s bad enough I have to see a Bimbo Bear running around. There is no snobbery in the park, it’s just not a Finding Nemo movie. This is Philly.

    • um… it’s hard to take you seriously when your first complaint is about a mascot and you work for or own “Keystone Mascots”

      I would also discredit the rest of your statement by simple observation. In 103 we have a nice mix of families,20 something singles, ethniciities, fanatics, casuals and even loud mouth A holes (Me!)

      The stadium is emptying because the team is not winning. When the sixers won, or had AI to go watch they sold out, now they barely get 12K paid. When the Phillies were winning they sold out a qazillion straight games, now they don’t.

      I’m not a SOB, but from what I’ve seen they do plenty of charity work… it’s not in their job description to rent a costume from you and hangout in supermarkets with the Bimbo bear….

    • wait what?

      I remember when you searched for tickets online they would ask you Are you a family? Do you Drink? Ect.

      They would tell you pretty much straight up the river end is not for you. And lets put it this way for YEARS and YEARS the the MLS has bent over backwards trying to pander to soccer moms and and suburban families and the league floundered and floundered mightily. Only when the league embraced the more hardcore soccer fan it really started to gain traction. Now there must be a balance obviously but I can’s see soccer moms being the answer as while parent s might want to bring their kids out to a game for a nice outing are they gonna come out to Chester week in and week out. I think not.

      As far as mascots can you name any mascots besides the Phillie Phanatic? They are usually bland corporate afterthoughts for teams that can’t get any players out to events with the public.

      Also as for a kid friendly mascot the Phillie Phanatic has a history of drunkenness, sexual harassment, bawdiness, innuendo and cross dressing I mean if you think the Union needs that more power to ya… but other than that nobody cares about mascots.

      http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504083_162-57452553-504083/phillie-phanatic-sued…again/

      http://guyism.com/sports/the-phillie-phanatic-gave-paula-abdul-a-lap-dance.html

      http://deadspin.com/5812837/watch-as-the-phillie-phanatic-tries-to-get-a-fan-to-flash-the-crowd

      http://hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/2010/06/30/the-phillie-phanatic-is-sued-again/

      As far as getting more Latinos to the games I’m with you there.

      • I like how I have articles linked called Phillie Phanatic is getting sued…again one from 2010 and one from 2013.

        My comment is awaiting moderation? Is this new or just for me?

      • It’s because there were multiple links in it. Spam comments often have multiple links in them, so it catches such comments and holds them. (You wouldn’t believe the amount of spam comments we get.) It’s an automatic feature. I just saw it was held and have approved your comment.

      • ha ok

  9. neck label says:

    come. dont come. i dont care. i will be there. but NOOOOOOOOO. oh yeah get a string band. and play the best 11. but NOOOOOO

  10. Don’t discount the people who leave early, I stay most games, but like last game I had my 18 month old with me( by myself my wife was out of town) by the 80th minute he was DONE, so instead of ruining the game for those around me I chose to leave ( trust me it KILLED me) but it happens. And I know what you mean about financial, my brother had tickets with us from the beginning ( he knew nothing of the sport but knew I did and figured it would be a good time) he had a baby and bought a house right before the season started, so unfortunately didn’t renew this year( he’s hoping next year) My point is some of those newbies become life long fans( he now dvr’s every game so he can watch with me and then on his own) and some people who leave early have good reason. Try not to judge.

  11. I assume the plan to expand PPL Park to 20k, 27k, then 30k is on hold. I hope the FO is able to improve the product on the field sooner rather than later, otherwise we might see an even larger exodus.

  12. Southside Johnny says:

    Give me a stadium full of cute soccer moms hollering “Good kick!” over the sneering, snickering, europhilic futbol snobs any day and I say forget the mascot and go for smokin hot cheerleaders AND the string band! USA! USA!

  13. So here’s my story/background:

    Went to two-three games in first season w/ individual tickets. Experience was enough to get an SOB membership and a partial plan, only tickets for myself, in second season. Had a blast but despite making some gametime friends (139 ain’t nothin’ ta f*** wit’), not having a ticket for a friend got lonely. Team was playing pretty well.

    In season 3, I renewed partials but in a different section to have a seat for a friend, big mistake. Though the supporter’s section never filled out, the early few times I came to visit old faces in section 139, certain not-so-familiar faces shamed me into going back to 140. Won’t forget the lady who told me that “season-ticket holders” sit here, though half the row was empty and so were two rows behind it. Not too friendly. Section 140 was awful–in front of me were the too-quiet type who didn’t want to cheer at all in the supporter’s section, behind me were only the most obnoxious of hollering fans. “Set Pieces” guy was directly behind me–some of you know who I’m talking about. Was tough to get a rotating handful of soccer not-so-fan friends of mine to come along for the ride. The SOBs had a new set of songs and chants, but it felt like even by the end of the season, not everyone had learned them.

    To top it all off, the team sucked. Between the management and personnel drama, and the kind of play that could be compared more readily to amateurs than professionals, morale was so low that in my last game, vs. NYRB, the traveling Pink Cows supporters positively shouted the entire home support to shame. The PA system was not working. Calling the supporter’s section “silent” would have been an understatement.

    In sum, between ugly play, high prices, and a combination of disengaged fans, unfriendly and/or snobbish fans, and the occasional gratingly annoying fan caused me to ignore sales calls and messages. I plan on seeing the rivalry matches, maybe not the supporter’s section though I’m still officially an SOB member.

    Still watch every game on TV, but I must admit it’s not the same and part of me misses the atmosphere. Come on the U.

    • Yea there is a lot of truth to this. The last truly positive experience in the river end was the game where everyone was on the same page was when the river end showed support for Danny Califf right before he was traded. since then it has been disappointing play, infuriatingly douchey front office speak, coaching arrogance replace by bewildering coaching, the river end is disjointed with cliques of people trying to hard and others not trying at all.

      I still love going but it is not the same.

    • Choosing the right place to sit is a big deal. If they don’t do this already (no idea if they do), the Union might be best served by labeling some sections as family sections.

      When I got my season tickets back in 2009, I looked at the map, saw where the supporters section was, and said, “I want to sit on the other side of the stadium from there.”

      Why? While I knew I would enjoy watching the fans’ antics there — it’s a great part of the live soccer experience — that just wasn’t something I wanted to be in the middle of. I watch a game quietly, talk with friends, react to big plays like everyone else, knew I’d bring my little girl out to a game or two, etc., etc. I don’t want to think about which song I’m supposed to know or how drunk the guys next to me are. Introverts love the beautiful game too.

      Now, I split my tickets with friends. We each take a few games. I highly recommend it, if you’re someone who doesn’t have season tickets but likes the team. The rate is cheaper than buying single game tickets or the lesser packages, and everyone gets a few games. I end up paying about $37 for two corner seats at a game. Definitely worth what I pay. That said, between moving farther from Philly and observing the team’s consistently unattractive on-field play (even if you lose, at least be fun to watch), my demand for the live experience has lessened somewhat.

  14. How about we talk about the starting times of the games. I love to go to the games and take my daughters. I have not gone yet this year because the start times have been late. Why in the early spring when it is cold do they start games at 4:30 or 7pm? It is the weekend, what is wrong with a 1pm start on these days? Save the later starts for the summer when it gets hot. As much as we love to go, the game is no fun when my 5 year old is freezing and whining.

    • Totally agree here. These early season games were ripe for early afternoon start times, to get the warmest part of the day possible.

  15. I agree with a lot of the complaints regarding game day experience. We have also lost a good amount of season ticket holders in my section 128 (midfield). I am also an orginal season ticket holder reserving my season tickets in 2009 when they had a waiting list for just $50 a seat. I feel the atmosphere has changed in my section with more fans with paper tickets, not really paying attention to the game, getting up multiple times, and leaving early. My biggest issue is one game having some that bought a ticket for one game ask me to not yell or cheer because they have a little kid. What the hell!!! I am sorry I will chant, cheer, yell at the ref, etc. I am not cursing, or using offensive lanuage. I understand that you need to give them a chance but it does diminish the game day experience. I have attended soccer matches when I was visiting europe the atomsphere there compared to MLS is so much better. And they don’t focus on child friendly/family instead they focus on the product on the field the drives sales.

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