Fan Culture

Rise above: Let’s blow minds

Photo: Nicolae Stoian

“Having the draft in Philly is so meaningful. You see the SoBs cheering for you and you want to make a good impression. They made me feel so welcome. Coming into Philly, the way they cheered me really meant a lot as a young athlete starting his pro career.”

That’s what Amobi Okugo told me when I asked him about being selected by the Union in 2010, the last time the MLS SuperDraft was in Philadelphia.

On Thursday, Philadelphia Union fans will have the opportunity to make another group of young athletes feel welcome.

Of course, some may view the draft as an opportunity to direct some loudly expressed frustration at the MLS brass following reports that the league is holding up the Union’s efforts to land Maurice Edu.

That frustration is as understandable as it is palpable to anyone who has looked at the comment section here on PSP or spent a few moments on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook.

But is this the time for all of us to collectively vent our spleen at the league? Is now the time, with our city and our club playing host not only to the SuperDraft, but also welcoming the largest gathering of soccer professionals and fans in North America in the NSCAA Convention? Is now the time with the Sons of Ben inviting every supporters group in the country for a Supporters Summit.

Ask yourself this: Will live footage on ESPN of Union fans booing Don Garber convince the league to allow the Union to sign Edu or make MLS’ murky player acquisition policies more transparent? Sure, it might feel good to some but won’t it simply reinforce the unfair image of Philadelphia sports fans as a bunch of louts?

At the 2010 SuperDraft, Union fans announced to the world that our passion was something special (even if ESPN may have thought some of the language back in those days of YSA was a little too blue for daytime TV). Union fans did it again at the 2011 SuperDraft in Baltimore and at the 2012 All-Star Game at PPL Park when, for a night, we put aside our well honed scorn for any player who doesn’t wear the Blue and Gold and cheered them all to a thrilling victory over Chelsea.

Those were moments that were larger than all of us as individuals, whatever our particular gripes and woes. Those were moments in which we shined collectively in proclaiming that we were second to no one, both in our passion and in our vision for soccer’s place here in Philadelphia and in the larger American sport landscape.

And have no doubt, people noticed.

“Once I got drafted,” Okugo said, “with the Philly fans cheering so loud for you, it was so crazy. I got something like 70 texts from friends watching. They were like, ‘Yo, the Philly fans were going crazy, we couldn’t even hear your speech!'”

We know we rule.

And now the rest of the American soccer community will have yet another opportunity to know it once more.

Transfer targets will come and go. Some will be signed, but most will not be. So, let’s celebrate ourselves, our club, our city, and the new crop of MLS talent.

Let’s rise above the frustration and show the world once again that we’ve got it together, even if the league does not.

Stuff to do

The Union and the Sons of Ben are hosting a series of events on Thursday and Saturday that are open to the public. Here’s a list of some of the fun that will be going on.

Thursday, Jan. 16

8:30 am – 11:30ish am: Pre-draft Party at the Field House (1150 Filbert St., located inside the Pennsylvania Convention Center and Market East). This is a free event. Go easy on the drink specials.

12ish: MLS SuperDraft (The Grand Hall of the Pennsylvania Convention Center). This is a free event. Go easy on Garber. He knows we’re pissed. The latest SoB newsletter says, “The MLS has informed us that the same rules for foul language apply at the draft, as they do at MLS stadiums. Also, no instruments or poles over 6 foot. Please abide by these rules or you may be tossed!” Nobody wants to be that guy.

4 pm – 6 pm: Post-Draft Party at Brü (1318 Chestnut St, just a few blocks south of the Convention Center). This is a free event. The Union’s draft picks will be there. There will be drink specials.

7 pm – whenever: Post-Post-Draft Party at the Field House. There will be drink specials if you haven’t already collapsed from exhaustion.

Saturday, Jan. 18

4 pm: Walt Chyzowych Lifetime Achievement Award Ceremony at the Field House. The Union have partnered with the The Walt Chyzowych Memorial Fund and the NSCAA to sponsor The Walt Chyzowych Lifetime Achievement Award. Walt Chyzowych is a Philadelphia soccer legend, former USMNT coach, and National Soccer Hall of famer who passed away well before his time. This year’s award is going to Walt’s brother Gene, himself a local soccer legend and longtime coach. It should be a very cool, and moving, event.

4 pm: Sons of Ben Movie Private Viewing. This is a free event but the tickets to it are long gone.

7 pm – 10 pm: Help Kick Hunger Charity event at the Field House. The annual Sons of Ben charity event in support of the Bernardine Center in Chester will include a variety of drink specials and small bites and will be emceed by David Murphy and Maria Papadakis. Union players Danny Cruz, Zac MacMath, Zach Pfeffer, Antoine Hoppenot, and Ray Gaddis will be on hand, as will be John Hackworth. Don’t be surprised if other Union players stop by, including former players like The Old Serb. This is not a free event. If you haven’t already purchased tickets, they can be bought at the door. Please be sure to enter from the Market East side of the Field House, as there will be a dedicated entrance to the event.

19 Comments

  1. Maybe just a “We want Edu!” chant for a bit instead of booing.

    But booing so loudly we can’t hear him speak works for me too.

  2. Great stuff Ed. You are 100% correct.

  3. James lockerbie says:

    O.k. Ed thanks for re-focusing our attention to the bigger picture. I can’t wait for tomorrow, being there will be awesome! Finally a cool event that I am off from work and can actually go and enjoy the day with the S o B

  4. Well said. I’ll be watching on TV. Curious to see what chants (or boos) make it into the coverage.

  5. Can’t wait to take it all in, including a few drink specials!

  6. WilkersonMcLaser says:

    Yeah, I love this! When Don Garber sees how Philly’s classy fans can rise above their team being arbitrarily dicked around, his cold corporate heart is sure to melt! “What style!” he’ll consider. “What class!” he’ll exclaim! And just-like-that, Don Garber will elevate Philadelphia because he wishes it thus.

  7. I see your point, and agree that it should be about the draftees, but at what other point will any of us ever get as close to Garber to ask him about it? This is it. It’s not about the Union. It’s about the league, and I think these players will know the difference. It’s not as if we’ll yell at Garber as he’s announcing picks for us, or anyone else for that matter. There will be times when this part of the agenda could be addressed tomorrow.

    The players should also be sort of interested in it too. Some day they may be offers 1.2 mil and I don’t think they would like Garber to tell them that,”they’re not worth it”.

  8. You can make your displeasure felt without using foul language or throwing things. I hope that Garber gets embarrassed on a national stage for interfering with this club the way that he has (and this is not the first time, either). Persistent boos whenever he’s on stage should suffice. A chant or two would be even better.
    .
    I hope to hear some raucous cheers when our guys get selected, as well!

    • I was not planning to use foul language because I don’t want to be thrown out…and throwing things never even crossed my mind. I don’t think anyone is going to throw anything at anyone.

  9. I have to disagree with this. Philadelphia will always have the “unfair image of being louts”. The national media enforces it no matter how well Philadelphia acts and no matter how poorly fans elsewhere do.

    Cheer for our picks. Don’t curse or get physical. Beyond that, there shouldn’t be anything off limits. Nothing’s going to change if we’re nice or if we’re mean. So be mean. Show the MLS that we won’t sit down quietly when they screw over our team. Show our trademark Philadelphia passion.

  10. If we can’t have Edu, or the ability or opportunity to achieve players we want then TFC shouldn’t either!!!!! the S.O.B should not keep their mouths shut tomorrow!

  11. garber deserves to be booed as much as union players deserve to be cheered. i’m pro both.

  12. These kids have worked their whole young lives to get to this point…please don’t do something to ruin the experience for them or their families.
    .
    As for Garber- let’s be a little more creative than just booing for three hours. How about turning our backs on him when he is first introduced? And we need some clever songs/chants. Maybe a Wizard of Oz reference? I dunno. Throw out some funny ideas below.

    • “We’re not gonna take it” twisted sister chorus?

    • Spears- “Oops, he did it again/ he screwed with our club…he’s not that innocent!”

    • Dan C (formerly of 103) says:

      The kids have worked their whole lives for this, but they have this oppurtunity because the fans are paying CUSTOMERS. I always belive that the fans have a right to express themselves in any manner which they see fit providing that it is in a legal manner and follows the rules of the event (no cursing, etc.). To have absolute blind faith in an organization (team or league)and to choose not to voice your opinion and be heard is a diservice to yourself and your fellow fans. Remember, we are the CUSTOMERS! If you order soup at a restauraunt and you dont get a spoon, do you speak up and get a spoon or stare at your soup?

  13. We have been regulated.

    I’d go with not making a sound. Not a peep. Don wants the TV cameras to show you holding your scarves and going crazy to show the world what a nice thing he’s got going.

    You guys go be show ponies, I’m sitting on my hands.

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