Fans' View

Fans’ View: Yes, we can have nice things

Photo: Daniel Studio

Being born and raised a Philadelphia sports fan is both a blessing and an incredible burden.

I firmly believe that this area has some of the most knowledgeable, passionate, and articulate fans around. We live and die with our teams. We’ve been hardened over time, hoping for the best, but always peeking cautiously around the corner weary of what’s coming to knock us off balance just as our expectations rise. We’ve grown accustomed to disappointment, and do everything we can to help shield ourselves from it.

Then there’s the tired, lazy, persona of angry, ignorant Philadelphia fans that seems to pop back up into sports news every 4 or 5 months. Santa and snowballs. Batteries and J.D. Drew. Most recently, wristbands at the Flyers-Capitals playoff game stirred up the old Philadelphia sports fan bashing segments. Did everyone catch this gem on ESPN? Yes, we can be a cynical “negadelphian” group, but we show up, we care, and we deserve good things from the teams we support.

Since making the playoffs in its second season, the Union have suffered through lean years with a largely dysfunctional front office, and outside of two U.S. Open Cup final runs, have given their fan base little to grasp onto — until now. Late last season, the tide seemed to shift a bit and there was clear evidence of increasing levels of ambition from our club. A new, club-owned USL team, on-site training fields, and most importantly, Earnie Stewart suggested better days ahead.

While most of us expected a transitional, rebuilding year in 2016, we now have a team perched near the top of the Eastern Conference table. The Union have legitimate MLS All-Star level talents in Andre Blake, Vincent Nogueira, Tranquillo Barnetta, CJ Sapong, and Richie Marquez. They boast an incredibly young, athletic back line that is averaging only 1 goal against after 8 games. The Union have yet to lose a game at home. Sapong has managed to find himself in conversations about whether or not he’s ready for a USMNT call up now. The team has legitimate depth at every position, which has helped it to get through two months without the first choice midfield together. There’s a lot to like here early in the 2016 season.

Yet we can’t quite seem to get comfortable. Reading comments on PSP after slipping up against San Jose on Saturday, one would quickly forget all of these positive developments and assume we’re bouncing around at the bottom of the table, listless, with no direction. Jim Curtin quickly went from a young coach who seemed to be figuring it out and learning the ropes through 7 games to a horrible game manager who can’t adjust and got outcoached by Dominic Kinnear. We now need a DP striker again, our bench isn’t good enough, our loaned players are failing at Bethlehem Steel, and it’s the same old Union. I even saw comments creeping back up about Brian Carroll, who has rightfully been the recipient of much praise early in this campaign, claiming once again that he’s slow and ineffective as a defender.

My reaction to all of this is to just relax.

Yes, the San Jose game was disappointing. But this year just feels different. The right people are guiding the ship. There’s a plan in place and evidence of a preferred playing style. The Union have a mix of established veterans and plenty of promising young players. They compete. They’ve (mostly) taken care of business at home. We’ve got a nice thing going here, and we deserve it.

Sit back and enjoy the ride.

25 Comments

  1. Excellent.
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    The philadelphia sports fan is a hyper-neurotic mosh pit of cynicism and passion. We are capable of cleaving a topic for day and days and months and months…. mostly I blame the Eagles and the Flyers and The 10,000 loss Phillies and the basketball team that calls itself professional. I do not blame the Stars, Atoms, Wildcats, Big 5 or the Soul or now the Philadelphia Spinners of Ultimate Frisbee.
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    We are without peer in this country for sure.
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    But as I have written on many many occasions, the great George Bernard Shaw is noted as saying, “The power of accurate observation is often called cynicism by those who do not have it,” and I believe very much in this. When you live in Philadelphia and survive Leonard Tose, vomiting fans, Angelo Cataldi and the bevy of Championships won by nearly every major market within a 90 minute train ride… you Goddamn well earn the right to criticize and criticize heavily.
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    That is the primary motivator for why this team has pissed me off so royally these first 6 years….just the same old Philadelphia bumbling assonance. For the most part- otherwise I agree heavily with your position…it seems the team has turned a corner and we own that debt of gratitude to an ‘owner’ who clearly recognized his team was a Laughingstock.
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    In the meantime…micromanage and micro analyze away… it is a Philadelphian’s birthright the way a brand is given to cattle.

    • Thanks.

      While I didn’t work it into the post above, I always think back to the Mike Schmidt quote about Philadelphia being the place where you experience the thrill of victory and the agony of reading about it the next morning (paraphrasing a bit).

      I’m the guy who’ll lie in bed at night overanalyzing managerial decisions I just made in a little league game, so I’ll never deny anyone the right to micro analyze our teams. Just be careful not to over steer when you’re looking to course correct.

      Enjoyed the Philadelphia Spinners reference too – I discovered them just the other day and tried watching them, but just couldn’t get into it.

    • Self proclaimed cynics/realists are a lot of time just jerks too. Not that I even remotely think you are pachy, but there’s probably more jerks than accurate observers.

      • el Pachyderm says:

        I’m for sure a jerk sometimes- well actually more like a well meaning jackass – so no offense taken.
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        Life long jackass.

      • Correct. Actual cynics don’t call themselves that: it’s kind of a contradiction in terms. A real cynic is somebody who is constantly pessimistic and looking for any hint of the worst, but considers that perspective to be just realistic.

        So, like the entirety of the Philadelphia sports market.

  2. Thank you for this Scott.

  3. Silkyjohnson says:

    Nice article Scott. You wrote exactly what I was thinking earlier this weekend after the game. Certain fans, immediately bash, chastise and want to change the world over one lousy game. Deep breaths. Cold beer, smiles and big doops all around.

    • Noted…as I jumped on the team this week…but I’m always given to analyzing the micro within the macro… as its is all the micros that make up the big picture.
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      I relate well to the Madradistas fans, earlier in the season…booing the Real players walking off the pitch after scoring 10 goals against a La Liga patsy…
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      Perfection is unattainable…excellence however…

      • Old Soccer Coach says:

        After my third time through Calculus, many years ago, I enjoyed playing with the relationship between limits, asymptotes, division by zero, and perfection. The asymptote is an extremely useful concept when discussing perfection and what’s possible.

      • Nice OSC and in the words of Angel Guzman from one of my favorite movies, Stand and Deliver, “What’s Cal-Kuhl-us”

  4. Great article Scott.
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    P.S. ESPN video link cannot be found.

  5. Great article. I think we all need to remember that progress is never linear. It improves quick sometimes, stalls sometimes, and moves backwards sometimes. As long as it’s moving in the right direction over a long enough (not necessarily long!) window you are going to be ok. This is true of our Union, of the Phillies prospects we are all waiting for, and other more important things in life.

    • pragmatist says:

      Very well said. Progress is measured through time, as opposed to a particular point in time. Compare the data at benchmarks, not at a single marker.
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      All teams strive for improvement. Even the Golden State Warriors were seeking constant improvement this year. I doubt their fans watched a mid-December shellacking by Dallas and thought that Luke Walton was ill-equipped to stand in for Steve Kerr, or that Draymond Green was really deserving of his 2nd Round draft selection.
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      We are no GSW, make no mistake. But “Point-in-Time” should never have been the way to measure this team, this season.

  6. Lucky Striker says:

    My problem with the author’s take on Curtin is that I don’t view him through the lens of a single game-or stretch of games in a single season.

    Otherwise struggling with his opening incongruity:
    “We’ve grown accustomed to disappointment-but we show up, we care and we deserve good things from the teams we support”.

    Still don’t understand why there is bitterness, anger and frustration watching the same tired failings over and over and over again?

    Quit reaching…………

    • Lucky Striker – by definition, doesn’t a supporter show up and support his or her team through good and bad? Philadelphia fans are some of the best at protecting ourselves against getting punched in the gut by being cynical and expecting the worst to occur. What’s wrong with buying into what’s happening now and having a little hope?

      I get frustration over years past. This team was frequently mismanaged in our first 6 years of existence. But if you’re bitter and angry this season, you’re missing a really good time.

      One of my main points is that it’s okay to be disappointed with the way Saturday’s game played out, but that the reaction should be commensurate with the problem. We don’t need to blow up the roster, sack the coach, send Ilsinho to boot camp, or put Brian Carroll out to pasture (far from it). San Jose wasn’t the same tired failings – step back and look at the bigger picture this season. Progress is happening, and sooner than most of us rightfully expected it.

      • Lucky Striker says:

        The author’s point was encompassing. As in: more than just soccer.

        That was what I was addressing. The Union have had a better start. That’s the bottom line there.

        When they continue to exhibit the same pattern of blowing games under the same guy year-in, year out, expressing the rising of bile in the collective stomachs of certain commentators is more than fair game.

  7. Cautious optimism with unwavering support. That’s me as a Philly fan. I left all the WIP bull crap behind years ago. So stupid and cheesy. It makes me laugh and sometimes I’ll indulge the “Philly fan” stereotype for fun, but I never mean it. It saddens me when I hear / see grown people do some of the things they do.
    .
    Great article though. Maybe the Union are following the Flyers path… get a taste of the playoffs in a season where no one expected it. Hey, we can only hope… ah yes, HOPE… remember kids, it’s the hope that kills you, not the loss 🙂

  8. But are Philly fans an exception or are they typical and unfairly labeled? I’m a transplanted Philly fan living in NYC. I have been to Rangers, Yankees, Shmets, Giants, NYCFC and Red Bulls games. I can tell you they don’t just throw wristbands. Try coins and marbles. People wearing Philly fan gear have been harassed and physically abused at an alarming rate in NY but it gets hush up. I have seen and heard things from these pampered hypocrites that would make the stereotyped Philly fan look tame by comparison. I have seen Boston fans come to NY and get arrested and cause mayhem at an alarming rate. None of these things get the kind of scrutiny a single incident in Philly gets. I personally think it’s a media driven phenomenon to make Philly and it’s fans the bad guys in a hyped good guy vs bad guy scenario. Yes we’ve had the Flyers and Eagles as examples but what seems to get lost is the fact that the Flyers for one were not the original NHL bullies. It was the Bruins, Rangers, Blues but it seems the when the Flyers followed suit it was a new trend. The Eagles fans get labeled by the Santa thing which became more media driven than anything else. Yes there was a court at the Vet but NY has roving courts in trailers. What the NHL, NFL and media sold was hype/BS and tickets. According to my Granny, Philly even had the toughest Roller Derby team at the time in the Warriors which also became apart of the lore. To me what gets lost particularly about the “Broad Street Bullies” in fiction is that the Flyers were an extremely talented team with the league MVP and 3-4 45-60 plus goal scorers during their championship seasons. To me this is where “Philly Tough” gets misconstrued. Too be tough you need not just players who intimidate but it’s about top level skill an a solid out compete the other guy work ethic. That to me is what Philly fans are about and they are passionate hard working people who demand excellence from their teams. That doesn’t make the any different than other fans when it comes to sports. What sets us apart is that Philly fans say if I can work at a(in many cases) thankless job that helps me put food on my table and spend my hard earned dollars to support athletes play a game, it better be worth it. We may be blue collar but we also want stars and top talent with our same work ethic. Philly fans are tough but they aren’t the constant brawling in the stands and in the streets crazies they’er made out to be compared to other fans.

    • el Pachyderm says:

      Well said…. to be honest I think the Super Bowl thing has really caused a great deal of the angst among the masses. We are a through and through American football town that has been incapable of staking a claim to one of nearly 50 SB and with that comes the vitriol and anger and criticism that often times manifests as this latent anger… pointed in every imaginable direction… about that which is totally beyond our control…
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      We will always be passionate and driven by effort as that is the nature of our Rocky ethos but a Super Bowl or two I really feel would release a tremendous amount of pressure. It would confirm to us that we matter.
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      Coming from a guy who has come to nothing but disdain for American football.

      • Spot on. If the Eagles were to ever win a Super Bowl, will we deserve our rep or will we finally be able to put the stereotype to rest. I think the worst reactions will come from NY, DC, Boston and Pittsburgh fans. LOL!

    • I’m totally with you as a fellow tranplant. Pittsburgh fans at penguins and steelers games are every bit as bad as anyone philadelphia has on a regular basis. Heck even as the pirates improved they started getting a few of the rowdy fans. Every city has them. We just get a bad reputation for it.
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      As a sidenote, the riverhounds fans are actually pretty awesome. Knowledgeable soccer people who just love the game. I sat with their supporters a few times and thoroughly enjoyed my experiences there.

  9. Old Soccer Coach says:

    A point that I find relevant to discussing sports fan behavior, any city, any sport, any continent with native human population, is blood alcohol level.
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    In the last few years I read somewhere that of the top fifty revenue-producing Division 1 athletic departments, forty-nine were college football programs. The exception was Louisville Basketball, because they play in Freedom Hall which sells beer during games.

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