Fans' View

Fans’ View: Singing no more

Photo: Daniel Studio

If you read my last post, you know that me and my family were not in town for the Union games in most of July. I was excited to get back to my Lot A tailgate and seats in Section 105.

I cheered as the team walked on, and took my hat off for the singing of the national anthem.

And then fell silent.

I just can’t sing the national anthem anymore.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I can’t sing. I sang all the way through school — school chorus, musicals — I sing in the car, I sing in the shower. But I can no longer sing the national anthem at the Union matches.

No, I haven’t suddenly become unpatriotic. I have wept every time our national anthem has been played at the Olympics. I fly an American flag at our house. My husband is a Navy veteran. My dad fought in World War Two.

Rather, I don’t sing because I can’t keep up.

For the first six seasons of the club’s existence, the fans led the singing of the anthem. This season, the club started using a featured singer. Now, I start to sing and then the tempo changes — sometimes going so slow I wonder if we are going to finish before the game starts. Sometimes notes are held longer than I can hold my breath.

And so, even though I believe Ashli Rice has a lovely voice — and I would gladly go hear her in concert — I vote we return to what was “our tradition”: We the fans, and the fans alone, singing the anthem.

When the change from the fans alone singing the national anthem first occurred, my ticket rep reached out to me and asked what I thought. Not one to sugar coat things, I said I didn’t like it. The fans alone singing the anthem felt special. I felt like a part of group.

Now, nobody around me in my section sings. I can hardly hear the music over the singer. We all stand silent.

I was told at the beginning of the season that having a singer for the national anthem was something that the team was trying out and would only happen occasionally. Instead, it’s turned into something that happens every game.

The reason I was given for the change is that before a featured singer was used it “sounded bad” on TV, that it sounded like we were not singing. Or sometimes the Sons of Ben got ahead of other parts of the stadium because of the acoustics.

I don’t watch Union home games on TV because, you know, I’m at the stadium. But, I say hogwash. It sure sounded good to me in the stands when it was the fans alone singing the anthem. It was a part of the fans coming together to back the team. We were part of the performance. Now we’re just spectators.

And if the front office is so worried about us sounding “bad” on TV, then how come I still hear F’ bombs and “YSA”? Suck it up. This is who we are. Philly tough. Let we the fans sing the national anthem.

If “sounding bad” on TV is still an issue, I’m willing to compromise and say, if you must, have a featured singer when the games are nationally televised.

I’ve told my ticket rep and others on the staff that, yes, Ashli Rice has a beautiful voice to listen to, but she doesn’t sing the song in a manner that makes it easy for others to participate. And isn’t participation the most important thing? Doesn’t fan participation have to be an intrinsic part of what makes Talen Energy Stadium the fortress we want it to be?

Instead of worrying about how things might “sound bad” to people watching on TV, let’s focus on unifying fans in the stadium those people are watching on TV.

Let’s return to the fans alone singing the national anthem. By ourselves. Loudly. Proudly.

Just like we do when we cheer on the team.


  1. Belinda Lukens says:

    Thank you for stating what I have been saying all season. We have been season ticket holders since the beginning and we loved to sing it as well. We complained to anyone who would listen but apparently the front office doesn’t care. It just doesn’t feel the same as when the fans sang it. All you hear is silence except for Aslhley singing. It’s a shame they took away a tradition that we all loved.

  2. YES! This, a thousand times over. I’ve complained about it so many times that the people around us in my section laugh when the signer walks out and I start shaking my head in disgust. I also mentioned it to my season ticket rep a few months ago.
    It’s irritating how they say we can sing along. You simply can’t have an 18k person sing-along when one person has a microphone, especially when every singer who performs the Star-Spangled Banner has their own tempo and adds their own flair to it. When the crowd tries to sing it, it just sounds like droning.
    Like you said, it has nothing to do with the singer. She’s great. It just feels like we lost something when it was taken from us. I personally felt like singing together woke the crowd up a bit before they announced the lineup. It got a certain energy going throughout the stadium.

  3. I love singing along with Chester’s own Ashli Rice. She also has a record of 7 Wins. 3 Draws. 2 Losses. #TeamAshli

  4. Was never “Our tradition.” It was more of hey Portland is doing that and it looks cool, lets do it too tradition.
    As is our tradition was kind of a joke from the start.
    So I am fine with someone else singing the anthem.

    • I’m with sieve on this one. I’m happy singing along with Ashli.

    • If I’m not mistaken, the fans have been singing it since 2010, or the year BEFORE Portland entered the league. I do prefer what they do better (no piped-in music, just the TA leading the song) and I wish we did it that way, but to say that we were copying them is pure malarkey.

      • Portland Timbers were around before they were an MLS club.

      • Well it wasn’t a tradition for them before 2011, so that’s a moot point.

      • There were a bunch of folks in the TA upset about the singer at the MLS opener messing with their tradition. But you’re right that it’s a moot point, they do do it better; if we sounded half as good, I’d be okay with remaining singerless.

    • When did Portland join MLS? 2011 was it? I say they copied us. BTW, I think Ashley has a great voice, but I agree that having the fans sing the anthem was a lot more meaningful. You become a participant, not just a spectator.

      • No. It went back and forth in the early days. We would have someone sing then the fans would sing. It definitely started as a thing after Portland did it to some effect.

        It along with four leafed clover one of the more hamfisted attempts to give the Philadelphia Union some “traditions”

      • Uh, NO it didn’t. You are mistaken. I attended every home match in 2010. The fans sung the national anthem at every PPL Park match. Just like they did throughout 2011-2015 as well (2014 Open Cup Final Aside).
        And for it’s worth……..the TA sounds like a bunch of off key drunk hipsters when they sing it…………..oh wait……………lol

    • No one here cared about Portland before they joined MLS. It was an organic thing whether or not they did it first.

  5. Here, Here! I also miss the “And our Flag was still there!” out-of-tune outbusts from a few brave souls during the anthem.
    I agree, lovely voice, but you can’t sing along…
    I also thought that this also made us a little different than the other sports in town…
    I’m writing my rep now….

  6. its a hard song to sing. id rather hear a pro do it well than listen to a bunch of half drunk amateurs. Oh you like to sing? thats called karaoke. find it at your neighborhood bar.

    cheers to the union for trying to make it a little more professional.

  7. As someone who watches the matches mostly on T.V., I can confirm, it does sound bad. Really bad. Like a bunch of out-of-tune drunks. As for miss Rice, meh. I do like Cszack4’s idea of “God Bless America”. A much better song than the national anthem, in my opinion.

    • Old Soccer Coach says:

      My own preference since grade school has always been “America the Beautiful.”

    • Agreed on God Bless America. It’s a much more enjoyable song that the Star Spangled Banner.

      I always thought that the tempo of music that the Union played for the fans to sing to in the past was always a little quick and it never sounded good to me when the fans sang it. Probably was because Sak bought a cheap recording to save some money 😉

      All that said, I’m not really bothered either way. Love hearing Ms. Rice sing it, she’s fantastic.

      • Zizouisgod says:

        When you think about this U.S. tradition of singing the national anthem before every sporting event, it seems silly to me. I’ve never seen this done at sporting events in any other country. Most of the participants on the pitch at Talen are not from the US and many stand with their hands behind their back. I always wonder what the foreign players are thinking about this tradition and what do they tell their family and friends about it back home.

        What’s funny is that started as a baseball tradition before the Star Spangled Banner was even adopted as the national anthem for the US.

        And as much as I like the tune and tempo of God Bless America, I can understand why many people don’t like it.

    • I just want to point out, that as far as Ms. Rice goes, I agree that she does have a wonderful voice. It’s the pace, that causes my indifference.

  8. Parts Unknown says:

    As someone who attends almost all home games, the fan singing is weak in the stadium as well. I think Miss Rice has been a great addition to game days. She’s an excellent singer and it’s so much better than listening to a handful of people mumble the anthem.

  9. Exactly how my family has felt. Barely anyone sings along and I can’t really blame them. Nothing against Ashli Rice’s singing, but I agree that singing along with her is near impossible. She does it differently everytime and you can barely if at all hear the music so the few people who do sing just sound more disjointed.

    Every game more and more people are just standing around waiting for the anthem to end. I could accept having a desigbated singer for national television, but let the people in stadium sing it some.

  10. Old Soccer Coach says:

    Ashli Rice has a great voice. She sings within her cultural tradition, which is now much more an acceptable thing to do than back when Jose Feliciano did the anthem on national TV for a baseball game, added “Oh Yeah,” at the end and was figuratively crucified in the media.
    The Atlanta Braves sometimes have an Operatic baritone, I assume from the Atlanta Opera Company, sing God Bless America. I don’t normally tear up for the anthem because I hear it way, way, way, too often for it always be a special moment. The Miracle on Ice’s medal ceremony back in 1980 did tear my eyes, as did the televised Kate Smith live against the Soviets with God Bless America.
    If Ms. Rice continues and we continue to be invited to try, the stadium video board needs to focus in on her face for the entire performance so that we can all watch her face. I sit where I can see it, so I have a small chance to follow along, which I enjoy trying to do. If I could not see her face I would be utterly helpless to follow her.

  11. Just Rob f/k/a Rob127 says:

    Staci, I typically love your posts but I completely disagree with this one. Here are the facts.
    1. When I sing, I sound like crap.
    2. When the overwhelming majority of people around me at Talen sing, they sound like crap.
    3. There are a large number of fans that don’t know the words and/or refuse to read them on the screen. This results in a lot of unintelligible mumbling. Which sounds like crap.
    4. “Or sometimes the Sons of Ben got ahead of other parts of the stadium because of the acoustics.” No, it’s every single time and it sound like crap.
    I am pleased to let Ashli Rice sing the anthem. I think the fans voices are far better suited to singing the various other songs…”Come on the U!, PHIL-A-DELPHIA!, and the like.

  12. el Pachyderm says:

    The counterpoint to this was the dwindling crowds as a result of shitty play and the half empty stadium anymore at kickoff as it seems to me… save when ‘important’ teams come into town.
    I liked the crowd singing when 15,000 people were there pre kick but in the land of things I need to see improved, this doesn’t make the list.
    Certainly recognize those who are trying to move the needle in this though.

  13. I think part of having her there is that she’s local, grew up not too far from the stadium. I enjoyed doing the singing, but for the organization to promote a talented performer from their own backyard is a good thing

  14. Belinda Lukens says:

    I wouldn’t mind her singing the anthem if they gave her an instrumental recording to sing along with because at least it would keep her in time and you could sing with her. Right now there is no way to sing along as she never sings it the same way twice. Even Whitney Houston sang with music and her rendition is one of the best ever performed.

  15. I never liked the fans singing the anthem. They don’t keep up with the music and it sounds terrible, whether on TV (which they only show when its on national TV) or in person. In person, I tried to sing with the music and it was impossible with the rest of the crowd getting the tempo wrong. I

    I think having a good singer leading it gives the anthem more respect, which it deserves. And there’s no reason having a singer can’t become a tradition. Just like the Flyers have done with another local singer, Lauren Hart.

  16. At the risk of sounding unpatriotic, I could do without the singing or playing of national anthems at sporting events altogether, with the exception of events where athletes are playing to represent a country (Olympics, World Cup, etc). First, there’s honestly no reason for it to be sung/played before a game, esepcially when that game features teams made up of athletes from all over the globe with a significant percentage who have no patriotic ties to the country their team calls home. Second, when it is sung/played, it’s usually done so poorly and/or incorrectly. It’s not a cadenza-laden dirge and it shouldn’t be used as a springboard for aspiring pop stars or seen as an opportunity for shredding some tasty guitar licks. As for crowd sing-alongs, they typically do sound bad, with or without accompaniment. It sounds great from your seat? Of course it does if you’re standing hand over heart, singing in full voice, because your voice, and those immediately around you, are the ones you can hear most clearly. You don’t notice the sound delays, off tempo, and off key singing from sections around you, especially those to your left and right. It’s the same effect marching bands get when they follow the reverberations of the stadium instead of the hands of conductor (which is why the conductor is there in the first place). However, for better or worse, the SSB is a staple of American sporting events and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. So, would I rather Ashli Rice or the voices of the fans? I guess the fans…? Actually, I’d prefer school music groups over both. Bring in kids from area school music programs, let them sing or play the anthem and give them tickets to the game. Chances are it’ll sound better than a soloist or the crowd, it’s supports local programs, and it puts this growing sport and league of ours in front of the eyes of future supporters.

  17. Andy Muenz says:

    Let’s all plan to sing Oh Canada next game.

    • My brother and I already do it. Just the English version, though. If the Impact have a problem with it, they can buy me a Rosetta Stone French set.

  18. I thought it was cool when the crowd all sung along. I now find it equally cool that a local, very talented woman is singing the national anthem. I guess that makes me somewhat indifferent, though having our version of Kate Smith/Lauren Hart could be a great thing. And to one of the points above, using Ms. Rice is rainy Wednesday night game against the Fire-proof.

  19. Why not the fans before the game with the anthem, and Ms. Rice at halftime with God Bless America and/or alternating with America the Beautiful? Frankly, “our tradition” was stolen from other teams in the league, but it was good to get the fans together before the game started. If baseball does a songbreak during the seventh inning stretch, there is no reason that soccer can’t get the fans involved again as the second half starts.

  20. While I did enjoy singing it when I was at games it did sound terrible on TV. I think we as fans who have been around for a while will need to get used to a few things changing to make it more TV friendly. As much as we all want to say to hell with the TV audience and the league changing a bit I think if we are ever going to attract big names at a younger age increasing TV revenue is going to be a big part of that. I may be wrong but my guess one of the big jobs of Mcdermott and his counterparts around league are trying to do that. and lets be honest a real tradition grows organically over years and doesn’t come forced from the front office.

  21. I love her singing it and don’t really see the fans singing it as a tradition that really matters. Much prefer a young kid from Chester getting to be on the stage.

  22. +1 for singer.
    Stolen tradition…always sounded/sounds poor.

  23. Drhammerheel says:

    I could not agree with Ms klemmer more and have discussed w front office. Looks as if there is a definite mix of opinions (I’m surprised quite frankly…) but I miss the camaraderie of singing together to start the match. The writer who suggests a halftime performance has had the best compromise idea on this string. Any other ideas for compromise (as long as it involves the fans singing the anthem together)?

  24. But seeing a Union match with the Sons of Ben is a bit different. They’re not just fans; they’re a fan

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