On openers: Memory and possibility

Photo: Paul Rudderow

As far as I can remember, it always started in the middle.

I’ve been a sports fan for so long that it’s hard for me to recall how it actually began. There must have been a moment when I sat down for the first time and watched a basketball game. I just can’t remember it.

Memory of your early years is a strange thing, years of complete nothingness or hazy shapes punctuated by snapshots so clear they could be in an iPhone commercial.

The earliest sports memory I have is like that. A television, in the house I grew up, with a man in a white shirt with red stripes holding a massive silver trophy over his head. The Detroit Red Wings had defeated the Philadelphia Flyers in the NHL Finals. I was five.

It’s like that with the Eagles, too. There’s a football flying through yellow uprights, and a feeling of overwhelming sadness. But I’m wearing a tiny Bobby Hoying jersey, so this can’t be the first Eagles game I’ve ever watched.

Yet going back any further is like trying to light a match in a room without oxygen; try as I might to get a spark, the flame never comes.

The story of my relationship with those teams begins with the fire already lit.

My relationship with Philadelphia Union, though, is unique, because — like many of you — I remember the day the Union got me.

It was a pleasant April day at the Linc in 2010. I went with my dad. We got there incredibly early, and I didn’t know a damn thing about any of the players. Stefani Miglioranzi, I told my dad, is probably pretty good — he’s Brazilian, after all. We laughed at the concept of a guy named “Fred.” Just Fred.

Joe Biden was there, and the game began. It took barely three minutes for the Union to score.

It’s all so clear in my mind. The pass from Alejandro Moreno to set up the second goal. The insanity of Chris Seitz dropping the ball — literally — to tie the game up. The final goal of the first hat trick in Union history, the first glimmer of magic that Sebastien Le Toux always seemed to summon in his career in blue and gold.

For the first time in my life, I fell in love with a team that had no history. From their very first game, all I wanted was to be a Union fan. (I didn’t watch the road opener at Seattle, but as nothing of note happened in that game, I erase it cleanly from my personal history of the Union.)

How could I not be hooked? How could it be any other way?

The Union came into existence, and I was there, and I have been ever since. I can remember the entirety of their history in a way that I can’t with any other team.

I can remember that first spark.

Things have changed over these past eight years, of course. I live three thousand miles away from Chester. I sit in the press box sometimes — a development that 2010 me would find extremely unlikely — where I maintain the thickest outer shell of neutrality that I possibly can. Now Sebastien Le Toux plays for D.C. United and Chris Pontius plays for the Union. Things have changed.

Yet nearly a decade later, I still feel that same excitement as we count down to opening day. For the first time since 2010, I’ll be at a Union opener this weekend. It’s supposed to be snowing in Vancouver, a strange change of pace from sunny days in California. I can barely focus on the myriad things I need to get done in my life this week before I head up to the frozen north.

We’re spending this week at PSP breaking down whether the Union will have success on the pitch this year. There’s such a mix of trepidation and excitement in the air, even more so than in years past. The range of possibilities for this iteration of the Union are as great as they’ve ever been.

Right now, there is just glorious possibility.

It’s time to begin, again.


  1. el Pachyderm says:

    “I awoke”…. just as the “siren sang her song” at the end of game one, 1997, in a smoked haze, steadfastly resolved our Flyers were going to beat Red Wing Nation no matter the result of this one game which I had seen only the first period puck drop to- out cold the rest, “We got em right where we want em” I am still quoted as saying to my best friend’s dad as he stood over my paralyzed supine frame on the sofa in his basement blunted totally…..”right where we want em.”
    “Right now, there is just glorious possibility” no truer words ever uttered…this Peter Andrews, is the siren song of an idealist living in a pragmatic world, and “we got em right where we want em.”

  2. Wow! I was at that first game at the Linc and totally forgot that Torres was played as a DM….

  3. My most prized Union possession: Le Toux’s signature on the rally towel they handed out at that first ever home game.

  4. The most memorable opening day for me. In one game thousands of soccer fans became Union fans. Obviously that game is why there is still so much love for Le Toux

  5. Miss those Non-Bimbo-ed jerseys…

  6. This was the first live soccer game I had ever seen. I had only watched a handful of soccer games on tv up to this point (all just from happenstance, not from interest) and in general I didn’t like watching any sports. I had such a good time watching this game even though I didn’t really understand what the rules were. As the season wore on I became a fan of the team and the sport even though we were abysmally bad. I bought season tickets for the second season and have had them ever since.

    Its funny, becoming a fan of soccer has opened my eyes to watching more sports in general and I now watch football and the occasional basketball game

  7. It was unforgettable.

  8. OneManWolfpack says:

    Man that first game… WOW. What a day. So much fun to be there and to watch Seba become an instant club icon in literally the first game ever. So cool.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *