Living in a simulation

Photo: DALL-E 2 MINI

We’re living in a simulation.

I know this because everything Union fans have ever wanted is being delivered to them. Think about it: a franchise the envy of of the league; a coach with local ties to say nothing of the passion, persistence, and poise to guide them for nearly a decade; an academy filling the rosters of successful youth national teams and European sides alike; a team that just keeps winning, more and more, year after unending year, game after death-defying game; and a fan base that fills the home stadium, no matter the opponent, each and every match.

Nothing in life is so universally linear, satisfying, and right than what Union fans have right now.

Therefore, it must be fake.

The beginning

When we say a simulation, it’s impossible to know if we’re talking about the work of artificial intelligence a la The Matrix movies, a higher being – whether heavenly or alien, or some other other.

Was this other a Union fan from Andromeda – tinkering with It’s “Earth Sim” computer game after becoming smitten with the Boys in Blue through the dulcet tones of JP and Dave on a broadcast – caught through a worm hole? Was the other the actual One responsible for earth and everything on it, high upon Olympus or some ethereal plan? Does it matter? The simulation works, and is benefitting Union fans.

All we know for sure is that simulation exists because we exist in it, a bit of circularity that would make a symbolic logic expert cringe. But if we know we exist, if we’re conscious of ourselves and can observe, rationalize, and theorize about the world around us, then we must exist – and what’s the difference if our existence is real or simulated?

That’s why we never even realized our “real” selves were replaced by “simulated” ones in the first place. Everything else is the same, but something changed along the way. As such, we know the robust program that has since replaced our previous reality was turned on somewhere during the summer of 2014 – around June 10th, to be specific.

In the before times, the Union were bad – really, really bad – so bad in fact that they fired their very likable and otherwise successful coach in the middle of the season. Whether the firing was the catalyst for flipping the switch, or whether the Programmer made the managerial choice her/him/them/other-self in some higher intelligential version of Football Manager, we may never know. But the universe in which we reside flickered into existence around this time.

We know this because almost immediately after going live, the team’s fortunes began to change – as was coded into the programming.

It was slow of course, an over-his-head interim coach, a winning record, a Cup Final. But, it was better – Rome wasn’t build in a day, even in SimCity. But civilization was, in fact, blossoming, with growth in all corners of the proverbial Garden (wherein perhaps Wayne, PA is an ersatz Eden).

But like any sentient culture, existence wasn’t enough: canonization needed to come next.

Right on cue, soon thereafter a Bible was written about our shared history (as well as an apocrypha). An Old Testament of horrors, sadness, sawing babies in half (no, that’s the original Old Testament, not this one – thankfully), with Piotr Nowak and Nick Sakieweicz in the dual roles of Satan (there has to be a villain in any good simulation, otherwise what’s the point of being good? Two Satans? Even better!). Even as things improved, sometimes it didn’t feel like progress was being made – it’s easy to see the excelsior line now, but difficult to see it close, in the thick. As such, self-help books were written, moments of misery remained ever-near, and clear skies seemed impossible to imagine – even computer-generated ones.

But a New Testament awaited us and a new day was dawning.

The present

Today is that New Day.

Whomever our overlord may be, it is beginning to allowing us access to the higher brain responsible for our happiness – to the “how” responsible for our collective “what.” The photograph at the top of this article was created by one such tentacle of this brain, a generative artificial intelligence called DALL-E 2. By simply asking the brain to create a picture of “The Philadelphia Union celebrating a goal,” seconds later one was delivered.

It’s convincing, if a bit nightmarish (or, reality in a nutshell).

It’s more proof that all we see is code.

As for this weekend’s match against New York City FC – a game so fraught with narrative that only a higher being or a room full of clichéd Hollywood script writers could ever conceive of it – we asked It to write us a byline. Here’s what It created:

Philadelphia Union against New York City in the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2015 MLS SuperDraft.

Fernandez will be the 10th player to join a Seattle Sounders academy since 2009 (Nebel Herrera). Fernandez won the Copa America and Copa Central trophies when he was 13. “It’s exciting to have Seattle play the Seattle Sounders,” said Fábio in a statement. “Cesar is an important addition to our system, but has been in great shape, scoring goals during a very difficult schedule and with a reputation for being a top team.”

This one is a little less convincing of course, but we’re only allowed bits and pieces of enlightenment yet. We haven’t fully achieved zen, clarity, or whatever the word will be for unification, a singularity. We shouldn’t let progress get in the way of perfection, and in any case, The Word (or The Picture, as it were) is being revealed.

The end

Which means the only thing left are the End Times.

In traditional religions, the end usually means stripping away all that is bad so that there is only room for that which is good. The Union have spent the better part of a decade doing just that: an AMEX-weilding CEO was shown the door, as was his pouting prized poach; leadership was given to a national legend, then to a German pragmatist of the highest pedigree; the Academy went from Pfeffering to Aaronsoning, the team from Wheelering to Gazdagging; the losses turned into wins, the excess drag of institutional malaise sloughed off for the sheen of trophy-winning efficiency.

There is light at the end of the tunnel! The End is Nigh!

Two final slights before all could be righted: a COVID nightmare when everything was in sight (the final boss is the hardest boss, of course), and a team full of MVPs, none of whom end up winning the award itself (there is no “I”, even in “simulation”), despite a litany of accolades.

And come Sunday, the Day of the Lord, the Seventh Day, the Day of Rest, this simulated reality has a chance to take a step closer toward becoming what it was always written to become: the story of a championship, and against the same final boss who stood in the way last year.

There’s no way that’s reality – get real.

Only a higher being could create something so poetic.


  1. Sounds plausible
    My favorite part is when they cranked the ‘GOALS’ knob after realizing they had it way too low at the beginning of the season

  2. Well done, Chris!

  3. OneManWolfpack says:

    And as I read this I see that Curtin was just named MLS Coach of the Year. With the majority of his votes coming from the players and the GM’s. While Nancy’s votes came from the media. Very telling. Congrats to Jim on being the youngest two time winner!!
    Awesome article too

  4. A brilliant read. Thank you. 🙂

  5. PaulContinuum22 says:

    Bedoya better be out there Sunday. He has ALL WINTER to rest. All hands on deck. Do MLS’ version of Willis Reed in game 7 of the ’70 NBA finals vs. LA.

    • I’d love to see him, if he’s healthy enough to give it 100%. If not, save him for the final (hoping Union win on Sunday, of course)?

  6. Congrats Jim Curtin.
    MLS Coach of the Year!

    In Curtin we trust!

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