As we countdown to the kickoff of the National Football League tonight (NFL) I find myself reflecting on a conversation that I recently had with some friends and family. What is the best way to watch the game? The reason why? Simple, I was looking at purchasing a couple tickets for a game or two this season.
So just to give you some background; my home is a house divided. Growing up in South Jersey, I always routed on my home town teams: Eagles, Phillies, Flyers, and the Sixers. However, when I was young my grandfather bought me a Dan Marino Dolphin's jersey back from one of his trips to Florida. Ever since then I have cheered on my Fins as my favorite NFL team. Of course, my wife who grew up outside of Buffalo is an ardent Bills fan. I went on some ticketing websites and it looked like it was going to cost roughly $100 a ticket (Dolphins v. Steelers) for the worst tickets in the stadium. With the way the economy is, I just couldn't justify dropping that kind of money for that experience.
So now some of you might be asking why am I reading this on a blog about soccer and the Philadelphia Union? Well, it's that time again. No, I'm not talking the stretch run for the Major League Soccer (MLS) to determine the playoff rankings, but rather those email and letters about season ticket renewal. Yes, it is time to determine whether to renew or not to renew. I have been a season ticket holder since year one, but as MLS continues to grow more games are being televised and ticket prices are still costly. So is the in-person experience worth it?
I think in the course of the four seasons, I might have missed two home games. So within a week of getting my email invoice I decided to renew for year five. Why? There is something about watching soccer in-person, especially at PPL Park. What I am paying for is the experience. My seats are in the corner (section 113) and have a beautiful view of the playing field, the bridge, the river, the score board and of course the River End with all those Sons of Bens chatting, singing, and jumping up and down. While my seat is not cushioned, I truly feel that I have one of the best seats in the stadium and it's not just me. I've talked to several other season ticket holders from the other sections who feel the same way about their seats. That's because I honestly believe there isn't a bad seat in the whole stadium.
Of course there are some drawbacks. The biggest being the expense of attending. Not just the price of a ticket but the cost of concessions and anything purchased at venue. For the price of a beer at PPL Park, I can get a six pack at home but that is the same thing you would find at any professional sports venue. Weather is sometimes unpredictable but if you haven't been to a Union game in a down pouring rain you are missing out. And no, there is no free wifi and you can't rewind your DVR to get multiple replays. If the game isn't going well you can't switch over to a different one, but I rarely see the fans in my section checking email or talking on their phone. They are too busy partaking in the in the spectacle that is a home Union match.
In my opinion, one of the things that Major League Soccer has gotten right is the game day experience. In none of the other professional sporting events do you have the excitement and passion that you see at a soccer match. How often have you seen a tifo at a baseball, hockey, or basketball game? What about instruments, smoke, and streamers? During pregame you can either hang out with the Sons of Ben at their tailgate extravaganza, Party on the Plaza, or chill with friends and family in the nearby lots. Even working on this article has me stoked about attending the next Union home match.
The long and the short of it is - if you have never been to a Union soccer match at PPL Park I would recommend it. Come out, see the team, feel the excitement and join in the festivities. Make the choice for yourself - as for me there is nothing better than spending the day at the Park with other passionate soccer fans cheering on my team. Come and join me... I'll see you on September 14th!