Over the past 5 years I have fallen more in love with Major League Soccer and the Philadelphia Union in particular, than I have for any other Philadelphia sports team. Sure, it's not perfect--the lack of transparency, the making rules up on the fly, the perception of the league by some around the world, and the perception of the sport within the United States--but I know I am a fan of something special. I am on the ground floor. Once soccer becomes much more popular than it already is in the United States (and it will in time), I will be able to tell my grandchildren that I was there cheering for our boys in blue before it was the "in" thing to do.
I was like a giddy kid on Christmas Eve on January 15, 2014. Never had I thought I would be able to attend a professional sporting draft.
The morning started off early on January 16 at the Philadelphia Field House around 9:00 am. The Sons of Ben were having a pre-Draft party to start the day off right. One thing you come to realize very quickly is that being a Philadelphia Union fan and participating in the events that are offered makes you feel like you a part of a very large and extended family. I walked into the bar not only to find many friends who are with me in the stands at every game cheering on the team, but also the Union's CEO Nick Sakiewicz and many of the starting players of the Union as well. No one is treated as above anyone else. We are all part of the same family--players and fans alike.
When we had all had our fill of enough breakfast beer, it was time to march into the Draft. This day was about the young players being drafted and we were going to show them our love and support.
I cannot adequately describe to you what it feels like to be a part of a Sons of Ben march. Everyone is holding their scarves up high, clapping, and singing in unison. All eyes of the convention center were on us as we slowly made our way up the steps and then the escalators to the main ballroom of the event. I guess this is the closest I can imagine a celebrity feels like as you look around and see people taking pictures and videos with their phones and cameras as we marched on by.
Shortly upon entering the ballroom, in came the New York Red Bull supporters. They brought a present--the Supporters Shield. This of course lead to chants of: "Show us your hub cap!" and " 18 Years--One plate, no cups!" This further added to the experience for everyone in attendance and gave an adequate portrayal of a match day experience between The Red Bulls and the Union.
Of course, there has been some written on our response to the Commissioner of the league, Don Garber. Whether you agree or not, this was the only forum we had as a fan base to show our displeasure with the news that had come out a few days earlier. It would be one of the rare times we could show him, in person, a form of protest. He knows we don't hate him, and to be quite honest, he was expecting it based upon his comments to the press later. As he said in his speech at the Draft which were directed to the Sons of Ben---we may not always agree, but we know that we are in this together to make the league the best that it can be.
We are passionate and will never apologize for that.
The overall feeling from the Union's picks is that people were pleased. We got one of the best players in the combine in the form of GK Andre Blake, a talented midfielder, and two defenders. We made sure to show them a warm welcome and that they were now "one of us."
There is still some time before the Union's historic 5th season begins. There are still more moves to be made. However, the future looks bright. The Draft made this fan completely excited and optimistic for what the 2014 season holds.
Jungite aut Perite