Some people, especially in the local mainstream media, are really missing out on embracing and enjoying the Union. Fact is, the Union is a great product and isn't missing those who choose to ignore it.
In Wednesday's edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer Sports section, the Page Two crew once again made itself busy through an email discussion called "You Talkin' To Me?" A quaint little way for the editorial staff to cover space, "Talkin'" is not a high standard of professional journalism. To be totally honest, it isn't even up to the standards of Page Two itself. Fashioned as an email discussion amongst three members of the Inquirer staff, which nowadays typically consists of John Gonzalez (Gonzo), Frank Fitzpatrick and Ashley Fox. In the early days of this feature, Bob Brookover and some of the other long time sports journalists took part in the email chain. By now, no one of particular consequence (although Fox has grown quite nicely into her role) takes part in the farce of a feature. The topics are not serious enough to be considered quality sports journalism, or journalism at all, and the emails are clearly in the tone of friends joking with friends.
Wednesday's email chain was interesting for once but not for a decent reason at all. Right off the bat the average sports fan realizes the tongue in cheek nature of the column just simply due to the topic de jour. "Join this caravan for ballpark food" is not a headline that screams Pulitzer Prize to anyone or even professional journalism for that matter. It would be innocent enough in a high school sports section once the gist of the story stream is read. The main idea of the email conversation was to discuss how the Reading Phillies recently opened an all-you-can-eat section of its stadium. For some reason, probably only known to himself, Gonzo decided to make fun of the Union after commenting that the Sixers already an all-you-can-eat section of the Wells Fargo Center.
From: Gonzalez, John
To: Fox, Ashley; Fitzpatrick, Frank
Subject: Seconds (and thirds and fourths)
The Sixers already have a stuff-yourself ticket package. It's one of the few things the team has done right. I think all sports franchises should do the same. Unlimited access to the buffet might get to me to a Union game. Maybe.
Frank Fitzpatrick, the old curmudgeon that he is (and I say that with all the love from the bottom of my heart), decide to join in on the "fun":
From: Fitzpatrick, Frank
To: Fox, Ashley; Gonzalez, John
Subject: Seconds (and thirds and fourths)
If I'm going to a soccer game, I'll need Kobe steak - though that might be better suited to an NBA game.
Bravo, Gonzo and Fitzpatrick, for being stereotypically closed minded to the beautiful game. People like you don't deserve to partake in the wonderful joys that lovers of the sport find in watching a team like the Union. Remember back in the early 1960's when some guy named Ed Snider tried to bring a sport called "hockey" into Philadelphia? Back then it was said that Philadelphia would never take to this new sport and that the newly created franchise, the Philadelphia Flyers, would fail. After two Stanley Cups and various Cup runs, the Flyers are one of the most successful franchises in the city and have one of the most loyal fan bases in this city. After a couple of years of building after expansion, the Flyers grew into a champion. Sound like the path of any other team in the city? The Flyers had a core group that was loved by the city of Philadelphia. Sebastian Le Toux, Danny Mwanga, Jack McInerney, Shea Salinas and company should provide the city with yet another group of young up and comers to start an infatuation over. Every team in this fair city was an expansion team at some point and every single one has had an amazing following to back it up as it became successful - some of them so far as having even a cult-like status. The Union has been able to nearly sell out it's 18,000 plus person stadium even though it is in the midst of a "losing" expansion season. The city isn't adopting this team at all, eh Gonzo and Fitzpatrick? I guess about 17,500 people a game are disappointed they only got to see a great game of soccer instead of forcing food down their throats.
It would be one thing for someone to say, "I've tried to get into soccer. I've spent time with people who enjoy it, learned the rules and what the game is about but I just can't get into the sport." Fine, that is fair. Foreigners sometimes have trouble catching on with American Football or baseball for the same reasons. But just flat out saying, or using euphemisms for, that soccer and the Union aren't worth a second of your time truly irks me. I challenge Gonzo and Fitzpatrick to watch a Union game live and tell me they don't enjoy the game, the team and the atmopshere.
Are these not the same people that reveal in what was the 700 level? That claim to be the voices of the fans? The fact is that the Sons of Ben are the soccer and MLS version of the 700 level. Asshole cants are common, just as they are at Eagles home games. Other chants are creative and organized, as well, as was the one when the Sons of Ben inserted the opposing goalkeeper wife's first name into a chant, "YOU SUCK, XXXXX!" The much beloved Sign Guy of the Flyers has competitors in the Sons of Ben. At the DC United game in Washington D.C., the Sons of Ben brought a sign that read "NICE STADIUM... FOR US TO DOOP ON!" It's the ingenuity, creativity and organization that bring a sort of otherworldly atmosphere to the Union game that you enjoy at other Philly sports arenas. To truly give a feel for what impact the Sons of Ben have on the enjoyment of a game,I think it best to just quote myself from the article I did about the Manchester United friendly with the Union:
But when the stadium is filled with something like 30,000 United fans, don’t you think that the chants would have been heard? There wasn’t a single "Glory, glory Man United" going on. It was pitiful. All atmosphere provided at the stadium was through the core group of Union fans, the Sons of Ben. Sitting behind United’s goal for the second half, pretty much every discernable noise was emanating from the Sons of Ben. Though some of you may dislike some of the chants, if you weren’t at the stadium you won’t appreciate how important the Sons of Ben were to the overall enjoyment of the game.
The fact is Gonzo, Frank and the others who refuse to even give the Union a chance: you're missing out and we aren't missing out on you.