In the first two parts of our What if Philadelphia had been an MLS Original series, we introduced you to the Ringers, their logo, their uniforms and then the players on the inaugural roster.
In part three, we’re going to talk a little bit about the game day experience at Franklin Field. AJ kicks us off describing some of the things that went on during game days and the theme nights from the first season.
AskJeeves, Video Games and ‘Show Me the Money!’
On game days, the plaza outside of the stadium had many tables for fans to explore. One was the AskJeeves table where you could ask any question and the world wide web expert would type it into the system to retrieve an answer.
The N64 demo table was especially popular with the youth. Games such as Goldeneye and Mario Kart often caused parents to fight with their child to get them to come into the stadium.
There was also the Jerry Maguire cutout where fans could put their face into the movie. However, instead of Tom Cruise as the agent, Jay Sugarman put himself (to show he is one with the people), which prompted a lot of screaming of the famous line, “Show me the money!”
While there was a song around in the early ‘90s that made quite a splash in the UK called “Doop” and performed by the Dutch eurodance group Doop, the song we as Union fans love to sing after goals wasn’t written until the early 2000s. The aforementioned Doop was popular in the UK but it’s more likely a song like “Macarena” would have been chosen.
For as popular and recognizable as the song is, inserting the phrase “goal macarena” instead of “hey macarena” proved to be a bit of a disaster because 1. People kept forgetting to say goal instead of hey and 2. It was a lot of waiting around and butchered attempts at singing along in between “gooooaaaal macarena.”
Give it a try yourself with the karaoke track below. It’s not so easy is it?
“Macarena” disappeared after being played just once in the first half of the first game after Earnie Stewart’s successful PK. The replacement, TLC’s “Shoop,” stuck until the rebrand to the Union and move to Chester in 2010. That’s when Scooter’s “Maria (I Like It Loud)” became the song we love to sing and can’t wait to sing again (whenever that is).
Speaking of karaoke....
Everytime the ball went out for a corner, fans would see lyrics to popular songs on the big screen. Nothing got the players more pumped than the fans quickly singing the Spice Girls hit, “Wannabe.”
‘90s Sitcom Night
Sitcom hits such as Seinfeld, Friends, Frasier, Home Improvement and more were expected to be represented. However, people just dressed like normal people and it was hard to tell who was attending the game as a sitcom character or just a regular person to watch soccer. There were no puffy shirts in attendance.
Fresh Prince of Bel Air Night
The most anticipated night of the year was Fresh Prince Night. Fans were let down when Will Smith did not show up due to reshooting scenes from Independence Day. The game was also halted in the 32nd minute as players were annoyed with hearing the Fresh Prince theme song sung over 32 times.
To celebrate the newest Disney movie, 101 Dalmations were released around the stadium in hopes of increasing awareness of dog adoptions. Several dogs found their way onto the field causing many stoppages in play in the first half. The teams agreed that for the second half they would not stop play but would just play around them.
After seeing the Phillies have success with Bat Day, the Ringers sponsored Ball Day where every fan under 18 received their own mini soccer ball. This caused confusion among fans when seeing ball boys toss the ball to players for throw ins, fans thought they could toss their mini balls to players when the game ball went out of bounds. Several players had to be subbed off for concussion after being pelted with mini soccer balls. Reading United later adopted a much safer version of this and to this day bring kids down on the field at halftime to toss squishy balls at their mascot.
For the first few home games, the first 500 fans age 12 and under to the stadium received a commemorative bell that they were then asked to ring during key moments in the game. The idea came from the communications director at the time, who attended some Columbus Clippers games while he was in college at Ohio State. Instead of “Columbus Clippers Ring Your Bell,” it was “Ring for the Ringers, Philadelphia.”
The Ringers hosted the Rapids in the first game of the season and played to an announced attendance of 37,100 at the 52k-seat stadium on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania.
After the teams traded goals in the first half, chances were far and few between until a couple of local guys made it a dream debut off the bench. Philly native and Temple grad Andrew Craig played a cross to Richie Graham, who was able to redirect the ball past Rapids keeper Dusty Hudock. A late addition to the squad after an injury and some issues with paperwork opened a spot for another attacker, the York native, Dartmouth grad and future minority owner of the Union delivered the winner with his first touch in the game.
We Were There
I (Matt) didn’t attend my first MLS game until 1999 when I saw a Chicago Fire game at Soldier Field, but in this exercise I imagine I may have been able to convince my dad to go to go to the first Ringers game because it was at Franklin Field and he has always had a thing for old stadiums. He once took me to a La Salle basketball game at the Civic Center simply because he had never been.
I first met AJ and Luke in person last season in the concourse before a Union game so in this scenario I’ll say I met them waiting in line to get nachos. In reality my dad would have never bought me nachos because he never bought any food at games (too expensive!) and he probably would have been off somewhere taking photos or randomly becoming best friends with some guy who overheard him purposely loud talking about how great Camden Yards was or incredible it was to be at the game where Ripken broke Lou Gehrig’s record, etc. AJ and Luke were also quite young then, but who cares. We met that day and after hitting off hatched a plan to start our own MLS media empire. I would edit the Ringers fanzine and they would host a public access TV show called...The Shoopy Brothers.