For most Union supporters it has always been a bizarre fandom supporting their side.
The club itself has almost always aired a “red-headed” stepchild-like feel - something the supporters seem to relish in - while also falling victim to the “that’s so Union” supposition time, and time again. Making it difficult to enjoy any highs, when the lows continue to be so unbearable.
And yet, throughout, these supporters have been, and always will be, passionate about their support of the Union. Even during a global pandemic.
Shortly after the season was suspended back in March, a core group of supporters started hanging out on Friday nights in what has since been billed the Union Happy Hour.
We have a BRAND baby! Shoutout to @catrino93 for putting this together. Cheers to all of our happy hour guests and regulars. Can't wait to talk to you all tomorrow night! #DOOP pic.twitter.com/pBDTtRx8dY— Union Happy Hour (@HourUnion) June 4, 2020
As the name suggests, you’d probably think that this was just for Union supporters at first, so if you’re reading this, and you aren’t one, get that out of your head. This group, made up of people you’d normally find on any given match day in Chester, is more inviting than you could ever even imagine.
So, obviously, anyone is welcome, and they truly mean that; as they have supporters from other clubs, like Atlanta United and New York City FC, and players from other teams, like Fafa Picault of FC Dallas, join in on the fun.
Current players and retired players turned academy coaches have joined in on the excitement — Brenden Aaronson, Kai Wagner, Mark McKenzie, James Chambers and Fred to name a few.
Heck... they even got U.S. Soccer’s pantomime villain, Alexi Lalas, on.
However, one of the more impressive things about this group is that it often extends further than the United States. Crossing oceans in the process - specifically the Pacific Ocean, in one case. As one of the more frequent attendees, Dan Orlowitz, a sports writer for the Japan Times, joins almost every week for his morning coffee (it’s 8:30 a.m. when the call starts, in Japan).
The number of people who have joined this merry group has grown consistently in the period I myself have been attending. And with an intent to simply break the monotony of every-day life, it’s quite obvious that it should only continue to grow.
The @IcarusFCPHL Union Zoom Happy Hour jerseys are now available for preorder! $40 gets you a truly festive kit with all proceeds going to the Philly Bail Fund. Want one? Email your name, jersey number, size, address and PayPal to firstname.lastname@example.org by June 20th! #DOOP pic.twitter.com/a1HOXzeBv5— Union Happy Hour (@HourUnion) June 8, 2020
The growth and formalization of the group with a Twitter handle, a logo, etc. has also led to the creation of a soccer kit for the group, and it doesn’t even sound outrageous… yes I said a kit - ok maybe it is a little out there - but, I know a number of people that are definitely going to get one (myself included).
The Union fans behind organizing and setting up the sessions have felt the impact in their own lives of being able to connect with like-minded people during challenging times.
“It showed me that I wasn’t alone with how emotionally attached we are to each other,” Heather Reppert said.
Added Jared Nisly: “I feel extremely vindicated that I’ve helped create something that people look forward to and is a highlight of the week for many.”
I personally think that it’s groups, and friends, like these, that will get us through anything, even a period of time that has seen our nation hurt by some of the most significant events of our lifetime, while almost certainly taking us toward a better future.
But for the time being, it is kind of nice to share a drink with someone other than my roommate... sorry Chris.
Have you attended one of the Union Happy Hour Zoom sessions? What did you think? What other ways have you stay connected with fellow soccer/Union fans?