Broader Taste of Philly Sports

Obviously lately I’ve been mulling over many life decisions. But even if I do leave Philadelphia some day after 12-plus years of living here, I will always fondly remember Philadelphia sports teams.

My parents and us have attended Phillies games for all we can remember. I’ve yet to attend a Sixers or Eagles game, and I know that the Eagles fans are the most rowdiest. But this year I attended a Flyers game and a Union (professional soccer) game for the very first time. And I thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere although both teams winning their games helped.

Baseball games, at least here in Philly, are way more affordable and until recently, money was tight, so any other sport would have been out of the question for me. This year, the Flyers ticket ran me $49 and the Union $42, so they are games I’d go to once a season but more often it would get quite expensive!

I went to a Flyers game on Easter, the last Sunday in March. They were playing against the Capitals, and given the intense rivalry, the atmosphere was quite the scorcher. There’s just something about the fighting in hockey that I like, I’m not sure what it is, I cannot place it but it’s just part of the entertainment value.

I had gone with two other friends both of whom were hockey lovers. We got into the main lobby to be greeted by the Easter bunny.

1 easter bunny

Having a little extra time, I wandered about the concourse checking what the food options were, most options were traditional Philly-style cuisine. Chickie and Pete’s, Primo Hoagies, cheesesteak vendors.

2 intro

During the introduction of the players, I got a pure taste of Philly aggression, angst, whatever you wanted to call it. Every player from the opposition that the announcer called, the crowd followed up with the word “SUCKS!” after it, so it would sound like (for example) “Mike Green….SUCKS!” Haven’t heard anything like that in any of the Phillies games I’ve attended over the years, but recently I was informed this had changed too.

5 horseman

I also got my fair share of crazy fans. (See above.)

The game itself was one that typically plagued the die-hard Philly fan, the usual cynicism of Philly falling behind (at one point where Philly was down 4-2) but somehow with just seconds left, we tied it up at 4-4 to send the game into overtime.

4 tied up

This was not however before witnessing a brutal fight from Voracek, who normally isn’t a fighter (unlike say, Scott Hartnell) which left a bloodied opponent leaving the ice after his shirt was pulled over him, leaving him unable to see during the fight. Wells Fargo is OUR house!

6 win

The Flyers managed to score in overtime, capping an awesome game, and considering it was Easter, it was quite impressive it was still a packed house.

A few weeks ago, I attended my first Union game. I’ve been a longtime Chelsea supporter (since 1991, when finances were shaky and were still in the Second Division), but with more than a year until my vacation to Europe, I was stoked to finally realize that someone in my group of friends was also a soccer fan like I was and saw Union games on a relatively regular basis. (I had dated another guy in 2010 who was actually a member of the supporters’ group Sons of Ben, but our relationship was primarily in the offseason…then he graduated from medical school and left the city.)

Sons of Ben

I went to my first Union game two weeks ago with my university’s alumni club. The seats were fantastic as far as I knew, and before we entered PPL Park, we rounded the area to the vendor tent, as several businesses were offering food samples and promoting their wares. After awhile, we got our tickets and promptly took our seats. This game, which was broadcast on ESPN, saw the Union take on the New York Red Bulls, who were heavily favoured to win, with the likes of French elite footballer Thierry Henry leading the line as captain.

anthem

thierryhenry

Within six minutes, the Union struck and about twenty later, the Bulls went down to ten men courtesy of a cynical two-footed challenge.

explusion

After this, the floodgates opened. Some of my friends were watching the game intently whilst others were rather bored and texting on their phones. As for me, I measured this against Chelsea games, and in my eyes, the game moved slower than it would in Europe, but at the same time, I still had fun. I knew the rules, I understood what was going on. And yes, every time the Union scored, I was introduced to the “doop” the cheer that Union supporters cried every time they scored.

Cynically, I knew the Union had never been a great team or anywhere good in recent years and I expected a slaughter but that night I was happy to be wrong. Not only did we “doop” once, but did so three times in a shutout.

Full time

The Sons of Ben also drove the atmosphere insanely as my one friend Cory commented on how much of a workout they were getting, jumping up and down, beating drums, running flares, and the like…for all 90 minutes. If the Union had been losing though, the regulars mentioned to us that they would turn against the referee and hurl insults at him, or even worse, sometimes turn against the team. Yikes.

But that night, Union were victorious and it was another night out with my friends, and this summer was really the first time I had gotten out more than ever. It’s definitely making me appreciate Philly sports and the passion that drives supporters of all types in this city. And it’s something I won’t forget anytime soon if and when I do leave, and for those I know, I know they do miss the passion of Philly sports.

As I’ve been told time and again, “it’s just not the same.”

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