At this point, as Game 3 of the World Series is upon us, we are all on the Phillies bandwagon. As we should be. We are wearing our gear. We are playing the song. We are getting beaned up. It feels great. Enough has been said on all corners of the internet about bandwagon fans so we won’t debate the fundamentals here (for the record: bandwagon fans are good and should be encouraged without exception), but we are going to do one thing: Drag your ass on to the Philadelphia Union bandwagon. If you haven’t hopped on already, that is.
The Union are headed to Los Angeles to take on LAFC in the MLS Cup Final after a thrilling come-from-behind victory over defending Champs NYCFC at Subaru Park in Chester last night and the vibes surrounding the team are incredible.
Here’s a bit of background for you, just in case you need it: The Union were one of the best teams in the league for the entire season, finishing at the top of the Eastern Conference ending up with a top-of-the-league plus-46 goal differential on the year. Goaltender and alternate captain Andre Blake was named Goalkeeper of the Year for the third time and centreback Jakob Glesnes is the MLS Defender of the Year. But this isn’t a team of individual stars; the Union’s philosophy for years has been one that puts team above player. Just like the Flyers. And like the Flyers the Union aim to be a very “Philadelphia” team. Here’s what Head Coach (coach of the year, by the way) Jim Curtin had to say after last night’s win:
“We have players who are willing to grind and fight,” Curtin said. “We’re not fun to play against. You can call it what you want: attractive, entertaining, you can hate it, you can call it too physical, whatever you want, we don’t really care. We know the opponent does not like playing against us and it wears them down. Full credit to our players.”
If you’ve not been to an MLS game, you’re missing out on a heck of a good time. For the money, there is no better sports experience to be had in Philadelphia. And why is it so good? There are a lot of reasons, of course, but there are a few of them that NHL fans and teams could adopt that, in this writer’s opinion, would make things way more fun for all of us.
Imagine, if you will, all of the most rabid Flyers fans you know. The lifers. The ones who live and die by the team. The ones who yell “SHOOOOOT!” the loudest at every game. Now, put them all in one section, let’s say directly behind the goal where the Flyers shoot twice. And then give them flags. And a couple of drums. And imagine them, for the full 60 minutes, cheering for the Flyers like every game is Game 7 in the playoffs. Singing songs, jeering at opposing players, heckling the away team’s fans. Having that kind of energy at every home game would create an amazing atmosphere, one where even casual fans at their first hockey game will be almost literally infected by the passion of these dedicated supporters. Remember the years when The Farg was a nightmare for other teams? It’d be like that. All the time. It would be awesome.
Part of this Supporters Club culture includes a march to their section, through the concourse, before the game. This piggy-backs on what is described above but it’s so neat that it deserves its own mention, I think. They make their way through the concourse, past folks in line for concessions, or heading to the restroom, or whatever other mundane thing fans do before the start of the game. They’re singing and carrying flags and so before you even get to your seat, you’re hyped up for the game you’re about to see. The in-game experience is really all about setting a vibe for the fans and having experienced it now, I can say that clubs like the Sons of Ben set those vibes better than any pregame presentation I’ve seen at an NHL hockey game.
Away fans section
Just like hockey fans, MLS fans travel to see their team. But unlike at an NHL arena, they have their own section in which to post up and try to make their presence known. In hockey, particularly in the playoffs, teams will try to restrict ticket sales to away fans or generally make it difficult for them to attend a game but here it is celebrated. It’s not so much that the away fans are made to sit in their own section, it’s that they get to sit in their own section. It’s not a very large section — at Subaru Park, anyway — but it always seems to be filled. It gives those fans some comradery and a bit of support, a place where they can loudly and obnoxiously cheer for their team (as they should!) while being away from the... let’s say the “raucous” response they might get from the home team.
That’s it. The scarves are cool, it looks neat when the whole arena is holding them up, and there are lots of them to choose from. Give us scarves, hockey teams.
The MLS Cup Final will air on Fox this Saturday, November 5 at 4:00 p.m. local time. So you’ve got a few days to grab a Union tee shirt and climb aboard. Head on over to our Union site, Brotherly Game, to learn a bit more about the boys. It’ll be fun, we promise.