Please view this as a discussion piece. I wanted to get my ideas out there in a composed form. I don’t have any answers, but it is good to get outside your own head.
Being a supporter of the Union means different things to different people. To some, it means standing for 90 minutes in The River End, singing your heart out, and having a good time with friends. There is also the hybrid supporter that doesn’t sit in The River End, but still participates in away matches and other supporters group activities. For others, it means intently watching the game from the stands, analyzing the play, and then leaving the game only to write a post on some rinky-dink blog that no one cares about. Finally, for some, it’s merely a form of entertainment that you occasionally attend in order to unwind with some friends over a couple of adult beverages. None of these are wrong. Each person in these scenarios view themselves as a supporter of the Philadelphia Union and want them to succeed. Trying to use a measuring stick to show how large your supporting appendage is leaves a sticky residue over the faces of everyone and leaves us all feeling disgusting. We are all supporters.
With that out of the way, let’s look at the practical side. From a business standpoint, we are all consumers of sports entertainment. We spend our hard earned money in order to hang out with friends and watch a team that we love. Everyone wants their team to be competitive and fun to watch. It is also totally understandable that a sports team will have its shit years. However, what is a fan to do when their team has been consistently underperforming since it’s inception? How does a fan show the business minded front office that it is tired of the mediocrity and demands better? At the end of the day, cash rules everything around the game, whether people like it or not. There are only a few options that a fan has. They could all show up and very loudly boo at the end of the game, but that still shows that no matter how bad the situation is with the front office, that the fans will like it and ask for another. They can protest in some form or other (Big up to the Sak coffin!), they can stop buying merchandise and food, or they can just stop coming and show those lovely empty seats.
I did some math in order to gauge how much money I’ve invested into the team. My seats are above the corner price range, but under the midfield level. My husband and I have had the seats since 2011. These seats have a history for us and hold meaning, as odd as that sounds. I won’t divulge the exact dollar amount, but just for the season tickets and parking alone, we have put towards this team an eye popping amount. This, of course, does not include buying the latest jersey every season, other merchandise, or the overpriced food and beverages at the concession stands. Bottom line is that fans are investing their hard earned money into a professional sports team. At a certain point, you do expect a return on your investment in the form of competitiveness. I am not the only one in this situation. Do a quick inventory of your own personal investment. You may be surprised by the number and a little disheartened given the team’s mediocrity over the years. Does this team deserve your blind devotion in the form of monetary investment?
Many of my friends now enjoy hanging out with their friends more than the game itself. Fair point. What else is there to enjoy when it’s not the on-field play and results? However, you can always get your friends together, head to your local pub, and enjoy reasonably price food and beverage while watching the team you love on the television. That would show Mr. Sugarman empty seats, as well as not give the FO even more money that they don’t deserve from concession sales and team merchandise.
At the end of the day, I am unsure what to do. This is the great internal struggle that I and so many others face. I’ve seen season ticket holders not renew because of performance, I’ve seen friends stop going to games, I’ve also seen friends who refuse to protest in any form for the sake of the players on the field. As for myself, this is the very first time I’ve actively considered not renewing for next season. I can always pick and choose the games I go to, while not investing the amount I was before. I believe that the front office needs to hear this loud and clear. I am not alone in this sentiment. There is only so much that a person can take. Everyone has their breaking point. The money that I spend on season tickets, at this time, could be better spent on others things. It certainly isn’t well spent on a team that has been regressing. Nor is it well spent on a front office that refuses to truly spend money on an experienced coach or seriously fill the needs that the team needs to be competitive with the rest of the league.
I’m just tired. I’m excited to see my friends at the games, but I’m no longer excited to see the game itself. I’m at the point where too much disappointment and anger has finally worn me down. I’m certainly not telling anyone what to do. It is all up to the individual and I don’t judge anyone. This is a personal choice. I just want Jay Sugarman to finally get serious about building a team that other MLS teams will get nervous playing, or sell the team to someone that is willing to invest large. Also, Mr. Sugarman, if you do fire the current coach, please do not simply keep an assistant coach just because you want to be cheap. It is time that we bring in a coach with some degree of pedigree and experience. The time for developing a coach is over. It’s time to be serious.
As the great Olmec once said, “The choices are yours and yours alone.” Good luck!