From Stranger to Supporter: Joining the SOBs (Part 1)
Photo Credit: Dan Gorman (via Flickr)
Part 1: Introduction
Like almost any good story, this one starts in a bar. The dark oak of the bar wonderfully complimented the last remnants of what, only moments ago, had once been a tall, proud pint of Guinness. The friend that I was with looked at me, a stunned expression creeping across his face, and said one word: “Soccer?” “Yeah,” I replied “what about it?” He went on to lecture me on the fact that I was both American and male; I suppose that he must have thought that I somehow forgot… I tried every argument from “90% of the world can’t be wrong” to “It has the action of hockey, the strategy of football, and the tactical requirements of a well-played game of chess; what’s not to love?” He then drained his beer, told me to go-ahead and piss my money away, and walked away shaking his head. The worst part about this whole exchange is that he was far from the first of my friends that I tried to convince to join me in purchasing Union season tickets.
I suppose I should go on to tell you a little about myself. I go by Sully to most, and like many of my newfound brethren, I always had a healthy respect for the game of soccer. The respect in my case, however, was always hampered from blossoming into anything more. Despite a number of efforts on my part, I’m just not the kind of guy who can conjure-up convictions to support a team a few thousand miles away and pack the pubs early on Saturday and Sunday mornings to see them play occasionally. I was a stranger to the game… a game that I was enamored with, but never having played, I actually learned most of the rules thanks to video games which I suppose is the next logical step in my story.
I was first made aware of MLS about 8 years ago, and I owe that awareness not to their marketing or to the ’94 World Cup; I actually first heard of MLS and became aware of its teams and players thanks to a video game called ESPN MLS: Extra Time. Having had an interest in the sport of soccer, I picked it up on a whim one day actually hoping to pick a team to start playing as and maybe one day start supporting. Unfortunately, much like dating, my early courtship with the MLS involved a lot of awkward fumbling around as I learned more about the game – its rules, its intricacies, its teams and players. At the time, from an outside perspective (and forgive me if you disagree for those of you who have been fans for several years), the MLS just wasn’t that approachable. As a result, my courtship at that time unfortunately didn’t exactly pan out; however, unbeknownst to me, the first seeds of what would become a beautiful relationship had been planted, and a course for future fandom had been set.
So it was that when I heard Philly was getting an MLS team, it immediately got my attention. I began gobbling up headlines, searching the internet for additional news or rumors whenever the chance presented itself. At this point, I stumbled onto a (then) small group of guys who seemed to be shouldering much of the load; their name – The Sons of Ben. I knew a little of supporters’ culture; despite my not having dedicated myself to a foreign team, I still watched games when I could. I appreciated the uniqueness of the fan interaction and involvement into the game. At the same time, though I’m not shy once I get to know you, I’m not exactly an extroverted person, so despite the allure, I didn’t see the Sons of Ben as the place for me. As it turns out, I happily couldn’t have been more wrong.
Check back for additional parts of this article as I continue to describe my journey from soccer stranger to supporter.
About the author: Sully is a card-carrying loud and proud SOB from Philadelphia who hopes to be a regularly contributing author to www.sonsofben.com . He is a Founding Member and sits in section 135 of PPL Park.