A small tear formed in the corner of my eye last Sunday afternoon as I watched a team fromJapannutmeg my heart and end our USWNT’s dreams of World Cup glory. I did not want to let the pressure get to me so I fought back the tears, made myself watch another country hoist the gold trophy, turned off the television in disgust and headed out to watch the Union play an away match against the New England Revolution with a select few Illegitimate friends. You can never have too much football…
My passion for football started twenty-three years ago when I was seven years old playing in an intramural league for my home town in New Jersey. On an autumn morning in 1988, we walked onto the field as young outsiders to the game and left as united allies with a common goal. The thrill of passing, dribbling, shooting, scoring and being with my teammates gave me such satisfaction that I continued to play through high school, college and even today in a men’s league in West Chester and for a coed team at YSC Sports in Wayne, PA. My wife recognizes my passion and purchased season tickets for the Unionlast year and I can honestly say that my enthusiasm was infectious because now, she too is enamored with the sport. My first thought upon hearing that I was a season ticket holder for the beautiful game was if I was going to find others at the game that were as passionate fans as I have grown to become over the years. It did not take me long to find the Illegitimates, in fact we found each other.
Tailgating in Lot C one spring afternoon before a game early last season, my wife and I parked our car near the old electrical building near the water front. We were surprised to see a motley crew singing and chanting and having a good time. The smell of burning charcoal lingered in my nostrils as voices muffled out the sound of stitched thirty-two paneled waterproofed leather and plastic balls skidding across the pavement. Timid but steadfast, I got my tailgating gear out of the car and was approached by several individuals who were all wearing Union gear. It did not take long for us to make friends, talk about the upcoming match and share stories of where we thought the game of football was headed. The power of football brought complete strangers together, again.
It took me until the end of last season to comprehend the magnitude of the role that the Illegitimates play both on and off the field. While they cast shadows of doubt over the winning hopes of opposing fans, they shine rays of light upon numerous local Chesteraid organizations and act as a spotlight for Sheanon Williams Charity, Miles4MJ. As our compatriot Benjamin Franklin said,”Do not anticipate trouble, or worry about what may never happen. Keep in the sunlight.” From the Section 133 Scarf Sale to the Philadelphia Union v. Portland Timbers Miles 4 MJ Charity Tailgate, The Illegitimates rise above the rest. These men and women reap the benefits of attending Union matches and sew seeds of charitable good deeds. I feel honored to call them my friends, my teammates… in short a perfectUnion.
In conclusion, I am reminded of my brief stint as an English major in college when I had to read and interpret Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The final lines of the play are spoken by Puck, who Shakespeare describes as a “merry wanderer of the night.” Puck addresses his audience and says “If we shadows have offended, Think but this, and all is mended, That you have but slumber’d here While these visions did appear. And this weak and idle theme, No more yielding but a dream, Gentles, do not reprehend: if you pardon, we will mend.” The Illegitimates (shadows) mend and close the gap between our glorious fans, the mischievous opposing fans, the gallant Sons of Ben and our players in order to show a true united passion for the game. People will continue to attend matches at PPL Park not only for the talent of the players but for the chance to meet other fans who dream of scoring breakaway goals in the ninety-second minute in front of your hometown crowd. As Puck alleged to his audience, if you don’t actively enjoy the game, the fans, the atmosphere, the Illegitimates, just assume that you have been simply dreaming throughout ninety minutes of pure passion and glory.
By: Doug Dryer