With a Philadelphia Union home game finally falling on Father’s Day, I decided to take a look at how this team develops and strengthens the relationship between children and their dads.
It’s a common practice for professional sports teams to put out the annual player’s montage of how their fathers affected their lives in some way. It’s become a relatable way to connect the athletes and the thousands of fans they bring to their feet in excitement and jubilation. But today, on Father’s Day, I find myself reflecting on how the Philadelphia Union has affected the connection I have with my own father.
As someone born in the area, my father was instrumental in my sports-filled upbringing with the obvious and only option being teams who played in Philadelphia. Now in the early stages of adulthood, I sit here reminded of the fact that I was the one who helped my father become a fan of this young and rising franchise. It was that connection forged over 20 years ago as a boy that now almost feels equal in appreciation and admiration all because I brought him up in something I had loved for many years.
My story is one of many within the Philadelphia Union fan base (and probably a lot more long-winded so I’ll spare you all for now). But the resounding bonds that have formed between kids and the men who raised them are unique in substance yet equally special. Being a dad is no easy task as many sacrifices have to be made for the sake of one’s family.
The responsibilities of fatherhood outweigh almost anything in life as a man. To that extent, supporting a soccer team like the Philadelphia Union and raising a family can somewhat present a level of difficulty for those who have embraced the culture as a genuine part of themselves. The fatherly strength to turn ones’ passion into a proactive ingredient of molding their child’s future is evident within this fan base; like one Union fan, in particular, Brian DeHaven:
"“I started going to ‘before the team’ Sons of Ben parties when I was single, but by the end of the first season I was married and a father. As my life became more serious and my free time dwindled I went to fewer and fewer games each season- now only a handful a year. However, each season I pick one game where my wife stays home and I bring both of my kids to see the Union. It is always one of the most fun days of the entire year for me and a favorite for all three of us. @BDeHaven616"
The simple fact that a professional soccer team can bring so much joy to one person is impressive in its own capacity. But for that joy to be so successfully passed down to one’s family really shows just how powerful the Philadelphia Union father really is. And not just strong, but creative in balancing being both a fan and a father as well. Take Mike Bonfanti for example, who used his family’s collective love of this team to reveal some big and exciting news:
"“Recently we found out we were having our third child, and I used our connection to the Union to let the kiddos know a new sibling was on the way. Mason opened a home jersey, Julia the classic gold change and a third bag held a Union onesie that the kids quickly figured out meant we were adding another child to the Bonfanti family.” @bonfantimike"
A unified family in a Union home seems to be the recipe for success for many families across the tri-state area. Dads alike are paving the way for future generations of Philadelphia fans who will explicitly remember these special moments that not only defined their childhood but the rest of their lives. Colin Campbell knows exactly how that feels as a longtime fan himself.
Philadelphia Union soccer has given families more than just something to talk about over dinner; it instills a level of passion and excitement so deep that being just fans simply isn’t enough for some. Ryan Shute’s family from Mullica Hill, NJ are an excellent example of what it means to take a common, mutual appreciation and turn it into something truly special:
"“Being at our seats is not just what makes me happy about going to Union games. Win, lose or draw, my dad and I always have a great time. But, I wouldn’t even have these seats if it wasn’t for him. I had just started up my Philadelphia Union-related YouTube channel (Talk DOOP with Ryan) where I do Union match previews and recaps. This year, we started a Twitter account for my show (@TalkDOOP).”"
Their combined efforts with their newly crafted platform in place and a vision in mind pushed them to pursue the challenge of winning the Philadelphia Union “Bedoya Box” Contest in 2016. And without the help of Ryan’s father, the resulting moment elaborated on below would’ve never happened:
"“The contest ended late in the summer and the winner was announced at the Union’s final regular season home game. We got invited to that game and we were announced as the winner. We were awarded season tickets for 2017 and if you watch the match recap from that game, you can see how happy I was. That night was one of the most memorable and exciting nights of my life.” @TalkDOOP"
While Ryan’s story is truly one that embodies the bond between father and son Union fans, he is only half of the goodness that is sentimentalism at its finest. His father Mike’s commitment to Philly soccer being a cornerstone of connecting with his son hits home on many levels:
"“I’m really proud of Ryan and how he has continued to do his match previews in advance of every match and occasional recaps after home wins. He is only 12 but he kind of treats it like a job…. Like me, Ryan enjoys a lot of sports, including baseball and basketball and we get to share a lot in those other sports too as I have helped coach some of his teams. He really loves soccer though and the Union really solidified that I think. Win or lose though, I know Ryan and I will have a great time and that’s the best part, spending time together with my kids.” @TheShuter"
A Philadelphia Union dad is one who stands by his children and only wants the happiness for them similar to what they felt that first time they stepped into Talen Energy Stadium (Or PPL Park… or Lincoln Financial Field). They embody the spirit of the true Philly fan while being respectable enough to control it slightly when the kids are around. But most importantly, they know how to balance it effectively and successfully. That’s what makes them such a special part of this Union organization.
With this showdown approaching against New York Red Bulls and an all-time record of 0-4-0 on Father’s Day weekend MLS match-ups, I believe it’s due time for a result dad can be proud of. Emotions will be high both on the field and in the stands on Sunday. But no matter what the result, the bond between young and old Union fans alike will still be there on the long car rides home from Talen Energy Stadium.
Also, Happy Father’s Day Paul Sr. This is technically a work related project, but also my gift to you; the most supportive and caring dad a young man could ever hope to have.
(Relax, the box and card is hidden in the laundry room).