The moments that create traditions

(Published by The Philly Soccer Page on July 12, 2012)

It’s moments like these.

That one moment when something remarkable happens and sport transcends the mundane.

The deck is stacked against you.

You fight back.

You take it down to the last minutes.

And in one moment of simple, sudden brilliance, you win it.

A spontaneous, mass explosion of joy occurs.

There is nothing contrived. No clever dance, no elaborate plan, no pretentiousness or selfishness.

Just simple, unfiltered, raw fire unleashed in a rapturous moment of joy shared with those who appreciate it like no others could: Your team’s fans.

This is Jack McInerney’s game-winner for Philadelphia Union on Sunday night.

This is the best goal celebration ever involving Philadelphia Union.

This is how traditions start.

You don’t start a tradition by telling fans one day, “As is our tradition, you the fans will sing tonight’s national anthem.” People don’t need to be informed what their traditions are. They created them. They already know what their traditions are, what their traditions aren’t, and which ones were copped off Portland.

You don’t need to imitate European soccer fans or feel inferior because you don’t have as many original chants or songs or their storied heritage. This is the American game. Own it. Make it yours.

And you don’t need to apologize for who you are. Have a drink with the Bearfight Brigade before the game. Tailgate like it was an American football game. Crack Peter Nowak jokes for years after people have forgotten him. This is Philadelphia, not London. Make your own traditions. Let them emerge with time.

Portland has their chainsaw and logs. It fits them: Quirky, earthy, locally inspired, and decades old. That’s a real tradition.

Seattle has their faux Euro thing going. Their pregame march through downtown Seattle shows Sounders games are THE thing to do in Soccer City, USA. Score one for liberal America.

D.C. fans perform halftime drum battles and toss their beers in the air after goals. Two unique traditions, and one seems appropriate for a city known for wasting money.

Philadelphia is something different. Always has been, always will be.

It’s not a place for big talk. Philly’s real, gritty, a little surly, and big on its history. There’s an inferiority complex with New York. Philly fans get angrier than most at their teams, but when something special happens, they cut loose like nobody’s business. (Remember the overturned cars after the Phillies won the World Series?) You have no idea where the emotion is going to go. You just know it will go. It’s simple, chaotic and explosive. You can’t control it. It’s why Philly fans are the most notorious in America.

Union fans did something with this trait that surprised outsiders. They used their powers for good instead of evil. (So much for comic book caricatures of Philly fans.) That raw intensity endemic to Philly fans is what created the Union. Sure, MLS had to have an interest. Investors had to step up. Politicians had to make much-debated decisions about building a stadium. But none of that succeeds without the Sons of Ben fighting for a team that didn’t exist. No Major League Soccer team owes its existence to its fans as much as the Union.

So it seems right that the best goal celebration ever involving Philadelphia Union wasn’t a choreographed performance or dance. It was a sheer, unadulterated explosion of joy shared with the fans, and nothing more, initiated by a guy who perfectly encapsulates Philly with his bluntness, fearlessness, and chip on his shoulder.

Maybe Jack’s jump becomes a tradition like the Lambeau Leap that probably inspired it. Maybe not. It doesn’t matter.

You see, it was true. It was shared. It was pure Philly.

That’s how every Union tradition should be.