I sat in section 111, dumbfounded after I just watched NYFC score from midfield. I thank the Lord I had sent my son and his friend down earlier to lineup for autographs. I knew it was only a matter of time before I had to face reality. I had to teach my 12 year old son John that the Union will not always be the best team. And that we should still stick by our home team no matter what. But then my cell phone started with messages from some of my friends. Chris, Scott, Staci, and even my 8 year old at home were reminding me of how we haven’t won yet. And yes, I say we because I am Union. I made that pledge years ago, when I first stepped foot into PPL stadium.
I made my pledge to stick through the thick and thin with this team. That this would be the team that my son would tell his sons about. How he would smile telling them how much fun we had down there, and how we danced on the field when they won their first MLS Cup. But after that goal, I knew my job just became a lot tougher. And I may bend, but I will not break.
I sat there for a minute, collecting my thoughts, and walked down to meet him. He already has the whole teams’ signatures, but he still loves going down and talking to the guys. And some of them actually remember who he is, which makes his heart grow 10x. As I stood there waiting for him, both Fabinho, and Pontius came over and shook my hand, offering their apologies for the team not winning, but both assured me that they aren’t giving up. As we said our goodbyes, we wished each other and our families a Happy Easter because at the end of the day, they are just 2 regular guys out there trying to make a living and celebrate the holidays like the rest of us.
John spotted me and came over. His first words; “Dad, did you see that last goal? That was ridiculous.” Yes John, you’re right, it was ridiculous.
As the ride home began I decided to try and break the ice with him. I knew he was upset that the Union lost again, but I needed him to re-assure him that everything was going to be alright. So I mustered up all my nerve and said “Tough loss huh?” He responded like any 12 year old would, with a “Yeah dad, we stink”.
So now I know I have my work cut out for me. I discussed with him how the team he plays on at Southern Chester County doesn’t stink, and have won some hardware. We looked at mistakes his teammakes, and we came up with a couple of faults. No communication, not executing the plays, not giving 100%, not picking each other up when one falls. But the strangest thing, not once did he mention that his coach needs to be replaced. I found that interesting since that seems to be every experts thought out here in the Tri-state area. So I asked him what his team does differently when they win, as opposed to when they lose. His response was perfect; they play as a team. And being a former coach, and now just a parent on the sidelines, I can hear the difference when his team is winning or losing. They communicate, they help each other execute the plays, and they pick each other up when they fall. And although I can’t fix how the Union plays, I will continue to support them, just like I support my son’s team.
I told him that the Union is just a slight bit off their game now, and it may be more than a slight bit, but I am teaching my son to stand when others fall. I will show him by my actions that we are going to turn this ship around. We are going to get back to winning shortly. And that we are going to dance on the field one day. I hope all the true fans are with us. But the Union has fallen, and we need to be there to pick them up. We need to communicate how we fell when they fail, as well as when they succeed. And they will succeed. I hope this is one of the times my son tells his sons about. He can tell them that we stood tall while others ran away. How we took the criticism, and never faltered. And as a Rocky Balboa once said,
“But it ain’t about how hard you hit; it’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward.”