Why Philly's new soccer team has a great new name.
The fans wanted the new Philly MLS team to be called the Philadelphia Laser Rocket Cocks. Or Philadelphia Team Compassion. Or Philadelphia Zombie Sharks.
The Philly franchise management, however, were having none of that nonsense. They offered up a much plainer menu:
• AC Philadelphia
• SC Philadelphia
• Philadelphia Union
• Philadelphia City
Fans were invited to vote, and late last week (despite write-in votes from non-Philadelphians for Philadelphia Bastards, the Brother Lovers and the Cracked Bell Ends FC) the news leaked that Philadelphia’s first top-flight team playing a truly international sport in over 29 years will be called … the Philadelphia Union.
Opinions will be divided. There are some U.S. soccer fans who revere the strange and uniquely American tradition of naming teams after local foodstuffs, musical genres, predators, planets, Dungeons and Dragons characters or soft drink brands (see New York Red Bulls, the LA Galaxy and the Kansas City Wizards) and who see any tendency towards non-showbizzy nomenclature as fawning at the loafer-shod feet of that vilest of all soccer fans, the infamous Eurosnob.
They will not like Union. Nor does PW online editor Joel Mathis who emailed feverishly demanding I hack out 500 angry words stating why the Union sucks utterly.
I can’t. Because it doesn’t. My first choice was Philadelphia City. But the more I think about Union, the more I like it.
Union references our radical revolutionary past—the Philadelphia of those great revolutionary Englishmen Thomas Paine and Benjamin Lay, the city where the phrase “ever more perfect union” was first committed to paper.
Nearly a century later “Union” had another, equally progressive meaning; it described the Northern armies that—after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation—fought what can only be described as a war of liberation.
And then of course there’s Philadelphia’s proud involvement in the labor union movement, protecting working and middle class Americans from the never-ending class war waged on them by the rich.
So the Philadelphia Union ticks the progressive box in the three great ideological struggles in American history: democracy vs. monarchy, capitalism vs. feudalism and labor vs. capital. Could we have chosen more righteous name? (And hopefully we’ll be later be able to develop bitter rivalries with yet-to-be-formed blue state franchises called the Scabs, the Confederates and the Royalists.)
Plus soccer fans, more than fans of any other sport, have a rich tradition of writing and adapting (usually wonderfully vulgar) songs.
The amazing Philly fan group the Sons of Ben (who must take a huge slice of the credit for bringing the world’s most beautiful game back to Philadelphia), have already proved adept at this, and already have more songs and chants than all the other Philly franchises combined.
Letters to the Editor