Philly's most passionate sports fans are nuts about a team that doesn't yet exist.
Sakiewicz is immediately drowned out by a chorus of boos, interspersed with shouts of "Sack the owner," "Snowballs" and "Don't wear a Santa suit." It's clear the SOB are proud of Philadelphia's fan heritage.
The Sons of Ben are what happens when America's best fan culture meets America's best fans.
But the prospect of Philly soccer fans clearly has some people terrified. Under the headline "THE WORST PHILLY SPORTS FANS OF ALL," self-styled "journalist and columnist" Stephen J. Silver blogged that the "preemptive fan club" Sons of Ben "already have quite a reputation already for hooliganism."
Nonsense--unless by hooliganism you mean getting under the skin of fans from other cities. The SOB have already proven hilariously adept at doing just that.
In June a convoy of cars carried some 30 SOB to a New York Red Bulls game. "We didn't even have enough people to rent a bus," says Dave Flagler.
This game saw the introduction of what's probably the best SOB chant to date. Fans of Red Bull (formerly the New York/New Jersey MetroStars) were predictably outraged by "We've won as many cups as you, Metro, Metro. We've won as many cups as you, and we don't have a team."
"The great thing is that they were playing Kansas City, but all their chants were directed against us--a bunch of guys who didn't even have a team," says Flagler. "It was kinda hilarious."
In January 2008, when the SOB attended the MLS draft, the announcement was made that the next franchise was probably going to Philly. New Yorkers present started screaming: "Give it to St. Louis! Give it to St. Louis!"
Of such stuff are great sporting rivalries made.
In November the SOB took two busloads--about 100 people--to the MLS cup final between the New England Revolution and the Houston Dynamo in Washington, D.C.
Now imagine you're a passionate New England fan attending the highlight game of the season, and smack dab in the middle of your section are 100 Philadelphians in Philly colors, banging a big Philly drum, singing Philly songs, chanting Philly chants, and generally being kinda up in your grill and, you know, Philadelphian.
Annoying, huh? Now imagine they start chanting "Buffalo Bills"--a non-too-subtle reference to the NFL team that, like the New England Revolution, have a heartbreaking habit of making it to the finals and then choking.
"They kind of lost it," says 34-year-old Bob Lindenmuth of Drexel Hill. "They were yelling, 'Why are you even here? You don't even have a team.'"
Lindenmuth posted a video of the appalled New Englanders on YouTube. It ends with an enraged Revolution fan trying to claw the camera out of his hands.
The Revolution fans on one side of the SOB started throwing missiles, including, says Dave Flagler, "full open bottles of Gatorade." These mostly missed the SOB and hit the New England fans on the other side, who responded by also throwing bottles.
"After the game, which of course New England lost, this middle-aged woman marched up to us," says Bob Lindenmuth. "She said, 'You people are a disgrace. A disgrace to soccer. A disgrace to Philadelphia. A bunch of losers.'"
Admittedly the SOB--a fan club for a team that doesn't exist yet--are a little weird. You could compare them to the South Sea cargo cultists who, after European and U.S. troops left their islands after World War II, built straw runways and control towers in an attempt to lure them back.
Only difference being, of course, that the SOB succeeded. They brought a real plane down on their straw runway. They brought Major League Soccer to Philly.
|Old skull: Jason Watt freezes his bones in a Chester parking lot.|
Okay, so maybe it would've come here anyway. There's a whole hornswoggle of financial and political horse-trading that went on in the corridors of power while the SOB were out rabble-rousing.
When it opened for business in 1996, MLS was hailed as the Zion of the exiled American stars who’d long been forced to toil in distant lands. After that, washed-up greats arrived to great acclaim, only to disappoint fans with underwhelming performances and a distinct lack of interest. But surge of young American talent has given the league a much needed, albeit temporary, shot in the arm.