There is not much else in this world that I dislike more than losing. So, after the final whistle blew on Sunday and we had to admit defeat to Western New York, I was not a happy camper. To be fair, The Flash were the better team that day and in front of 3,500 screaming fans, we were sad to have to disappoint the thousands that sat through the smoldering heat to cheer us on.
I had a hunch that we would have a good crowd on Sunday. Why? Because the team went to great effort the week prior to spread awareness, sell tickets, and personally invite fans to watch us battle. The staff works endlessly to promote the games via every media outlet you can think of. Also, add in personal appearances from the staff and the players. For instance, Lianne and I, along with many of our other teammates, sat at a booth at USTC as hundreds herded in to register for the FC Delco tournament. Although we were pitching to many out of towners, we felt as if the overall message, that being, the Philadelphia Independence are here and here to stay, was accepted quite warmly. Maybe this is to be expected when you have pretty girls flexing their salesmanship muscles and cheerleaderesque smiles in front of young kids, coaches, and parents.
There was also the “Meet the team” Event at Kildaires in West Chester on Friday night. This had to have been one of my highlights of the season. Yes, we all had to dress alike in oversize t-shirts but the fans came in droves and their exuberance was palpable. There were people of all ages, sizes, sexes, and races and each person seemed to be thoroughly enjoying their chance to meet a bunch of H-List celebrities (that could be an overstatement). I signed all sorts of marketing material, took pictures, shared stories, and laughed.
I can honestly say that I will always have time for anyone that chooses to support the Cheesesteaks. I will never tire of signing autographs (I am not guaranteeing it will be legible) and I genuinely enjoy hearing the background of each and every person that comes to our events. I loved meeting Bencella, the IT Consultant that came with 2 of her friends who are students at a local University. I loved meeting young Jordan, who started off extremely shy but is now my best friend. I loved seeing the familiar faces of Liz Manning, Ana Aguilera, Matt Jolles, Jon Kirkbride, his wife and their two kids, Noah and Megan (we have our own hand shake). I love getting to know our staff better outside of USTC and also seeing our head coach, Paul Riley, all dressed up in his Hugo Boss (as usual) alongside his wife, Tracy. I loved meeting Sinead Farrelly’s mother (so young she could be her sister) and her teammates on her adult soccer team. They even challenged our team to a scrimmage and by the looks of their fit bodies, we may be in trouble.
Two hours of “Meeting the team” and I am exhausted. My cheeks hurt from smiling and my throat hurts from talking. All worth it a thousand times over because as a player (regardless of the amount you play and where on the field) you are able to impact so many lives in a positive manner. What other profession do fans show up at your work, high-five you, and take your picture? Definitely not at my parents offices. We are extremely lucky that this happens every weekend and I know I can speak for the entire Cheesesteak Organization when I say that it never gets old. I can easily and accurately admit that this league is only as good as its fan base.
Considering our league is more grass-roots than say the NFL, we can develop a personal relationship with our supporters. They are not just the casual fan, they are our friends and when I walk off the field as a winner or a loser, I know that I will be received open-armed. So after I signed autographs and took pictures for about 45 minutes after the game on Sunday, my spirits were lifted. I walked back into the locker room smiling to myself thinking how special these moments truly are. I once again got to see Jordan, Ana, Liz, Matt, Bobo, and thousands of others who stand behind the Cheesesteaks regardless of our record and regardless of our standing in the league.
My Facebook page is filled with pictures and messages that depict the true joy the Cheesesteaks are able to provide both the players and the fans (check it out yourself). My twitter account is evidence of the same (@JoannaLohman). When the unfortunate day comes when I have to hang up my boots, I will badly miss the connections I am able to form through a sport that I love. Thank you to the individuals (I am sorry if I didn’t name anyone specifically that feels they should be named) that allow me to touch their lives in some way, shape, or form because you have touched mine.
Of course, I hope to see you all out again for our game this coming weekend against Atlanta. 7 pm, Widener University.