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John Hackworth’s response to Chip Kelly being called longest-tenured head coach in Philly: ‘It does piss me off’

Oct 9, 2013, 4:19 PM EDT

Union manager John Hackworth has plenty of pressure on his shoulders this season. Union manager John Hackworth has plenty of pressure on his shoulders this season.

Hey, have you heard Chip Kelly is the longest-tenured head coach in Philly?? Of course you have! Everybody, including major national sports outlets, was spouting out that “fact” on Monday after the Flyers fired Peter Laviolette.

Of course, there are some problems with it. In breathless attempts to get their Tweets out, a lot of people didn’t include the word “professional,” meaning college coaches could have been factored in. Also, most people didn’t specify they were talking about the “four major” sports, meaning Philadelphia Union manager John Hackworth was mostly left out of the conversation even though he’s been on the job longer than Kelly. And then, of course, there’s the issue of what constitutes “major” anymore.

If you look at average attendance, for instance, the Union have outdrawn the Sixers in three of the last four seasons. Does that mean they are one of the top four pro teams in Philly? Absolutely not. Does that mean we should maybe consider expanding the definition and saying there are five major professional franchises in Philly? Sure, why not?

After being introduced as the “longest-tenured pro coach in Philadelphia” to start his weekly press conference, Hackworth was asked about the whole thing (however dumb it may seem) and gave a pretty great response, downplaying it from a personal perspective but expressing annoyance that soccer can often be overlooked in this city. Here’s the entire quote:

The first answer is that I think that it doesn’t matter at all. It’s completely irrelevant, especially with how long [I’ve been the head coach]. It hasn’t been very long. The second answer is that it does piss me off, to be very clear. But it’s not about me. I think it’s incredible that in this day and age, in the world we live in, with how popular our sport is, that in a city that says that it is such a sports town, to say that, ‘Eh, it doesn’t count as one of the top professional sports.’ I think that’s crazy.”

Soccer certainly is popular in Philly, given that the Union usually sell out their beautiful 18,500-seat stadium in Chester. (For those saying that Hackworth shouldn’t be included in the longest-tenured coach conversation because the Union don’t play within the city limits, that argument doesn’t hold much water unless you also wouldn’t include the Giants and Cowboys in discussions about New York and Dallas sports.) And the fans are as passionate and critical as any of the city’s others four teams.

At the same time, the level of vitriol from the soccer-haters in the city is often too loud to brush off (see the comments that will invariably show up beneath this story). And perhaps even worse than that for the Union is getting ignored by so many sportswriters and sports talk personalities.

Amobi Okugo, one of Philly’s best young players and a big fan of many other sports, noticed the whole Chip-Kelly-longest-tenured-coach thing on Twitter and was asked about it after practice Wednesday. Here’s what he said:

“It’s crazy. Soccer’s still growing. Maybe if we can make the playoffs and the other teams stay on their downward spiral, we’ll get more recognition. I’m not wishing bad on the other teams but if we make the playoffs and do make a little run, it might get us a little more recognition. In the meantime, we’ve been like the little stepbrother no one cares about. But Philly loves winners. If we win, we’ll start getting some more recognition.”  

Oh, that’s right. The Union are currently closing in on the playoffs with three games left in the regular season. Then, at least, John Hackworth will have the official title as the only pro head coach in town who’s made the playoffs.

Or something like that.

  1. Kevin Kinkead - Oct 10, 2013 at 2:39 PM

    I don’t know why people keep thumping this idea that “soccer will never make it in America”.

    It’s already here. It’s been here. It’s not going anywhere.

    1. MLS attendance is the highest its been in the last 10 years.
    2. There have been 9 teams added to the league since 2005.
    3. Another team is coming in 2015, and there will be 3 more teams added beyond that.
    4. NBC, FOX, and ESPN are showing MORE soccer, not less soccer. That includes new TV deals for MLS, EPL, Champion’s League, and Liga MX.
    5. MLS is adding more talented foreign players at younger ages. Nigel Reo-Coker, Obafemi Martins, and Robbie Keane were age 31 or younger when they moved to MLS from Europe. Thierry Henry was 32.

    Again, I can sit here and post facts all day long.

    Does anyone have a better come back than “soccer is gay”?

    • willh888 - Oct 10, 2013 at 4:20 PM

      “1. MLS attendance is the highest its been in the last 10 years.”

      not to be picky, but you’re anointing yourself the champion of facts:

      2012 avg attendance league wide: 18,807
      2013 avg attendance league wide: 18,532 *per espnFC

      We get it man, soccer is fun for soccer fans. Ignore the illegitimate insults and promote your sport, don’t defend.

      • Kevin Kinkead - Oct 10, 2013 at 4:27 PM

        The season still has a couple of regular season games left.

        When those sold out finales are played, that number will move beyond 18,807, guaranteed.

        Anyway, the difference between promoting the sport and defending yourself is that people ignore the existing evidence that’s already out there.

      • willh888 - Oct 10, 2013 at 4:59 PM

        And then there’s just flat out disagreeable. I’m an outsider who doesn’t know much about soccer, yet i refrain from the “soccer sucks” stuff and you still can’t level with us. Sure attendance might grow by the end of the season, but like in any sport, you’ll have bad teams who decline and good teams who increase so it might even out. That’s all minor details anyway, the real issue is, how can the sport be more entertaining to the mainstream, and is that even really what you want

    • Ryan - Oct 10, 2013 at 4:24 PM

      MLS revenues trail the NHLs (a league some people don’t consider “major”) by $3 BILLION dollars and commanding roughly 15% of what the NHLs TV revenue is.

      Soccer may be growing in the US, but business wise it’s still relatively “minor”. Until teams are able to afford bringing over the games best players while charging ticket prices and bringing in TV revenues to support that, MLS will remain to seen as “minor”.

    • BH20 - Oct 10, 2013 at 4:27 PM

      If it was fun to watch more people would enjoy it here, unfortunately it is boring. The fact that it is the most popular sport in the world is because it is the cheapest to play, all you need is a ball. Not enough people watch the great sport of hockey because it is one of the most expensive sports to play and not a lot of kids get the ability to try it at a young age or at all. People like fast paced sports which is why football is huge and hockey should be right up there if it wasn’t for money side of it. I enjoy fifa but that is because you control the players and it is rarely ever a 0-0 or 1-0 game.

    • denny falcone - Oct 10, 2013 at 5:10 PM

      Soccer is the perfect sport for the ‘everybody wins’ culture that is being cultivated by the left wing extremists like young Mr. Kinkead here. Ties galore!

      • Kevin Kinkead - Oct 10, 2013 at 6:54 PM

        I’m not sure what political leanings have to do with soccer, unless you’re one of those conservative types who likes football because it’s “traditional” and/or American.

        Actually, you probably wouldn’t like the NFL, since it operates in a socialist, shared-revenue format. There’s a salary cap and the teams split money, which fiscal conservatives decry as unfair to those with deeper ambitions or pockets.

        Anyway, in foreign soccer leagues, you get relegated to a lower division when you lose. In the NFL, you get to pick first in next year’s draft.

        Everybody wins right?

      • denny falcone - Oct 11, 2013 at 2:08 PM

        kevin needs an orange slice and a half time team talk.

    • duhh - Oct 10, 2013 at 11:49 PM

      soccer is not gay. the MLS is a attracting the casual soccer fan because the fans that truly appreciate the game the way its supposed to be played gravitate towards the EPL and LL because its a much better game. You cant watch an MLS game for 60 seconds without and errant pass or a bad trap, they cant even do the basics and there is no flow to an MLS game. its garbage.

      soccer will not be able to break it onto the national stage in the US until the USMNT actually does something and turns some heads.

      the mlb, nhl, nfl and nba are regarded as the best leagues in the world for their respective sports. mls is not even close

  2. thekrisheim - Oct 10, 2013 at 4:36 PM

    nowak had 15x the name recognition this clown has and statements like this make good blog posts and that’s about it. dude should be worried about results and not have answered what was clearly a “gotcha” type of question and for the franchise to even stoke the flames by introducing him like that is a bush league move – act like you belong, dont cry wolf and maybe you’ll get the recognition.

    • PhillyWillie - Oct 19, 2013 at 5:34 PM

      Nowak managed to ride them to the playoffs in just their second season, and then unceremoniously dumped most of the team that got him there! His decisions were based on his ridiculous ego, rather than rational player assessments. He was the most famous soccer name in his native Poland. BFD! In Philly, he’s just the most famous soccer asshole.

  3. joe - Oct 13, 2013 at 3:01 AM

    Just to make a few comments here after reading others. The political argument might be right about the majority of soccers fan base but its actually the liberals who are ruining football in America. And to all the people who think soccer sucks get ready cause American football will be flag football someday if not gone all together. What’s going to start happening is all the pop Warners and high schools are going to eliminate their programs. Why? Its too violent… What whiners liberals are. Schools won’t want to insure the players cause it will be to expensive. Obamacare will probably interfere and say poor people can’t play cause their injuries are increasing premiums. I can’t watch football anymore… Players can’t hit anymore you touch the qbs head and its a 10 yard penalty. You have people not using the team name redskins because it offends 3 people all who happen to be democrats in congress. This country is a joke anymore. Soccer is going to continue to rise here. I enjoy soccer more than football now and I used to watch football religiously. A soccer broadcast is way better they don’t interrupt the game for commercials and the build up to a goal makes it more exciting. One thing I will say is you have to play soccer to understand why the games are fun to watch so I’m not going to explain. And soccer being cheap has nothing to do with the game being preferred worldwide. Last time I checked a football and basketball were just as cheap as a soccer ball. Yeah football is expensive if you play it as an organized sport but not if you organize your own game with friends.

    • Nels22 - Oct 19, 2013 at 5:43 PM

      So Joe, America should ignore the health of its youth because you hate liberals and think that they are somehow responsible for the decline of American football? I’d say that’s about as rational an argument as most conservatives put forth… on the Rush-for-the-ignorant Limbaugh show.


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