It’s the worst thing you can be called in sports. No, it’s not a sore loser, and no it’s not a *****… it’s being called a bandwagon. It’s a word that cuts like a knife and seems to take away any value from your fandom. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Two years ago during the 2015 NHL Playoffs, I found myself with a roommate who loves hockey and an absence of my beloved Boston Bruins. Now, I’ll be the first to tell you that I’m not the world’s biggest hockey fan, but playoff hockey is arguably the most entertaining spectacle in sports. So with no team that actually held my rooting interest in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, I decided to kind of latch on to whatever team held my fancy. If I’m going to watch all these games, I may as well have a rooting interest. So I fell upon the Tampa Bay Lightning – a team from arguably the least likely hockey state, but somehow managed to have one of the most electric teams I’d ever seen. So guess what? I started to cheer on the Lightning. They were good, and I enjoy watching sports played well… sue me.
The Bolts made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals, only to fall to the Blackhawks, four games to three. Now I’m not going to pretend I felt the same feeling I did during the two Patriots losses to the Giants in the Super Bowl, or the Celtics blowing the 2010 NBA Finals, but I still felt something. For a month, I had committed myself to a team and become dependent on their success. And since that day, I haven’t thought much about the Lightning.
So while that anecdote may have been long winded, I basically want to say that the bandwagon fan should not automatically be ridiculed. Here’s my case:
Sports are at their core an entertainment product. Fans get so heavily invested in their teams and the city that they represent that they seem to forget the point of it all in the first place – money. That’s right, every player, coach, executive, and owner is just doing their job and trying to make money. It’s a hard reality to accept, and one that I wrestle with on a weekly basis, but it’s the truth. So if this is the case, what’s the point of telling someone they aren’t allowed to cheer for the team that entertains them the most? Let’s take the Golden State Warriors for example. The past three seasons have been incredible for Dubs, including an NBA title and Steph Curry owning almost every shooting record in the book. The team is downright awesome to watch play. While it’s strange to see so many people in North Carolina now with flat-billed Warriors snapbacks on, and evangelizing about how Steph Curry is North Carolina’s native son even though they didn’t know Davidson was a college before he arrived, I get it. These people support this team around the country because they love watching them play basketball.
If you’re a Sacramento Kings fan and you see this exponential number of new Warriors fans, it’s obviously going to tick you off. “These people have no loyalty to a team,” you might say as a high and mighty Kings fan. But here’s the point: that person’s status as a fan doesn’t affect yours. If you love the Kings, then you should love the Kings because that makes you happy. If someone wants to starts cheering on the best team in the NBA because it gives them joy, then god speed.
Part of my privilege to write this article is that I’m a fan of generally successful teams. I don’t go through the constant struggles of say a Cleveland Browns fan, or a Minnesota Twins fan, but that was just the luck of the draw of being born to a Bostonian father. So I’ve never really had the need to be a bandwagon fan, but that still doesn’t remove the fact that as a kid I rabidly cheered for Mike Vick on the Falcons, or the Kansas City Chiefs with Priest Holmes. I even had a Peyton Manning jersey growing up. I don’t regret it either. At the end of the day, the only person a fan has to prove something to is themselves. Sports drive people crazy, and I feel this is one area where we as a society can just ease up. Let the bandwagon fan live.