March 04, 2013

There Will Be Bandwagoners

I’m waiting for it. It hasn’t happened yet, but I know it will. It’s inevitable. It almost happened a couple days ago at work. I’m new there, just getting to know the other guys, and we were talking about the different baseball stadiums we’ve visited. Which led to the obvious question, “What’s your team?” There were a couple Yankees fans present. And a Mets fan. And me.

“Oh,” one of the Yankees fans said when I answered. I was ready for it. I was ready for him to call me a bandwagoner. But he didn’t. He said, “You guys are gonna be good this year.”

I agreed. The Mets fan suggested that we’ve got a pretty good chance at the NL East title in 2013. He talked about how impressive Craig Kimbrel is (pronouncing the second syllable like it rhymes with “bell”).

So it hasn’t happened yet, but that doesn’t mean it won’t. And I can understand why. I’m an out-of-market fan of a team that is making headlines. The uniting of the Upton brothers is big, exciting news. Jason Heyward is making TV commercials. We’ve got the best closer in the game. Our team image is one of cool youth. It’s a fact: there will be bandwagoners.

It’s obvious why bandwagoners are so reviled by true fans. They appear out of nowhere as soon as it is fashionable to be a fan, often outfitted in brand new team apparel—hats with no bends in the brims, jersey t-shirts—and declare their newfound love for their new team as if they have been faithful followers their whole lives. It can be frustrating, especially when the fan in question has no sense of the team’s history, failures, or achievements. Bandwagoners are loud in their support, but they stand with out foot out the door, always ready to jump ship for a more successful, more popular team. They don’t wait out losing seasons and suffer with the team. They don’t wear those unblemished hats after their team loses in the one-game wildcard playoff.

But there’s another way to look at the situation: bandwagoners don’t deserve our scorn, they deserve our sympathy. Sticking with a team through years of struggle and defeat is what makes the taste of victory so sweet, and that’s something a bandwagoner will never understand or experience. Sad, right?

So here’s my message: Bandwagoners welcome. Enjoy your stay, but wipe your feet at the door. We’re happy to have you.

Maybe a few of them will even see the error in their ways, quit wandering from team to team, and give true fandom a try.



15 Responses to “There Will Be Bandwagoners”

  1. 1
    Bubdylan Says:

    I’ve tried to bandwagon, and honestly, I hope one day I succeed. It seems to me an entirely appropriate and legitimate way to enjoy sports. Especially if in addition to liking a team because they’re suddenly good, you like a team because they’re suddenly comprised of players you like or a storyline you are drawn to. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it. Nothing.

    What it boils down to is this: we are in a business relationship with ballplayers. They give us entertainment, conversation, and last but most certainly not least: vicarious winning. This feeling, that you win because somebody else won, is the driving emotion of sports fandom; to pretend otherwise is goofy.

    What do we give the players in return? Millions and millions and millions of dollars.


  2. 2
    Bubdylan Says:

    If the above sounds like a bitter and cynical rant, it is. But it’s a serious question: from whence does this Stick With Your Team morality spring? Break it down for me. Something besides cuz that’s who my daddy rooted for, I’m from the South, and Dale Murphy wuz robbed.

    The real reason I’m loyal: it’s just too damn much work to invest in another baseball team. If I had the wherewithal to size up all 30 ballclubs in terms of talent, personality, team philosophy, funds available for keeping young talent, fan attitude, and which cities I actually like, you can believe I would. And it wouldn’t be Atlanta.

    In the meantime, go Braves.

  3. 3
    Bubdylan Says:

    *okay, it might be Atlanta between now and 2016 when the salaries completely outstrip the budget and the Up-Up-and-a-Hey window is closed. Because, among other reasons, I’m discovering that I really, really love homeruns.

  4. 4
    Steve Says:

    It is all about loyalty. If we didn’t adhere to the importance and sanctity of Stick with Your Team, then why would we care? It is, of course, totally manufactured, but without it, there’s no fandom (for me, anyway).

    It would feel cheap to me to just start following the Rangers or Angels in 2013 because I haven’t manufactured any connection.

  5. 5
    Bubdylan Says:

    Loyalty to whom? The owners of the team? But they could care less. The manager? Next question. The players? The feeling isn’t returned. Ever.

    The team? They came here from Boston and Milwaukee. Sorry, can’t throw out my loyalty for a phantasmic (phantasmal?) concept and hope it sticks.

    Why would we care? Because watching sports is fun. I was a teenager when Sid Slid. I’d been a Braves fan for about five minutes. I had a blast.

  6. 6
    Bubdylan Says:

    By the way, don’t think I don’t feel like a total prostitute for having these feelings about fandom. I do. And maybe there’s something to be said for that, the same as our regular moral conscience leads back to the Tao or God’s law or Bernard Shaw’s superhuman force thingy or whatever else. I mean, maybe the vague sense we have that we ought to be loyal to a team really means something.

    I think this soap box is just the latest fruit growing on my general Baseball Is Dying tree. Unfortunately, I’m one of those poor saps (hey, a tree theme) who gets SO much happiness from “my” team winning that something major will have to go right in my … actual life … before I can pull the plug on the Braves.

    How’s that for loyalty? I’m with ‘em until the end or until I get a girlfriend.

    Go Braves!

  7. 7
    Steve Says:

    ” I’m with ‘em until the end or until I get a girlfriend.” Now THAT’S the title for a blog.

    I’m totally with you on all of it. They (players, owners, front office, managers) don’t care about us. Seinfeld was right that we’re rooting for laundry. But I’ve made a decision that that particular piece of laundry is very important and that those particular players are “good guys” and I want them to have success that I can call my success and everyone is happy.

  8. 8
    Mike Says:

    I do believe that bandwagoning is a legitimate way of being a sports fan, I just find that following one team through thick and thin, being a “true fan”, is a better way. Yes, skipping from one successful team to the next might grant you MORE vicarious winning, but building a connection with a team and players and other fans will grant you a HIGHER QUALITY vicarious experience.

    And Bub, I wouldn’t say you are a *total* prostitute.

  9. 9
    Shaun Says:

    Isn’t a lot of it just that baseball is fun and we follow the team that is most familiar and easily accessible?

    I would like to think if I lived in a part of the country where the Astros or Royals were on and talked about all the time, I would become a fan of those teams. Mostly I just love baseball and it’s just easier to follow the game when you are also following a team. There’s not necessarily a connection with players or a team or ownership or philosophy or even city, though there may indeed be a connection to all those things. But ultimately it’s a connection to baseball and things related to baseball.

    The Braves are my team. But there are other teams that maybe I’ll root for over others because I feel a connection. Maybe I’ve visited their parks and I enjoyed it and their fans. Maybe I do connect with a team’s overall philosophy and want them to win as validation that their philosophy is a good one. Maybe their style of play is attractive to me and I connect to it. But it’s all baseball related and feeling a connection to baseball. The Braves are the team that I will root for over all others just because the baseball connection is strongest with them mostly because of the access I have to Braves information and games.

  10. 10
    Walker Says:

    Besides being a Braves fan, Im a casual Dodgers follower. I just love the history of that franchise and what they represent. But no one comes before my Braves.

  11. 11
    Bubdylan Says:

    “but building a connection with a team and players and other fans will grant you a HIGHER QUALITY vicarious experience.”

    That’s a good point.

  12. 12
    Bubdylan Says:

    Walker, I love everything about the Dodgers’ history. And hate almost everything about their current make-up, lol. But what I wouldn’t do for access to all the Vin Scully archives… I could listen to him narrate a floating iceberg.

  13. 13
    Walker Says:

    Floating Iceberg? Lol That would be pretty hard to do.

  14. 14
    Bubdylan Says:

    I’ve been meaning to say something potentially awkward. These blogs, I visit them randomly, forget they’re here, then remember them, then read ‘em and say something under them (because I have a big mouth). But there’s not any rhyme or reason to which ones I end up engaging.

    I’m saying that because, as an aspiring writer, I know what it’s like to work on something, send it out into the void, and sit back and watch nothing happen to it. And I always hope it’s just because it fell through the Cracks of Clickville and not because of my writing voice or some other flaw.

    So, for the record, Vinnie, Shaun, and Mike, I like the blogs written here. For all I know, y’all are superconfident about your work (opposites of me) and don’t need any weird assurance, but just in case: it’s so completely random sometimes, the clicks I (we) choose. Keep bloggin’.

  15. 15
    Shaun Says:

    Thanks, Bubdylan. It’s always good to hear that someone reads and likes your work.

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