Thursday, May 17, 2007

Bandwagon fans are the lowest of the low

I'll be catching up on on my blog and message board reading (By the way, Google Reader is the absolute shiznit), and I'll read someone's post talking about the teams they follow. If they're from Philly, I'd expect them to religiously follow the the Phillies, Eagles, Flyers, and Sixers. The same goes if you are from Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, where ever.

You root for the teams that you grow up with, through good times and bad times. If you leave your hometown area, I'd expect you to continue to root for "Your" teams. I can understand learning about and following the teams in your new city. If you are an expatriate, I would still expect that the teams who remain first in your heart, the teams you will live and die with, will be "Your" teams.

That's called being a fan.

But there are times when I'll catch a post or comment from someone who roots, for example, the Dallas Cowboys, Miami Hurricanes, and Los Angeles Lakers.

Teams in 3 different geographic areas of the country. Far from where the poster lives.

A bandwagon fan.

I'd guess your typical bandwagon fan is younger, someone whose formative years were in the era when the team who's bandwagon they jumped on were uber-successful. It's easy to become a "Fan" of during the glory years for those teams, when their games were always nationally broadcast.

When I was young, that team was "America's Team," the Dallas Cowboys of the 70's. Personally, I hated that nickname, and I despised the Cowboys. I still do. Even though the Lions were perennially mediocre (Now I'd kill for the Lions to be mediocre), I still rooted for them. They were, and still are, for rarely better and mostly worse, my team.

Yet I knew people who were fickle enough to ditch the Lions, and root for the Cowboys or Steelers. Damn bandwagoners...

I see the same bandwagon phenomena in Michiganders whom were fans of the Chicago Bulls. They may have been too young to have lived through the Bad Boy Pistons era. Instead, they bought into the media and Nike hype, and cheered for the Michael Jordan led, 6 NBA title winning, Bulls. You might as well just say you were a Michael Jordan fan, rather than a fan of the Bulls.

As a Detroiter, they should DESPISE Jordan for his very vocal disrespecting of both the championship winning Pistons, and their physical style of basketball. I love the fact that Detroit was one of the few fanbases that continually jeered and booed Jordan.

As for those bandwagon Bulls fans, they probably moved on to cheering for the Shaq and Kobe led Lakers.

It's one thing to become a fan of a team when they are winning. That's easy to do. Just go buy an easy to find jersey or cap, and turn on the TV. It's altogether another to love teams who were, or gradually become, God awful. You have to work to find paraphernalia, god forbid find a t-shirt or jersey. They are never nationally televised, and ignored by the public at large. Yet you still stand by your team.

That's a true fan.

As you've probably guessed, if you've read TWFE over any length of time, that my sporting loves were developed in the 70's. Not exactly glory days in Detroit sports. Those were dark, dark days for fans of Detroit teams, folks.

I loved the Pistons when they were the dregs of the NBA, and the organization as a whole was rightfully considered a bad joke. The Red Wings were in even worse shape, known as "The Dead Things" and "Darkness with Harkness." Yet, they were still my team. I died a little inside every time the Lions blew a game, yet I was there behind them the next week. The Tigers were good, then quickly grew old, and began to set records in futility. I lived through the 19 game losing streak. Despite their record, I still desperately wanted the Tigers to win.

They were MY teams.

And you know what? You would never have seen me rooting for the dominant teams of that era, the Steelers, Cowboys, Reds, Orioles, Canadians, and Lakers. I stood by my teams, through tough times, and worse times. I lived and died, mostly died, with them.

Am I saying that being there through the bad times makes me a better fan?

I guess I am...

We are now seeing that same bandwagon effect with today's Detroit teams. EVERYONE claims to be a fan of the Tigers, Pistons, and Red Wings. Sure you are...

Where were all of the bandwagoners in 2003? 2001? 1989? I sure as Hell didn't see them in the half empty stands. They wouldn't know who Alex Sanchez, Mikki Moore, or Rick Zombo were because they didn't give those teams a second thought. Grant Hill? Some guy selling Sprite. Gerard Gallant? Isn't he the kid in those "Goofus and Gallant" stories in "Highlights" magazine? Nate Cornejo? Beavis' TP seeking alter ego? They have no idea.

One of the most thrilling things for a fan to live through is being witness to your team progressing from also ran, to contender, to champion. I've seen it with the 80's and 00's Pistons, the 90's Wings, and most shockingly (And maybe the most satisfying of all), the 2006 Tigers. Even the Lions have had a couple of extremely entertaining turnarounds (Led by the drafting of Billy Sims and Barry Sanders) to become at least respectable.

Being a fan through the awful times made the good times that much sweeter. It's a feeling younger Tigers fans now have, and will always remember. It's a feeling bandwagon fans will never know.

It's their loss.


  1. Thanks for this brilliant tribute to the true fans. Too often I must deal with bandwagoners each and every day, the people who simply give up if their team is not on top, or those who choose not even to root for their home teams. Disgraceful. I began to follow sports nearly religiously around 2003 -- my first season of watching Tigers baseball nearly every day I could. And yes, the good times are that much sweeter, though it's a shame so many bandwagoners suddenly feel they know the team. They do not know the true joys of a winning franchise, for they have no idea what life on the other side of the standings is like. If only the bandwagoners would just leave the true fans alone...

  2. Great post. Where the hell did you pull fucking Rick Zombo from?

  3. Sports fan geography has always been an interesting phenomenon for me. I fully agree that you should cheer for the teams in your hometown.

    There are obviously exceptions to this rule though. For example if you grew up in Tampa and cheered for the Braves all your life, you shouldn't have to drop your allegiance to them just because the D-Rays moved into town (and honestly who would want to?).

    Even more of a gray area are the folks that don't live in a major sports market. I grew up in Iowa which is more or less an autonomous sports fan region. Depending on where you lived, the bulk of the fans could be cheering for the Bears, Packers, Vikings, or Chiefs, with the Cowboy tools peppered throughout. But if you chose to cheer for the Cowboys, Raiders, Giants, or Dolphins you had that opportunity without totally being considered a moron. I still think it's best to stick with teams located nearest to you. I mean, how fun is it really to cheer for a team who's games never get played on tv in your area anyway?

  4. Bravo. I'm from Cleveland so I don't share your love for Detroit teams. (Actually, I f*cking HATE the Pistons and the Wolverines, but I guess you can understand that) But the point is, you are right on with all of these comments. Someday (soon I hope) we in Cleveland will experience a sports renaissance, and I will personally be starting bar fights with fairweather fans all over downtown C-town.