What exactly is a bandwagon fan? I’ve seen this word thrown about so many times in so many different contexts, I can’t even get a lock on what people are really mad about. I’ve seen someone call people who leave early during a regular season game in which the hometown team is getting their asses handed to them bandwagon fans. (This one’s kinda baffling to me.) I’ve seen anyone who became a fan of the Blackhawks after 2010 get called a bandwagon fan. Similarly, anyone who became a Stars fan only after Tyler Seguin came to town.
And my overwhelming reaction to all of these circumstances is a big resounding “so?”
No really, so fucking what?
I realize that I say this as a new hockey fan, so I’m coming at it from what many would call the bandwagoner’s perspective. (Actually, I don’t know that anyone would call it that exactly, but you know what I mean.) And maybe some of my ire about the label is because I’ve been called one.
On some level, my dear friends, I get it. There are certain things about the game today that I’m not going to experience the same way as someone who’s loved the game since they were in utero. I give full credit to people with the weight of experience behind them. People who sat in the stands and watched Brett Hull score that game winning goal (and then had arguments with Sabres fans for the next decade about the crease rule), people who cheered for the Blackhawks when they were absolute garbage and had their misery rewarded with two back-to-back top draft picks in Toews and Kane, people who actually watched Wayne Gretzky skate. Your experiences are amazing, people.
So instead of bitching about all the n00bs horning in on your fandom, how about sharing your experience without belittling them? How about telling them your stories? How about helping them understand what it was like to experience those things first hand? I can watch all the youtube videos I want, but you’re always going to have been there first, you’ve already won, what are you even mad about?
When I looked up “bandwagon fan” on urban dictionary, I got the definition that it’s a fan who shows up for the playoffs but doesn’t (and will never) own any team gear. And again to that I say, so?
You’ve got a season pass (or a subscription to Gamecenter Live) and you never miss a regular season game except for deaths or births. Or, you know, your D&D group every other Thursday night. (I mean . . . a friend’s D&D group. Her name is Schmerrin. She may or may not have a level 7 elf ranger with +20 perception. Or whatever.) (I mean. Hypothetically of course.) (You’d have to ask her.) That’s awesome. You’ve chosen your passion, your hobby, the direction of all your time and energy.
Look, this may shock you, but some people have lives that don’t revolve around sports. I know, I know. It’s a lot to take in. I’ll give you a minute.
Some people like to show up when the games are exciting. When the games could mean something. And yes, these people call themselves fans. But I ask you, other than a slight (in Dallas anyway) uptick in ticket prices or a sold out game (this happened to me the third home game in the playoffs last year), how does that hurt your enjoyment of the game? That first game against the Ducks last year was MAGICAL. I’d never seen that many people in the AAC before and the sheer amount of sound when Jamie scored that first goal, all of the rally towels swinging wildly, is something I will never forget. (Seriously, I took a video, so even when my own name leaves me when I’m 90, I’ll still be able to listen to the crowd screaming about that goal.)
Would it be nice to see that kind of energy in the stands on a random Tuesday night game in December? Sure. It would. Maybe that’s a place that Seguin and Benn will lead the fan base to. Because, hey, with success comes interest, with interest comes fans, and with fans comes regular season sellouts that don’t involve the Blackhawks or the Penguins.
But you can’t get there without new fans, and you can’t get new fans if all of the old fans are too busy bitching about all of the kids on their lawn.
You know what people who only show up for a team’s successes are? People who value their time and happiness. The people who showed up for every single one of the Stars 20 home losses this year and stayed to the bitter end are to be commended. That’s a lot of misery to sit through. (I was there for two of those, and I had ticket prices on top of a hotel cost, so it was like misery compounded.) You’re a great fan. But those people that didn’t show up, or those people who showed up but left in the third when the Stars collapsed AGAIN, those people are also fans.
We’re. All. FANS.
The hipster culture in sports kills me. When I tell someone I like Joss Whedon’s Firefly, all I get in return is some very excited “you do!? me too!” and a lot of yelling about our favorite episodes and how tragic it is that we’re never going to get any more movies.
But tell someone you like a sports team, and it quickly becomes a gatekeeping exercise of obscure references. Where’s the mutual joy? Where’s the “you do!? me too!!” in sports?
And one of the more annoying aspects about this is that other fans aren’t the only ones that do it. The Dallas Stars arena board, funny as it often is, has also called out fanbases for having a lot of “bandwagon fans.”
(The most hilarious part about this list, by the way, is that they’re basically calling out their own team captain for being a bandwagon fan. In an interview that I cannot find right now to link to you, Jamie Benn told a reporter as recently as three years ago that he doesn’t really follow football. But hey, they win a Super Bowl game and suddenly he’s got hats and sweatshirts and a blanket he shows off on instagram.) (Update: I found this article that says he only became a football fan when he moved to Texas, but he decided to like the Seahawks because they’re closer to his hometown.)
So you’ve got this fan policing culture already, that’s only then supported by the organizations you’re a fan of. What level of devotion would be enough for you people? Do I have to send a T-800 back in time to tell my great-grandparents to move to Montreal to watch that upstart game those crazy Canadians are playing on their frozen ponds?
I imagine fanbases to kind of be like the lunch room in Mean Girls. You’ve got your die-hards, your former players, your fans who were raised on the game, your fans who found out what hockey was yesterday, your fans that drink their feelings, your displaced Canadians, and your casual fans.
See what I did there? So-called bandwagon fans are just casual fans. Fans that haven’t necessarily bought into the sports culture but like having an excuse to wave a rally towel around and cheer really loud.
And I ask again, so what? Maybe it’s just me, but when I hear 17,000 people screaming and waving their towels as confetti rains down on them, I don’t care if it’s their first game or five hundredth. I just want the AAC to be so loud my ears ring for days.