Yes, You Liked Them First, You’re a Special Snowflake

Bandwagon-fans-bandwagon

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.”

bad dallas no

(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.

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10 thoughts on “Yes, You Liked Them First, You’re a Special Snowflake

  1. I had this long rant on Twitter the other day! Whenever I hear someone calling someone else a bandwagon fan–especially in the South–I get so infuriated I recreate the iconic scene from Clue with flames on the side of my face.
    If you have loved hockey since the moment your ancestors landed on this continent? Good for you! If you turned on the tv expecting a night of sitcoms or whatever they show on NBC normally and decided that this player is cute so you like him and his team and this insane sport? Good for you! I would rather explain the hybrid icing rule 6000 times to a casual or newbie fan than go through one more “Prove to me that you deserve to be here spending money and supporting this team!” interrogation from someone who feels threatened that I might get my cooties all over this thing they supposedly love.

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    • It’s just such a divisive phrase to use, especially (as you said) in the south, where hockey is the bastard child of any sports broadcast anyway. I’m not gonna lie, I understand the hipster desire to say you liked a thing first, but once you’re done patting yourself on the back how about being an awesome fan and, idk, being nice to people? Try that for a change.

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      • I became aware of the Blackhawks after they won the Cup in 2010, but only because a good friend who cheers for the Caps told me that Brent Sopel brought the Stanley Cup to the Pride parade that summer. I didn’t watch hockey growing up, and Kentucky doesn’t have any major league sports franchises so it wasn’t ever on my radar. I don’t *have* a “home team” that I could have supported through good times and bad–I’m the only hockey fan in my immediate family, and even fans in the WGN broadcast area couldn’t watch the Hawks play on TV in the shitty pre-Kane&Toews years because Dollar Bill Wirtz wouldn’t let games be broadcast on TV. Any non-Olympic hockey I saw was in passing and on accident growing up, because it’s WEIRD to be a native Kentuckian and watch hockey. There are literally 5 ice rinks in the state, and none are closer than an hour away from my hometown. None of the major newspapers cover hockey unless something huge is happening–maybe four column inches devoted to whoever wins the Cup.
        So I get really angry about this–I COULDN’T discover hockey any sooner than I did, because where would a wee Druidspell have discovered it?? I got here as soon as I could, y’all, and I picked a team that was enjoying a lot of success and who seemed willing to at least pay lip service to the idea that a queer lady would be welcome in their fanbase, because why invite heartbreak into my life more than I have to? If that makes me a Hawks bandwagoner and that makes gatekeeper fans angry, then they should go f themselves with a sandpaper dildo because I don’t want to hear about it.

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  2. My understanding of the word is a person who just follow winning teams after said teams win championships.
    And then argue with long term fans. Folks like this drive me up the wall.
    Example, person at work started wearing Heat shirts when they won in ’13 then wore Spurs in ’14, and then start sprouting nonsense.
    Apologies about crappy grammar. Writing from my phone.
    Oh another thing. I get flak everytime I mention I’m a Pens fan. Almost everyone assumes I became a fan when Crosby was drafted, um no I became a fan when Lemieux got drafted.

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    • I’ve seen it used in many, many different contexts, but fans following winning teams are definitely one of them. Any obnoxious fan is annoying, regardless of how long term they are. I generally don’t have an issue with a fan following a team that wins, who doesn’t want to feel happy at a sporting event?

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  3. The idea that bandwagon fans are somehow less than is beyond ridiculous and I never understood it. It’s MORE people to talk to about something I love. And not to mention, I find that it’s especially pervasive if you’re a female fan. I am a Hawks fan but I decided to cheer for them based purely on chance – I sat down to watch the first game of the WCF in 2010 and decided I would cheer for whoever won, simply out of spite because people I worked with would not shut up about the two EC teams (and the fact that they won the Cup that year was just the icing on the cake). While a couple of the guys at work took me under their wing and answered questions I had about the rules and stuff, but there was one guy who instantly asked me to “name five guys on the team, then.” There’s always someone who is gonna quiz you to prove how much of a “real fan” you are, and to me, those people are the ones who aren’t real fans.

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    • I’ve never understood people who are just genuinely happy that someone else likes something they do. High five, bro, you liked them first. Tell me about how YOU got started as fan maybe? Tell me about YOUR favorite player? Why are you trying to force me to prove that I actually watch games?

      The fandom policing is just ridiculous.

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  4. As a CBJ fan, I say “Come to us. We will welcome and cherish all our fans!” Maybe it’s because we’re a new franchise, which in some eyes makes all of us bandwagon fans.

    As a hockey fan in Indiana who grew up a Red Wings fan, I was just happy to meet ANY other hockey fan that I wasn’t related to. I just wanted to help new fans learn about the sport, not criticize them because they were new. I don’t understand that mindset.

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    • I love CBJ fans–I’ve been to a lot of games at Nationwide, and not only is the arena district really nice, but CBJ fans have been some of the nicest and most accepting people I’ve encountered in this fandom. (My gf was a partial season ticket holder last season because Columbus is the easiest hockey town for us to get to, and y’all are the best, even when we came in our Hawks gear–more importantly, the CBJ fans in our section were gracious winners, because Chicago lost that game in a shootout.) If I were going to have an eastern conference team, it’d be CBJ–and I would only ever be a casual fan, but I’d be a casual fan who is willing to support a team and convert other people to being fans!

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  5. IME a lot of people use the term “bandwagon” to conflate new, casual (doesn’t watch often but will low-key support a team consistently over time), and fair-weather (cheers for whoever’s winning) fans, when actually all they want to do is complain about the latter. Which, as you’ve pointed out, would not be cool anyway, because yay cheering, but god, if these dudes could just stop assuming that anyone new to hockey *must* only be interested in a winning team because they’re winning, that would be great.

    (And on the flip side of that, of course, it’d be nice if they’d stop hating on people who *did* get interested just because of a winning team period, but these people also tend to be allergic to understanding the idea of, as you put it, “with success comes interest,” no I am not going to get interested in that team while it’s terrible, why would I, *it’s terrible*.) Also, just like with video games or comics, these are the same people who will complain about newbies who have the temerity to not have grown up watching the game in one breath and then turn right around and lament the fact that the game isn’t growing it’s audience well or fast enough with the next. *sigh* /rant Sorry, I’ve been talking about this a lot irl lately, I have feelings! Anyway, totally agree with everything you’ve said above, I’m not immune from the initial hipster impulse myself but after that it’s like “woo let’s enjoy liking the thing together!” More liking things, plz.

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