In Defense of Bandwagon Riding

You’ve heard it before, “Everybody’s jumping on the T-Wolves bandwagon” or “He just jumped on the Twins bandwagon.” You know the story. Maybe you’re the guy who has been a fan through the thick and thin; maybe you still have that Antti Laaksonen jersey or that Pedro Munoz rookie card. If you are then perhaps you’re also the guy who gets upset every time the local team gets hot and attracts a good number of fair-weather fans.

If you are this person I have a short message for you: Get over it.

No, seriously, get over it now. I commend you for your devotion, but I don’t envy it. Just because you live and die Gophers football doesn’t mean that the rest of us can’t enjoy it when they win the Big Ten… er… win a bowl game… er… win a game or two. And you know what? You’re not even the truer fan for it. Teams need fair-weather fans. They need bandwagon riders. They need their hardcore devotees–it’s true–but no more than they need anybody else. You see, without the bandwagon riders Target Center would still have 5000 people in it. In fact, if only true fans counted then no Minnesota team would survive.

So there are financial benefits to bandwagon riders, but still more importantly there are some practical reasons to be bandwagon rider. Here is my short list:

1. Living and dying with your team is a tough way to go about life. It just is. There’s no higher reason to believe in your team; there are no sports monks or desert ascetics. You gain neither wisdom nor power from your fanaticism. Moreover, defending the honor of your team means wading into a sea of subjectivity. You’re probably not going to convince the true believers of other colors to see your well-constructed sabermetrically-sound point.

2. It’s OK to have realistic expectations. There is something profoundly freeing about looking at your team in Training Camp and saying, “We’re not going to win this year.”

3. You’re not bitter about every decision that ownership and management make. This is a direct result of #2. Suddenly, you’re not critical of Terry Ryan every time he saves for the future because your entire life worth isn’t dependent on winning now. Suddenly, playing for the future makes sense. Did you ever stop to think that perhaps somebody who isn’t emotionally invested in the franchise might actually be the most objective evaluator of talent? I didn’t think so.

4. You get the same high highs without the lowest of lows. A tried and true Vikings bandwagon-rider was able to watch what happened in New Orleans two years ago and laugh about it. Yes, it hurt. Yes, you wanted them to win. But no, you did not throw your remote through the television. Likewise, a 49ers bandwagon-rider did not feel the need to send a death threat to the guy who blew the game. That was a true believer… and an idiot, I should point out.

5. You can stop watching ESPN. There can hardly be a better reason to ride the bandwagon than this. Imagine the freedom of never seeing Mel Kiper, Jr., John Kruk or Alexi Lalas. In the bandwagon rider’s free time he/she can pick up some other interests, like logic, which you’ve never encountered before in your ESPN-created malaise. I’ve heard the first level of hell is SportsCenter. Just SportsCenter. For eternity. Think about it.

If these reasons aren’t good enough, then, well, you’re probably lost for good. Just know that I have no shame, no guilt, not a hair of regret in my own bandwagon-riding. I enjoy the Twins but I hardly watched a game in 2011. I left the Vikings bandwagon in 1999 and never came back save about 3 minutes of the Saints game in 2010 until they inevitably chucked me off the ride again. I was riding high with the Wild a month ago; not so today. And the T-Wolves I find interesting for the first time in my life.

So what? Are you the truer fan because you have stuck through the good and the bad? Nope. We’re two sides of the same coin. Every team needs fans of both types–the devotees and the bandwagon-riders. We have an ounce of sanity in an insane business. Get used to us.

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