It’s that wonderful time of year again when the smell of freshly cut grass mingles with the fall leaves, all background noise to exciting sounds of playoff baseball. Brad Pitt says it best in the movie “Moneyball,” “How can you not be romantic about baseball?”
I have been watching the Chicago Cubs since before I even have memory of the games. From a young age, I was taught that the Cubs are the best, and that no matter what, we don’t ever cheer for the St. Louis Cardinals. I’m what you would call a die-hard fan. I look forward to every spring, when I get to watch the blue jerseys of my favorite team grace the field of the greatest baseball field in America.
But as I’ve grown older and wiser, there’s something I’ve come to hate even more than the Cardinals. It’s also right about now, with the crunching leaves and all, that the worms of the athletic world come creeping out of their holes in the ground to brag about how they knew this would happen all along. They come to infest our stadiums, their scent reeking of betrayal. That’s right--it’s bandwagon season--and the bandwagoners are back with a vengeance.
A bandwagon fan is a fan who chooses to cheer for a team because that team is the popular choice, or because they’re winning a lot of games. When that team starts to lose, the fan “hops off the bandwagon” and finds a new, winning team to cheer for. Bandwagon fans are not specific to baseball; they infest all sports. They claim that they are fans of “good baseball,” “good football” or whatever other sport they choose, and cheer only for the good teams.
They are the parasite on the backs of die-hard fans, feeding on our excitement and energy when we’re winning and it’s convenient for them. They ride on our success, but as soon as the team falters, you can count on them for nothing more than to turn around and say, “I told you this team is terrible, and this just proves it.” Then they hop off and find another bandwagon to hitch onto. Say what you want about this kind of fandom, but make no mistake -- bandwagon fans are not fans of the sport; they’re fans of winning.
This kind of mentality is hypocritical and frustrating. In high school, you wouldn’t cheer for your school’s team when they win, but then turn around and cheer for another school when yours start losing. You stick with your people and remain a loyal fan. Part of being a sports fan means that you can enjoy a game no matter who you’re watching. But if you’re a fan of a team, you are loyal to them and you should be expected to stick with them through the good times, and through their 107-year slumps.
Looking at the baseball playoffs for this year, admittedly there is a lot at stake in hopping on a bandwagon, especially with regard to the Chicago Cubs. They haven’t won a World Series in 107 years, and haven’t been to a World Series since 1945. On top it all, “Back to the Future” even predicted that this would be the year they win a World Series.
But where is the reward in seeing a team win if you never invested in them with your time and you good faith? Being a die-hard Cubs fan means I get to enjoy the intense rivalries with teams like the Cardinals. I’ll admit that when I’m watching a game, I’m not too fond of the equally zealous Cardinals fans. But I would take a die-hard Cardinals fan over a bandwagon fan any day, because at least I know that they’re passionate about their team, and willing to stick with them through highs and lows.
It’s so much more rewarding to rise and fall with your team; you feel the true weight of their wins and losses. Then, when those wins do come, you get to follow your team as they taste sweet victory and rise, at last, from the ashes.
The views expressed are those of the writer and not necessarily those of The Torch. Contact Stephanie Black at email@example.com.