By Ian J Block
The barbed term “bandwagon fan” is thrown around a lot these days, and usually comes with negative implications. Many sports fans are referred to as bandwagon fans derogatorily as a way to illustrate how little those phonies actually care about their teams. A big example of this can be found right here in Seattle with the breakout success of the Seattle Seahawks in the 2013 season and the resulting manic hysteria that has caused former strangers to join in with the diehards in cheering on the likes of Richard Sherman and Marshawn Lynch. There have been pre-game rallies for the Seahawks, new weekly traditions created (i.e. Blue Friday), and overall more Seahawks gear being shamelessly sported this season than many others. This increase in support has led many defamers of the Seahawks to call out most of these fans “bandwagon fans” and claim that they wouldn’t care about the Seahawks if they were doing poorly.
Why is such a drastic spike in football enthusiasm perceived as a bad thing among fans of both the Seahawks and other NFL teams? The main reason is that it is a tactic to degrade fans of a opposing team or a way for die hard supporters to tout their superior ‘true fan’ loyalty status. The idea of being a “bandwagon fan” is equivalent to being told, “Hey, you’re not a real fan of the game.” It is used as an insult hurled at any fans of a newly or recently successful team. But this idea of being a new fan as a bad thing is perplexing, as new fans are what keep our favorite teams going. Bandwagon fans may choose their favorite team based on who it may be “easiest” to like, but that opens the doors for those fans to enjoy the game and find a connection with a team they can get behind.
Let’s also face the fact that it’s very hard to be a fan of a losing team. Watching teams like Houston lose 14 straight games is enough to turn off fans to that team and to football in general. Fans of teams like the Texans, the Jacksonville Jaguars, and the Cleveland Browns are going to have to listen for an entire off-season about their favorite team being the laughing-stock of the NFL, and that up-and-down nature of the sport makes it harder for those fans to enjoy their teams. This is what causes “bandwagon fans” to pop up. Maybe they live in Seattle but root for the Raiders usually, but the Raiders lost and now they have no team to root for. A bandwagon fan pops up when their team either isn’t doing well or they don’t have a team but become inspired by the excitement of the success.
The perception of bandwagon fans is that they don’t have the longevity of “real” fans. But there is carry-over with folks who will continue to root for the team they recently became a fan of, especially if that team keeps kicking ass over multiple seasons. The Texans gained ranks of new worshipers last season when they were playing great and made it to the playoffs, but without sustained success, fans will drop off and go find new teams, as was illustrated last season. The bandwagon mentality is to go with the winner. They are attracted to the glorified success of a team and if that team is from their hometown, well that is just a cherry on top for both the ego of a city and the wallets of local vendors urging on the hype by selling team affiliated goods and the like.
Whatever your opinion on new Seahawks of Broncos fans, you must concede that it is a good thing that they are here increasing the attendance of our stadiums, selling licensed gear, and overall legitimizing themselves to new fans. Bandwagon fans may continue to support the Seahawks and it’s those new fans that sports organizations need. So before you’re quick to judge someone for only liking the Seahawks because they’re winning, understand that those fans are what keep local football enthusiasm alive and your favorite team calling Seattle home.
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