Ahh, the playoffs. ‘Tis the time when all your hopes and dreams either come true or get washed away by the bitter taste of defeat (read: booze). The countless mid-week beer consumed while watching your boys play, the many angry knocks on your apartment wall received while vocalizing your opinion of the refs, now it’s all worth it or all worthless. For those who aren’t following the sports being played, however, there is another option. Jump on the bandwagon of a team that is in the playoffs, and experience weeks of joy as you pretend to be a true fan. I’m not here to hate on bandwagoners. I believe that everyone begins the road to a die-hard fan at different points in their lives, and I am all for more people who love sports. However, there are definite rules you must follow lest you become the person whose mere allegiance hurts their newly adopted team’s reputation.
Do have a reason for your fandom. I went on a date with a girl last week that was a self-proclaimed Red Wings fan. Despite the fact that I hate the Red Wings and want all of their 85-year-old veteran players to slip and break a hip, I accepted that she loved the team and even enjoyed some good-natured ribbing about my beloved Sharks. However, when asked about how she came to be a fan, she claimed that she visited Detroit as a kid and loved the city, so she chose to like the Wings. What the fuck? First of all, NO ONE visits Detroit and loves that city. My only experience of Detroit was my family’s rental car being put up on blocks within an hour of arriving at the hotel, which I believe to be an accurate representation of the city. Secondly, that’s a bullshit reason with which to base your life-long commitment (we’ll touch on that later) to this team.
Acceptable reasons include, but are not limited to: They are a local team to where you were raised, you’re a supporter of a specific player of the team, someone in your life taught you to be a fan of that team (this had to have occurred before your eighth birthday, after that, get your own opinions).
Don’t pretend you’re a die-hard fan. If you can’t name every player on the roster, statistics, and memorable game moments from the last ten years, you’re not a true fan. And that’s okay. Like I said, everyone’s gotta start sometime, and I respect you getting into a sport but admit what you are. Everyone knows that guy that picked up a Cam Newton jersey last season and spent all year peacocking and trying to convince everyone he’s been repping black and blue his entire life. No one believes you, and you’re making the real fans look bad. I jumped on the Warriors jock HARD last season, and the first thing I say when people ask me what team I root for is “I’m on the Warriors bandwagon.” Accept who you are, and people will accept you.
Do your homework. Just because you acknowledge that you’re not a “true” fan doesn’t mean you get to call yourself a fan without having any knowledge of the team. It’s 2016. Get on the Internet, and within an hour, you can know every basic fact about your team and its history that you’ll ever need. At the very least, be able to name your entire starting roster and last season’s record, because as a newbie, you will get asked to prove your fandom with one of those two facts. Get the ESPN app and turn on all the updates and team news. It takes two seconds, and you’ll feel like a real fan when you can quote stats at the bar. Strangers have quizzed me on team knowledge more times in one night wearing my brand new Steph Curry jersey than the entire time I’ve owned a Jonathan Cheechoo jersey (Google him, I’ll wait). This leads me to my next point…
Don’t hide behind a throwback jersey. I’m not going to lie; I came close to doing this myself with an old school Monta Ellis cutoff. I get your thought process. “I don’t want everyone to call me out on being a fake fan. I’ll just toss on a sweet throwback from the eighties and everyone will assume I grew up on this team. I’ll get the respect and adoration of my peers!” Wrong. One, unless you’re going to watch the game by yourself or plan on getting a whole new group of friends, your crew will know you’re a bandwagoner. With a throwback jersey, now they also know you’re a try hard and a poser. This ties into admitting that you’re on the bandwagon. If you can’t admit it, no one will take your claim to the team seriously and they’ll just assume you got the jersey as a fashion accessory to match your shoes. Also, depending on the dickhead level of your friend group, they may tell you that you’re not worthy to wear it and outright commandeer it for the longest standing fan. I saw it happen to a guy wearing a brand new Jerry Rice jersey and it wasn’t pretty.
Do go fucking nuts for your team. Just because it’s your first season as a fan doesn’t mean you’re not entitled to the emotions and excitement that comes from watching with fellow fans. There is nothing in the world that can unite or divide people like sports (maybe religion, but I’m not about to get into that). Going to a bar or house party that’s packed wall-to-wall with people wearing your colors and watching your boys play is one of the best experiences that can be shared with people of all cultures and classes. I can’t count the amount of drunken conversations about past games I’ve had with strangers at the bar, and if I had a nickel for every overly enthusiastic, palm-stinging high five I’ve been a part of, I could open my own sports bar and live that life until I die. (It would offer the San Jose Shark Bite, a shot that is designed to almost go all the way down, but at the last second make you choke and throw up on yourself. I’m not bitter.) The point of being a fan is the inclusion into a special group, and how new you are to the group doesn’t matter.
Don’t ever switch teams again. This is the big one. One of my best friends was a die-hard Steeler’s fan our entire childhood, from little league through senior prom. He had an OG Terry Bradshaw jersey, could recite the stats of every player in existence, and relentlessly talked shit about the 49ers despite growing up in the suburbs of San Francisco. I hated him for it, but I respected him. Then in 2011, at 21 years old, he emerged at the beginning of the season with a freshly purchased Kaepernick jersey claiming to have “always loved the Niners.” He remains one of my best friends, but the respect I lost that day has never been gained back. If you’re going to pick a team, make sure you choose right, because you will never be able to switch. If you switch teams and claim to a be a fan, you’ve lost all credibility, not just as a fan of the team, but as a fan of sports general. If the team you are bandwagoning sucks next year, too fucking bad. That’s your team now, and you will love them no matter what. In fact, the fastest way to shed that bandwagon title is to be a fan of a team that is garbage. It shows true commitment, and that you are a man of your word despite outside pressures.
So get out there, thrown on that Patrick Kane/Stephen Curry/Tom Brady/Kris Bryant jersey that you’ve had you eye on, and say it loud and proud, “I am a bandwagon fan, and I’m here to stay.” .
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