Word Stricken from the Lexicon: Bandwagon

There is something about sports fans that makes them want to be included in the fan base, and at the same time held on a pedestal that they alone can look down from and sneer at the masses. They wear the jersey, waive the banner, spout the information, and laugh at others who came along after them. Telling someone they are a bandwagon fan is an efficient way to accomplish this.

The term “bandwagon” is used in a way with sports teams that would seem ludicrous in other places. Imagine Green Day accusing people who bought their American Idiot album who had never bought an album of theirs before as being bandwagon jumpers. Or Apple computers telling new customers who were making the “switch” from a PC that they were just a bunch of Johnny-Come-Latelys. Don’t even bother picking up that Star Trek DVD unless you were there from the get go, sucker. You aren’t worthy.

And still, fans do it all the time. Nothing was ever as good as it was back in the day (to which I say, HDTV, ’nuff said), the game was better, the beer was cheaper (this one is true), and the fans were better. New fans, which every fan was at some point, are told to stand in the corner, not top participate in the rituals and chants, and come back when they are deemed worthy.

When the playoffs came around last season, and the Avalanche failed to make it (by one point, or three, depending on how you look at things), I had to do something. Something pretty desperate. I had to start choosing alliances that I had never chosen before. I am a hockey fan, and I could not just turn my back on the best time of year, simply because the team I have chosen (or chose me) is not involved. And the side benefit was that I was learning more about teams I had paid little attention to. As the next round started, I could carry some allegiances with me, while shedding the old ones, leaving the bodies of the dead behind. I was disappointed in some teams, cheered for other with pumping fists and shouts, and got involved in the playoffs. Even though the Avalanche were done for, and I was sad about it, I still was into the playoffs.

The NHL understands the need for the bandwagon fan. At this point in the year, they need as many bandwagon jumpers as they can scrape up. For every team eliminated from the race to the Cup, viewership goes down. Sure, it seems pretty basic, but without bandwagon jumpers, where would the NHL be when the Finals came around? They would have around 1/14th of the viewership (lowest common denominator – I learned something in school, but my parents may disagree – wait, is that right?). Without fans who will watch any team play anytime there is a game (like me), the NHL needs fans to get behind someone. With two out of three California teams out, with four out of six Canadian teams gone (and the other two staring down game 7 elimination), bandwagon jumpers are not only wanted, but needed.

The CBC has known this forever, and make no effort to hide it, as they shove the marketable Maple Leafs down the throats of Western Canada. The NHL has known, and the MSM believes, that the best thing for the NHL every year is for the Rangers to make the playoffs, and have a deep Cup run. The MSM is the worst, telling the world that no one will watch the games if it involves teams from the south or midwest. They roll out the same spiel year after year, and to a point, they are not wrong. But it is a very small point. Why would hockey fans turn away from a “small market” Cup final, unless we were told that it wouldn’t be worth it? Is that going to turn away hockey fans more than being unable to watch games one and two of the Finals? When NBC doesn’t pick up the entire series, it tells you that it isn’t which teams are playing that turn fans away, it’s the people who are running the machine. Worst. Mistake. Ever.

Without bandwagon fans, 1/29th of Ducks fans (which is as close to using real numbers and any use of math beyond the basics this post will see), would have turned off their TVs, or moved on to something else, like the NBA playoffs. I have run into plenty of fans of their hockey teams, who do not watch hockey after their own season is eliminated. The NHL doesn’t want this, for obvious reasons, and needs all the bandwagon fans they can get. The NHL doesn’t want you to root for just your team, they want you to be pulling for your conference, or better yet, Team NHL (which is another rant I will get into at another time).

Full disclosure: I was not a fan of the Quebec Nordiques. I never saw a game of theirs. I never saw them broadcast, didn’t know they existed until late in life, never saw any Stastny other than Paul play a game, and had to read in the Media Guide about the epic battles between a winning record and the ability of Ron Tugnutt. They did not register on my radar, but neither did hockey for the longest time. I didn’t find a sport that spoke to me as a fan until I found hockey, which was not easy in my family, growing up in Longmont, CO, and being a nerd (my dad loves football, and my mom had a die-hard Cubs membership card, but pull for the Rockies now). Hockey is the only sport I have a real fan relationship with, and it was never the Nordiques that I was involved with, but the Avalanche. Sure, if it weren’t for the existence of the Nordiques, there would be no Avalanche, and I would like to thank the people of Quebec for their suffering so that I may have such a wonderful part of my life.

Therefore, I am a bandwagon fan. Totally. I live and die by my team. But I wasn’t there at the beginning, in the Nordique days, and can’t state what would have happened if the Avs hadn’t had such a successful first season in Colorado. Hockey found me later in life than it found a lot of people. Nothing I can do about it.

Who was there at the beginning of any of it? Who was a Nordiques fan when they were in the WHA, and still are a fan of the franchise? Show me a fan of the Cincinnati Stingers who gave the middle finger to hockey after the WHA folded and the team wasn’t taken into the NHL. It’s the Hartford Whalers fans who boycott hockey altogether that hold the town back from fresh hockey glories (and the Civic Center, which could not hold up to an NHL sized crowd). That’s right, it’s time to bust out the Howie Morenz game worn jersey. Bandwagon fans keep the league alive at playoff time.

And everyone is a bandwagon fan to some point. None of us were sprung from the womb wearing a hockey jersey and the singing a fight song. We were slapped on the ass, and that is truly the first experience we have as a hockey fan.

So the term bandwagon should go the way of the two line pass, stricken from the rule books for slowing down the best game in the world. If anything, I want to welcome the fans of other teams over to the side of (what I consider) the righteous, the excellent, everything that is good and decent with the game Colorado Avalanche. If the Avs are eliminated along the way (and not a moment before), I will see who I get behind, albeit briefly. I know who it won’t be.

Comments

  1. “None of us were sprung from the womb wearing a hockey jersey and singing a fight song.’

    Except for kids born into a Francophone family in Canada. Then, you come out with a Habs jersey whether you like it or not ;)

    But great post and I couldn’t agree more. I got into this argument after explaining to my uncle about how I went from being a Habs fan to the Kings, then the Sharks before finally settling on the Avalanche.

    He told me “true fans” hate people like me. I asked him to define a “true fan” to me and he couldn’t other than to pull the old “through thick and thin” reasoning.

    But I didn’t abandon those teams b/c they were losing – the Kings made the SC finals that year – it was because those teams didn’t feel right.

    He’s a Leafs fan though so I don’t pay much attention to his hockey talk ;)

  2. As you may or may not have noticed, we in D.C. have had quite the influx of new/returning fans over the past month or two, but they’re not bandwagoners… they’re “The Converted.” And they’re always welcome.

  3. Shane – I could say something witty, cool, and cliche, such as “you don’t pick your team, your team picks you,” but I’m not going to do that….

    wait…

    J.P. – There are plenty of teams out there (min included) who need the fans. I love talking about the Avs (obviously), and can’t wait to tell new fans how great they are, or the sport of hockey is. “Converted” is a great way of putting it.

  4. I define a bandwagon fan like this… someone who never cared about the team until they were hyped up and in the hunt for the championship, then goes out and buys a jersey and acts like they’re Top Fan, but then abandons them the moment they’re not on top. It would be like me becoming a huge Arizona Cardinals fan after they win their 9th straight and it looks like they’re finally for real (yeah, right!), after years of mocking my friends for supporting a team who’s ownership spits in their face.

    There are CASUAL fans that pay more attention come playoff/success time. I might qualify as a casual fan of the Phoenix Suns. I am a die hard Red Wings fan because I’m from there originally and was once a casual fan – in the mid-90’s, specifically that Conf Final against the Hawks, I got converted overnight. I’ve never had to confront a bad season, but certainly suffered through some embarrassing playoff runs. I am a casual fan of the Coyotes, because I live out here and can go to their games. But I now consider myself just a big fan of the NHL and have watched most of the playoff games, or at least good chunks of them (I do have a life!), and have gone as far as tivo’ing games that don’t even feature the Wings. I’m looking forward to watching Boston attempt the improbable tonight in their Game 7, and hoping Ovechkin can finally lead his team and stay in the hunt.

    I don’t think moving from Casual Fan to Crazy Fan is the same as bandwagon though. The worst bandwagon fans, from what I hear, are Lakers/Kings fans, and I’ve heard USC got their share of bandwagoneers since their reign began. Must be something about LA.

    When the Wings bow out, I tend to stop watching hockey. And it pisses me off. I love the sport, but my heart breaks a little bit and it’s just too damned hard to watch! You probably wouldn’t understand that level of devotion being an Avs fan (ha ha).

  5. Great post. Nothing more to add, as you and I have discussed this issue many a time, except to say preach it, brother.

  6. Preach on, Brother Tapeleg! Though Adam makes a good point — we should welcome new fans, but scorn those who turn their backs on their newly-adopted team when the goings get rough. Not from a TV perspective, of course; the NHL can use all the viewers they can get, fair-weather or otherwise. But from a team perspective, if one adopts a team, well then stick with ‘em for a few seasons at least before allowing loyalties to falter or fade.

  7. Americanario says:

    Difference between a “band-wagon” fan, a “casual” fan, and a “true” fan in my humble opinion.

    It doesn’t really matter how, why or when you become a fan of a team, but more so your devotion to the team and or sport.

    Badnwagon fan – implies that you are just along for the ride. The team is playing well and you want to be part of the party. So you don a jersey, baseball cap, or some other memorabilia so you can be part of the said party. It’s the “popular” thing to do at the time and your are being “popular”. As soon as the ride gets bumpy you jump off and go your separate way.

    Casual fans – are those that are more a fan of the sport, but a drawn slightly more to a particular style of play and/or team. You may have a favorite team in another city, but you are a fan of the game and want to support the local team as well.

    True fan – (may also be know as die-hard) will live and die with his particular team. Some are more fanatical than others (maybe those that refuse to watch any other team no matter what). The more devote of these can tell you who played center for the (team of choice) when the won the cup in such and such year. Some are younger and can’t regurgitate that information back to the bigging of time, but can name most, if not all of the current players and could pick out a few of them outside of the arena.

    I personally am between the two latter categories. While I can into my Hockey maturity with the Avalanche, I started my hockey puberty with the late Nordiques and the St. Louis Blues. I followed the Nordiques as they moved into Denver and have been with them since. Last year and early this season were tough, but we are getting our rewards for sticking with the team. I am also a casual fan of the Sabres and it started before Drury’s stint with them (sorry even with Drury I can’t cheer for the Rangers) I am also a fan of the NHL, to a degree. I purchase Center Ice so I can watch the Avs…but since I have the package I am going to use it and I try to watch as many games during the season because I want to see what else is out there. I want to know about the teams in the East more than just those few games the Avs play against them. I want to know why I hate Jagr and Crosby, yet like Malkin and Ovechkin.

    But as seems to be the consensus, it doesn’t really matter what kind of fan you are (though we will continue to pick on those we consider to be band-wagoners), support the sport and have fun while you can.

  8. hockeychic says:

    This is an awesome post. The NHL needs fans, bandwagon, casual, and die hard. Plain and simple. The more people watch our sport, the better. That is why I am so bummed that the Caps did not win. How great would that have been for the NHL to have the publicity?

    I started becoming a Red Wing fan when Yzerman came into the league and was probably more casual (because at that time the Wings stunk and never made the playoffs). I was still watching them when I moved here in 1990 because there was no NHL team in Colorado. When they announced the Nordiques were coming, I vowed to support them and have had season tickets (shared) since day 1. Of course, I had no way of knowing that my beloved Wings would become the most hated rival of the Avalanche. So I still attend Avs games but I wouldn’t say I’m really a fan of them. I enjoy watching NHL hockey and I get Center ice so I can see all the teams. My friends say I’m pyscho about hockey but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m busy converting people one at a time. It is great the number of people I’ve gotten watching hockey, unfortunately most of them became Avs fans instead of Wings fans, so I must have messed up somewhere. :)

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