On Bandwagons

Bandwagon. That word gets thrown around a lot, but it doesn’t have a positive connotation. It’s associated with fair-weather fans and disloyalty. The Golden State Warriors and Seattle Seahawks are two recent examples of bandwagons.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with liking a team just because of one player. When LeBron James took his talents to South Beach, many of his fans followed him, causing the Miami Heat fan base to skyrocket, and in turn, the Cleveland Cavaliers’ fans shrunk in number. These “followers” were ridiculed by many. That year, the Heat were the most hated team in the NBA.

I was one of those people who became a Heat fan in 2010. But did I do it because everyone else was doing it, or because I thought Miami going to win the championship? No. I did it because LeBron was my favorite player, and I wasn’t going to stop rooting for him just because he switched teams.

Now, I did stop being a Cavs fan after LeBron left, and I might catch some flak for that, but it wasn’t because they were losing all the time. It was because they just weren’t fun to watch anymore. I don’t know about you, but I watch sports for entertainment. If a team loses its entertainment value, then I don’t want to watch that team anymore. It’s that simple.

What about the Dallas Mavericks fans in 2011? They didn’t become fans of because they liked the Mavs; they just wanted to see Miami lose. These people were just as much bandwagoners as the fans of the team they were rooting against. Yet no one criticized them for doing this.

What’s wrong about liking a team if your favorite player is on it? I’m an Ohio State fan, I root for a team that has a former Buckeye. For example, I hated the Lakers, but when they drafted D’Angelo Russell last year, I became a Lakers fan. And even though they’re having a historically bad season this year, they are at least a fun team. And once Kobe leaves, I think they’ll be even more fun to watch. Thanks to Ohio State, I like the Memphis Grizzlies, the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the Carolina Panthers.

There’s a difference between liking a team because of a certain player and liking a team because it wins a lot. Golden State’s fan base has increased greatly in the past few years, mainly for two reasons. First, they’re winning. A lot. At a historical rate, in fact. Second, their star player, Steph Curry, is not just really good at basketball––he’s also a likeable guy. I wonder how many “fans” would leave if Curry, for some reason, goes to another team, or if the Warriors repent of their winning ways.

I also think the city you grow up in has a lot to do with your loyalty to a team. I’m from Cincinnati, which hasn’t had an NBA team since the early 1970s. I became a Cavs fan because they were an Ohio team. But when LeBron went to Miami, I felt no obligation to stay a Cavs fan. Did I think LeBron did the right thing, announcing his decision on national TV? No, and I felt bad for Cleveland. But because I wasn’t a native of the city, I had no problem with jumping ship. Now, if I had grown up in Cuyahoga County, I probably would have burned my #23 jersey.

Humans are social creatures. We want to feel included. We like that sense of community. So when we see a bunch of people flocking to a team, we want to be a part of that, so we join them. This is why we have bandwagons.

People are naturally drawn to winners. That’s why the Yankees and the Lakers have so many fans: they win a lot. It’s tough being a fan of a team that has a losing culture. That’s why I admire Cleveland Browns fans. They’ve experienced losing season after losing season. Their coaching spot and their starting quarterback position are two of the quickest revolving doors in the league. Yet they stick with the team. That’s dedication, and that’s something I don’t think I have. I just thank God I wasn’t born in Cleveland.

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