As another LeBron James jersey flashes before our eyes, our minds naturally scream “bandwagon fan” — a title used to describe fans who only support a team during its successes, and not in times of failure. With today’s increased commercialization of professional sports leagues such as the NFL, NBA, MLB and others, it is fairly easy to follow the popularity trends of certain teams and players. Bandwagon fans often receive heavy criticism for not being true fans and for only jumping onto the bandwagon to fit in with what is popular in the sports world. However, most don’t realize the importance of bandwagon fans to franchises and the sports community in general.
While any successful team needs talented athletes on the roster to win, an enormous facet of creating a championship franchise involves fans. Home field advantage is really only an advantage when ticket sales are high, and that can only happen if a team’s fanbase is large. Furthermore, the effect of the bandwagon is exponential — a larger bandwagon attracts even more fans, which shows that bandwagon fans can really only have a positive impact on a team’s fanbase and support.
Even if the presence of a fake fan is frustrating, let’s face it — the majority of us were once bandwagon fans as well. It is rare for one to start following a team that is doing poorly since there is simply little incentive to cheer for a team that is unsuccessful. Moreover, it’s unlikely for one to suddenly start following a team that is not talked about much in the media. Fans become fans because they have a reason to, and I would argue that rooting for a team because they are good is more than acceptable. It is only after years of following a team that may have initially sparked interest via the bandwagon that a true fan is born.
Most importantly, athletes themselves had to start somewhere before becoming who they are. It is ridiculous to think that Kobe Bryant became an NBA superstar without first being exposed to the NBA at an earlier age. Most athletes were likely bandwagon fans themselves — it introduces athletes to the sport and allows them to develop their passion for it over time. As crazy as it sounds, criticizing athletes for being bandwagon fans at an early age has the possibility of discouraging them from pursuing their dreams of turning pro.
Perhaps it is ironic that many of us have jumped onto the bandwagon of condemning so-called “bandwagon fans.” Such hypocrisy examines how true of a fan those critics really are. True fans welcome other fans, even if they are bandwagoners, and think about the actual implications of a larger fan base before making unnecessary criticisms.
Contact Ethan Teo at ethanteo99 ‘at’ gmail.com.