I am from St. Louis but I’m an Indianapolis Colts fan for football and a Miami Heat fan for basketball. Why? Because I was once a bandwagon fan.
For those of you who don’t know, a bandwagon fan is one who decides to root for a team he has no real connections to other then that team is good at the time. Growing up in St. Louis, I was subject to the yearly torture of sitting through the Rams going 1-15 and 2-14 over and over again. That’s not too much fun for a middle school kid to root for.
In 2006, the Indianapolis Colts won the Super Bowl and I won $60 off a schoolyard bet as a result. To a sixth grader, it might as well have been $1,000. So I decided that this team that I had no connection to gave me a joy the Rams had rarely, if ever, given me. So I made my first jump as a bandwagon fan to Indianapolis.
Fast forward to several years later and I am just beginning to become interested in the NBA and the world of professional basketball. This is also around the time LeBron James made “The Decision” to take his talents to South Beach. So I was sitting there as a citizen of a city with no professional basketball team and determining that while everyone else would be mad for the next few years as James and his new super team would win championship after championship, why don’t I go the opposite way and adopt them as my team?
Every fellow sports writer or anyone who works in this industry has balked at me every time I retell this story to them. They say that as a person who constantly follows and makes a living off sports, how could I possibly support such a idiotic and annoying behavior?
The answer to that is simple. There is one caveat to my version of a bandwagon fan: once you get on, you can never get off.
After adopting the Colts, I sat through the 1-15 season after future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning had to sit out due to neck surgery. I even sat through this season as they are a virtual lock for a top-three pick in this year’s draft. I’ve sat through some truly atrocious football as a Colts fan as much as I’ve witnessed the good.
As a Heat fan, I reveled in the LeBron James era as the Heat would begin every season as Finals favorites. Now that James is gone and the team is full of mid-tier players and the record is reflecting that, I still proudly don my Heat gear.
The reason I don’t judge these type of bandwagon fans is because they chose to place their loyalty in another team but once they did, they stayed loyal to that team. I knew the Colts and Heat would never be good forever but I chose them because I wanted to cheer for something successful. Now that I’ve cheered through their successes, it’s only right that I cheer through the down times as well.
There are fans who switched their Heat allegiance to Cleveland the second LeBron went to his hometown team but what do they get from that? Empty victories simply because you decide to cheer for whoever is best at that time.
I’ve sat through the Colts attempting to return to Super Bowl and it hasn’t been an easy path. It will likely be years before the Heat ever make the Finals again. Yet sitting through that and staying loyal to those teams in which I adopted is what makes those victories so sweet.
So bandwagon fans can be annoying but if they choose to adopt another team for their lifetime, who are we to judge? There are certain fans (looking at you Cleveland and Detroit) who have sat through a lifetime of losing seasons and refuse to jump on another team’s bandwagon. To them I say congratulations and they are better fans than I am.
But if a person is sick of being constantly let down by their hometown team and simply wants to enjoy some winning sports in their life and they choose to ride or die with that team from there on, why is that a bad thing?