September 13, 2007

Bandwagon Fans Should Be Categorized and Castigated

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A specter is haunting the Cornell community — the specter of bandwagoning.
Every year as we get closer to the baseball playoffs, I begin to see more and more fake fans professing their allegiance to a playoff team. Frequently, the sight of bandwagon fans in action causes real fans to react like the guy from the movie Alien with the stomach problems, so I want to create an official guide to identifying and dealing with bandwagon fans. Let’s discuss the different types.
Type 1: The Out of Towner — This one goes out to all the Dallas Cowboys fans in the mid-1990s, who were willing to reenact scenes from The Notebook with Troy Aikman and had posters of Jay Novacek adorning their walls. These fans then abruptly stopped caring about football when Chan Gailey took over the team and Quincy Carter became quarterback. I’ll make an exception, though, for people who still follow that team, if only because they now have to suffer through the inevitable snicker when they tell their friends that they root for the Cowboys even though they are from upstate New York. I’ll give even more credit to anyone that started liking a random horrible team when that team was awful, then reaped the benefits when that team became good, like if you were an Anaheim Ducks fan from Louisiana.
Type 2: The Trick-or-Treater — This refers to “fans” that start following their “team” during the playoffs. Growing up in Connecticut close to the New York state border, my town was full of Yankee “fans” who never watched a regular season game in their lives. Starting around mid-October, though, these people all of a sudden spent their entire lunch arguing about whether Ramiro Mendoza was better off in the bullpen or in the rotation.
The day after the Yankees beat the Red Sox in the 2003 ALCS was like V-E Day in my high school. Kids who hadn’t even watched Game 1 through Game 6 began to brag about their team’s exploits. As a Mets fan, these Trick-or-Treaters made my life miserable by having the gall to criticize me for not being happy about the Yankees’ victory. These are the same people who now claim that the Yankees are actually the 2003 World Series champions because the loss to the Marlins does not matter, as if Derek Jeter treated the World Series like Spicoli from Fast Times at Ridgemount High treats history class (yes, these people actually exist).
Type 3: The Fashion Statement — These people only root for a team because they like wearing that team’s jersey. I can’t stress this enough – if you are not a fan of a team, don’t wear a jersey. Seeing other teams’ jerseys just depresses fans of other teams. Two weeks ago, after the “Back to School Massacre” in which the Phillies swept the Mets, I went to class dreading seeing Phillies jerseys galore. Fortunately, Philadelphia fans were apparently in hiding, probably still in mourning over Eric Lindros’s potential retirement. Back in middle school, though, Yankees jerseys were in vogue. Every time I read the word “Jeter” on the back of some kid who thought Bud Selig was a type of beer, I wanted to cry.
One exception to this category is anyone who wears a jersey or shirt to be ironic or funny. I have a friend who has a Quebec Nordiques shirt even though he is not from Quebec and was never a Nordiques fan. Since I don’t think any Winnipeg Jets fans will be offended, this is O.k. in my book. Same goes for any other humorous sports clothing combinations, such as wearing an Akili Smith Bengals jersey or a Randy Johnson Astros jersey.
Type 4: The Jumper — This fan actually knows something about sports, but changes his or her favorite team more often than Spinal Tap changes drummers. This type of person is a Braves fan one year, a Yankees fan the next and a Red Sox fan the year after that, depending on which team is en vogue. Unless you root solely for former journeyman pitcher Mike Morgan and have therefore at one point been a fan of the A’s, Yankees, Blue Jays, Mariners, Orioles, Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals, Reds, Twins, Rangers and Diamondbacks, you should not be switching teams. I think that it is fair to permit fans to switch allegiances once or twice in their lives, but that should happen either if you move, your team moves or other extenuating circumstances. Such extenuating circumstances might include if your team hires KellyAnne from The Real World: Sydney as its general manager, begins to play the theme from The Hills at every at-bat or signs Bobby Bonilla as a role model to provide guidance to young players.
Type 5: Mr. Blue Sky — this is the worst type of fan, someone who knows a lot about sports, but only follows their favorite team during good times. For example, a Mr. Blue Sky Mets fan probably spent all of 2002-2004 watching Seinfeld repeats and had no idea that Roberto Alomar ever played at Shea. A “Mr. Blue Sky” can only work when their favorite team is good at some point in time; such a Pittsburgh Pirates fan hasn’t followed baseball since 1992.
Bandwagons are everywhere. They have even infiltrated literature, as Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix contains a scene where Ron berates Cho Chang for liking a Quidditch team only because the team was good (although it later turned out Cho was a real fan). What should we do with these outcasts? Exile them to Cortland? Take a blood oath to ensure fan loyalty? Force them to repeatedly watch the movie Lost in Space? While we’re deciding, there’s one thing we can agree on: let’s leave the bragging and jerseys to the die-hards.