Examples of teams that have been accused of having bandwagon fans. The Dallas Cowboys. The Miami Heat. The New York Yankees. The Detroit Red Wings. The Texas Longhorns. Mostly teams that have won, and won a lot. Whenever they are good, it seems like people you didn't even know watch sports start showing up at events with team hats and T-shirts and talking with sudden knowledge of the next game, match up, players names, etc. And there is good reason why.
1. Winning is why we watch sports
When teams win, the media covers them. They're the lead story on ESPNs Sportscenter. Their games are on in the prime time slot every week (or multiple times per week). Sports web pages start running in depth articles about players, coaches, fans, city, chemistry, etc. It becomes easy to follow them. You learn about the players. They win. You get that adrenaline rush. You get drawn in (drawn in again, if you've been gone a while). You look forward to dedicating time to watch them play. This is everything right with sports! The bandwagon fan loves to win!
|Dallas Cowboys become America's Team when they are winning
2. Losing sucks
Watching a team you love lose is tough. Watching them lose a lot takes some of the sports passion away. We've all been there before, the team we cheer for and follow just doesn't get it right. They blow leads, their best players get hurt, they get blown out. Who wants to watch this (insert Cubs joke here)? The point is, when your team loses (like the Cowboys the last decade) you don't buy T-shirts, you don't talk about your team incessantly, you don't talk smack. That doesn't mean you're not a fan, you're just a fan in hibernation (I've been one for the Astros for four seasons now). The bandwagon fan doesn't talk about their team when there is nothing to talk about.
|Only Chicago Cubs fans seem to wallow in losing
3. Sports is a national affair now
There was a day when you really only could watch your local team every game. Maybe one national game a week. Even College Football only showed games that could be counted on a hand or two. Now (even without pay packages) there are national games almost every day during the season. Suddenly players like LeBron James and Mike Trout are seen multiple times a week. Teams like the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Lakers, and Detroit Red Wings are on at least once a week. Makes it MUCH easier to follow a popular team. In some ways, the game coverage by outlets like ESPN dictate which teams you are going to see more and which teams they think are worthy of following. The bandwagon fan is just playing along.
|When Kobe Bryant is on TV every other night, fans will follow
4. With free agency, sports has evolved from team fandom to player fandom
The free agency era has been with us for a few decades now. But only in the past 5 - 10 years has it seemed that players flip much more quickly. LeBron James free agent signing announcements become prime time events. News of Alex Rodriguez free agency literally preempted the decisive game of the World Series. Football not quite as much, but Demarco Murray certainly was a name in the news this offseason. This means that fans follow players. Who change teams. And they change who they cheer for (see #3, it's a national affair now). Yes, when LeBron played for the Miami Heat, it seemed like everyone was cheering for Heat. Now he is back with the Cleveland Cavaliers and yes, there are more fans watching the Cavs. This is natural. We have our favorite team with local ties, then our favorite players. We cheer for those players wherever they are. Because the bandwagon fan loves superstars!
|Fans of LeBron James are justified in changing their loyalties
Can bandwagon fans take it too far? Absolutely. Don't act like you've been the guy that's cheered for the Cowboys every year when you haven't ever been to a game or can't name their defensive coordinator. Don't throw your 27 World Series rings and talk about how great Babe Ruth was when you really just liked Derek Jeter (who wouldn't). Don't talk about Hockey Town USA if you've never even visited Detroit. You can cheer for the teams, but don't overplay your hand. You are a bandwagon fan...know it and know your place. And all is good.
So is the bandwagon fan annoying? You bet. Just like other teams' fans that cheer on while your team loses. Is their fandom justified? I think the four reasons above show why it is. These fans are not going away. But they're alright, so long as they know their place!