In the 2016 basketball season, the Toronto Raptors won their first playoff series for the first time in fifteen years. Fans of the basketball team were ecstatic, proud of the team they always believed in. But these fans weren’t alone—the Raptors also received an overwhelming amount of support from bandwagoners.
Bandwagoners are sports fans who choose to support a team solely because of the team’s recent success. Since their loyalty is founded upon the team’s triumphs, as soon as the team’s performance begins to falter, bandwagoners will often choose to shift their support to another more successful team. Those who consider themselves “true fans” of a team look down on these bandwagoners, frowning upon their flighty behaviour. But bandwagoners don’t deserve this type of criticism, as their actions are beneficial to not only themselves, but also to the success and recognition of the teams they support.
Before judging bandwagoners, it is key to realize that the purpose of sports teams is to provide entertainment for their viewers. Fans like to watch games because it is an enjoyable way to pass time, and it gives them a common point of discussion with friends who are also fans. From this perspective, bandwagoning seems like a logical process. Supporting a sports team that is consistently winning its games is certainly more satisfying than watching a team that is always losing. The cheering, excitement, and thrill that come from watching a sports game are heavily reliant on the team’s ability to perform exceptionally well and win matches. As a fan, it is emotionally draining to keep cheering for a team that is losing. Thus, the logical course of action would be to cheer on a team that is currently performing well. Chances are, many other bandwagoners have also chosen this course of action, and this way, these fans can connect with each other by cheering for the same team. Humans are social beings, so the fact that other people are also bandwagoning makes it all the more appealing. The purpose of sports teams is to bring their supporters happiness, and bandwagoners are simply trying to maximize the enjoyment they receive from watching sports.
So what makes a person a true fan? Some would argue that the determining factor is loyalty. True fans persevere with the team they love, even through periods of continuous failure; that is, even if the team’s performance falters, true fans will resist the urge to go cheer on a different winning team. Through thick and thin, these fans feel that their dedicated support is what gives them the right to appreciate the success of the team. Other true fans like to believe geographical factors are an important aspect of being a true fan. If you live in Canada, then what gives you the right to support a soccer team from England?
But the arguments made by these so-called true fans come off as self-righteous and unfounded. Their resolute support is to be respected, but that does not give them the right to ridicule bandwagoners. Ultimately, true fans should wish for the success of their favourite sports team. If bandwagoners have a positive impact on the team, then they should be encouraged. Although their support may be temporary, bandwagoners often purchase merchandise, buy tickets to games, and even discuss the results of games with their friends. These are all actions that will benefit the revenue, publicity, and confidence of the sports team—it undoubtedly feels better to have a full stadium of cheering fans, rather than a small handful of dedicated fans.
When it comes to supporting a team, everyone has to start somewhere. It just makes more sense to start with a team that is winning, as opposed to one that is always losing. Who knows? Some bandwagoners may choose to stick around even when the sports team begins to lose. Regardless of their choices later on, bandwagoners should be appreciated for their present contributions and support for the team. So next time, don’t be afraid to jump on the bandwagon.