Photo credit: Eric Kilby Flickr CC
I’ve been remarkably lucky in my time as a hockey fan – I’ve never been called a bandwagon fan, and never been “required” to prove myself as “the real thing.”
In the two years since I threw myself back into the life of a sports fan I have only ever been given grief for my choice of favorite teams. (The cashier from Jersey who told me I had to go to a different checkout because I was wearing my Crosby jersey is my absolute favorite. He was awesome. The teenage girl in the Nordiques hat who was appalled by my Crosby shirt at a Fall Out Boy concert is my second.)
Most recently, we were shopping for a new TV after the tragic loss of our old one. We’d decided to significantly upgrade in size – bigger is better, right? And when the sales guy asked what we were looking for I said, “Something large for Hi-Def hockey”
I got a big high five.
So, we talked about refresh rate and which brands were going to give me the clearest picture for finding the puck, which is important. Not that there’s any technology that can help when the puck is in the goalie’s pants, though. And let’s be honest, that happens way more than we like to acknowledge.
My fellow-fan sales guy was also the DirecTv rep, and when he asked about our interest in signing up I said, “Already got us, Center Ice and everything.”
I got another high five.
That’s all pretty common for me. I find myself rolling my eyes a lot at cheap shots against Crosby, but I also find myself getting fist-bumps from fellow relatively-isolated Pens fans. And I have never once been asked to “name five players that aren’t Crosby.”
A lot of women sports fans aren’t that lucky during the regular season, and I’ll be honest; get close to any Bowl game, Cup run, Series end and a lot of men are getting it too. It’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen.
Pfft! Bandwagoners. Ugh. The bane of every long-time sports fan’s existence. Like, how dare you try to love what I love?
Let me lay this out for you:
- Local Team struggles for years because of injury, poor management, bad drafting, salary cap requirements, etc.
- Local Team fires GM, replaces Coach, actually manages to draft the guy they most need.
- Local Team starts to win.
- Local News starts talking about the Cinderella Story.
- Not-A-Sports-Fan watches news.
- Not-A-Sports-Fan gets interested in Local Team, because hey, everybody loves a Cinderella story!
- Not-A-Sports-Fan sees a Local Team t-shirt at the store and says, “I can wear that to work for the next game, like my co-workers!”
- Bourgeoning-Sports-Fan wears shirt to work.
- Old-Fan says, “I didn’t know you were a fan!”
- Bourgeoning-Sports-Fan says, “Yeah! I’ve been getting really into the team this season!”
- Old-Fan scoffs and says, “Oh really? Can you even name three players on the team?”
- Bourgeoning-Sports-Fan frowns and says, “Well, no? Because I just started watching.”
- Old-Fan snorts and wanders off with his office mate, muttering not-quite under his breath about bandwagon fans, making plans to watch the game at the bar that night, without Bourgeoning-Sports-Fan.
Spoiler alert: Bourgeoning-Sports-Fan is probably going to revert to Not-A-Sports-fan and take the money they would have spent on merchandise and season tickets to the movies.
Congratulations, Sports Fan Grandpa. All the bandwagoners are off your lawn, and when you die no one will ever take over your lifetime-season-ticket seat. It will sit empty for all eternity. I’m sure your team loves that idea.
Look, I get it. You’ve stuck by your truly, spectacularly awful team through some really miserable years. You bought the tickets when they were practically, (and literally) giving them away just to get butts in the seats. You paid for the over-priced beer and the honestly tasty roasted nuts. You risked food poisoning again and again for the nachos. All while watching some truly bad playing, poor coaching, and horrible salary cap decisions tear your team to the ground. (You’ve probably even stood loyally by through a lockout or three.)
And now your guys are in the playoffs and suddenly everybody gives a damn. Where were they when your boys were headed to the locker room with heads hung low in defeat? Where were they when you were looking to lose your team entirely because they couldn’t pay the bills? And besides, they’ll just stop caring again when your boys start losing again. (We all know they’re going to start losing again, let’s be realistic, here.)
I offer you this, my friend: maybe this is your chance to not just make a new friend who will love the thing you love, but add another loyal fan to stand at your side through the bad times. If you make them feel welcome when times are good, they’re going to be more inclined to hold your hand and pass you the chips through the bad. If borderline fans can walk into the bar and be welcomed with a cheer and a round of decent beer, they’re more likely to go to work on Monday and say, “Wow, those sports fans are great people. I had so much fun and I’m going to do it again, and you should come with me!”
Play your cards right, and you could get them on your team’s side for life.
Or by all means, make your stand and tell them to pry your season tickets from your cold, dead hands.