There is a stigma in the sports world about fans who come around when the good times are rolling. They showed up to your Super Bowl Party last year in Patriots gear even though we all know they grew up in Atlanta. We’re pretty sure we saw them in 3 different jerseys during the NBA playoffs. They love the Kansas City Royals but can’t think of their favorite player’s name right now. These people are called “Fair Weather” fans and while their clothing may match the team currently in the spotlight, their chameleon-like ways are unparalleled. Many fanatics look down upon Bandwagoneers, accusing them of not being “real fans.” I am here today to argue in their defense and perhaps even admit to sometimes being one.
If we take a look at the four major American sports, (football, baseball, basketball and hockey) there are 122 professional teams that compete for a championship every year. Only four teams can win, meaning that 118 fan bases watch their team suffer a season ending loss in helpless disappointment. I suppose you could count conference championships as some kind of consolation but I don’t know many fans who brag about losing in the finals. Let’s broaden our definition of success and say that the final four teams left in each sport’s playoff have had a fan-acceptable season. The remaining 87% percent of teams have let their fans down, give or take a bottom-of-the-barrel team having a breakthrough year. Are we expected to stand behind a team for 16, 82, even 162 games and ache through loss after loss? Should I stop at the merchandise booth after watching “my team” get blown out and buy a hat? Is expensive beer and hot dogs enough of a reason to spend my hard earned cash on tickets?
I am a Detroiter above all other city-related commitments. Supporting Detroit sports goes beyond the teams themselves and into representing the city, waving the flag and manifesting a feeling of being home. Last year, I bought a Warriors hat. In fact, I bought two. I bought these hats for two reasons. For one, I liked the hats. Secondly, and more importantly for the context of this discourse, the Warriors are GREAT. They are fun to watch and their story excites me. I turn their games on and see an arena of yellow and blue erupt after Steph Curry hits a fadeaway jumper from half court and it beckons to me. It says “Come on, join us. This is how free time should be spent.” Now the Warriors might be the easiest sell in sports right now so let’s take a look at “fair weather” from another perspective.
It’s January and the NFL has been cut in half for the playoffs. The Lions are out. LA doesn’t have a team yet (but will next year!). I can’t just tune out – it’s the postseason. Come Super Bowl Sunday, the team I’m picking to win it all will probably have changed a time or two as teams continue to get eliminated. But if we were 100% ride-or-die on our teams, the NFL would gross significantly less as we approach its biggest game. Which brings me to what I think makes Fair Weather Fans most important: where they spend their money.
The Philadelphia 76ers are currently 4-36. That means I can reasonably assume that there is a 1-in-10 chance they will win. Am I buying a ticket to go see them? No. Jersey? Not a chance. Who is on their team, you ask? Exactly. And that should put a sense of urgency in everyone in that organization from the top down because money shouldn’t be coming in for them. Who is paying to see that? I’m actually shocked that it’s possible to lose that much and make money but Javale McGee is making $12M this year, and he isn’t even on the team anymore. The expectation to work all week, pay bills and taxes, then turn around and spend more of our precious income watching something bum us out in the name of loyalty is absurd. Get better, win games. Otherwise I’m going to watch the Splash Bros provide a pleasant break from my routine.
To spin this one more time, let’s step into a world I’m more familiar with – music. I don’t go to see bands who play songs I dislike. I can’t imagine anyone does unless their friend is the bass player. I watch bands I like and I discover new bands because their songs go on winning streaks. A band does not break through because they continually write songs that don’t catch on.
I don’t intend to take meaning away from the love that exists between a fan and their team. But I do think when your team finally has everything come together and the winning starts happening, you’d be bummed to see the arena as empty as it was when you sat through that 13-game losing streak. And the fans showing up to watch your winning team are the same ones who were at the other winning affairs across town. We love sports because we love competition and we love competition because we love winning. Tell us all about how you were a fan way back when and think what you will about us jumping on the bandwagon. We are the party. We’ll be there when your team is good and when they’re not, we’ll go have our fun somewhere else. “Fair Weather Fans” are earned.