Because I was raised in a family dedicated to the Kansas City Royals, I never thought twice about which baseball team I called my own. Growing up, my family attended at least one Royals game each year. My parents marveled at the fact that we could arrive 20 minutes before game time and still park within a few feet of the stadium.
Until recently, I thought that was the norm for baseball, at least Kansas City baseball. I have never been shy about being a Royals fan. I would sport my Royals shirt in my school pictures and wear my Royals hat whenever I had the chance. In “Cardinals Country” where we lived, my royal blue stuck out in a sea of Cardinal red, especially at playoff time.
Little did I know, sporting my team’s attire became an open invitation for both acquaintances and strangers to speak freely on the inferiority of my team. When I would wear my favorite player, Zach Greinke’s, jersey to school, I would never hear the end of it. My teachers and fellow classmates would crack jokes about Kansas City to make sure I knew the Cardinals were better.
I cannot tell you how many times strangers have told me, “Maybe next year!” with a smirk on their faces. A few people were even genuinely concerned about why I would love a team that, in their eyes, had no hope of winning, acting as if they could not grasp such a foreign concept.
Speaking from experience, there is nothing better than watching your team succeed after years of struggles. The thrill of victory is sweetest after countless heartbreaking defeats. But that distress and agony can take a toll on a person. For those loyal fans — the people who stick with their teams through bad times and suffer for it — there are few things that are more insulting than a newbie coming along when things finally go well.
In sports, those newbies are often referred to as “bandwagon fans.” Bandwagon fans support a team only when it is winning. They are the fans who wear the bright new jerseys, hats and t-shirts. They are the fans who fill the parking lot up so you have to park a mile away from the stadium to see “your team.” They are the fans who make the team money while your dollars just sustained them.
A true fan has invested time, money and heartbreak into the franchise. When your team was losing, it was hard to find another fan unless you were in the ball park. Bandwagon fans, especially for the Royals, can be seen everywhere these days. Now that the team has won a championship, it is hard to walk to class without seeing one of the player’s jerseys.
All the team sports attire being worn by the new fans might not make old fans happy, but the franchise loves it. Economically, bandwagon fans are great for a ball team.
Dane Wenger, a Sports Management senior at the University of Missouri, sees bandwagon fans in two ways. From a business side, the franchise is happy they bring in money. Teams want those new fans to stay because that means a larger fan base and more sales. On a personal note, Wenger said no real fan likes luke-warm fans crowding up their stadium.
“The main goal for the franchise is to have those bandwagon fans stay, even if they haven’t been with the team for their whole life,” Wenger said.
Although any diehard fan would tell you they despise new fans, bandwagon fans might actually be the smartest type of fans. They do not sit through years of losing seasons or get their hearts broken by a tough loss. They simply move on to the next team with a bright future.
According to Larry Stone’s Seattle Times article “The Psychology of Being a Sports Fan,” our pride can go quite deep.
“When your team loses, it’s like you lose a part of yourself, because your identity is so merged with the identity of the team and the fan community,” Stone said. “Sports in the U.S. makes such a difference in people’s lives, a loss can be distressing and result in binge eating.”
Bandwagon fans avoid that misery while the rest of us endure. It’s a decision that diehard fans cannot understand, with their morals demanding that they stick with the team through thick and thin.
When those bandwagon fans start intruding into your space, remember there is one upside: the new fans get to take some of the insults that would normally be directed at only you. How long they can take those insults and constant taunts may be the determining factor on how long they wear the Royal blue. Of course any true fan knows, we will be right back next season to do it all over again. The question is, how many of our “new” fans will be back on the bandwagon next season?