Considering the anatomy of a bandwagon sports fan

BY NATHAN MCCLELLAN ’16
Staff Writer

There may be no species more fascinating in this world than the “bandwagon fan.” They enthrall us, confuse us, and often anger us with their strange behavior. Yet, despite their uniqueness, these bandwagon fans, or “plastics” as they are called in Europe, are rather common. They can be spotted everywhere, except of course around a TV while their “favorite” team is playing or at a stadium on game day.

Attire may indicate the presence of a bandwagon fan. A crisp, new LeBron James jersey, a Yankees cap, Dallas Cowboys shorts, or a sleek Chelsea shirt with Torres on the back are typical guises (though not perfect indicators) worn by the bandwagon fan. These disguises can cause problems for the natural observer.

Bandwagon fans have mastered the art of blending in with commonplace fans to avoid being spotted. The only way we natural observers may determine the difference between common fans and bandwagon fans is thorough investigation. For instance, we may ask the subject these questions: “Where are you from? How long have you been a fan? Do you follow your team closely?”

If the team in question is the Dallas Cowboys and the fan answers, respectively: “Philadelphia, year, I watched a game or two this season,” he or she is most likely a bandwagon fan. Though it is not a perfect science, the answers to the questions more often than not will yield us the information we need to classify the subject.

However, it is harder to explain why a bandwagon fan acts the way he or she does. Various psychological, environmental, and social factors may contribute to a bandwagon fan’s behavior. It is our duty as neutral observers to consider these aspects in our investigations.

The psyche of the bandwagon fan is often perplexing to the normal observer. They seem to lack emotion in all of the aspects of typical fandom. While bandwagon fans are quite fond of team apparel and celebrating championships they do not seem to care in the midst of games when their team scores or is scored upon. Moreover, they are ambivalent when their team is defeated, often feigning to support another team as a survival device. Yet, when their team is victorious they are quick to prey on the wounded fans of other teams.

It also seems that bandwagon fans suffer from acute memory loss. Usually, they forget the name of their favorite player or fail to recite the basic history of their team upon being asked.

A bandwagon fan is also affected heavily by environment and change in time. Bandwagon fans are prone to migrate from team to team at specific points in the calendar. The most notable migrations seem to occur after championships are decided. This bustle from one team to another is often a hectic experience for everyone, especially causing general frustration and angst amongst common fans.

A multitude of social factors contribute to the abundance of bandwagon fans as well. Bandwagon fans will often utilize camouflage, pretending to support other teams when it is advantageous for them to do so. For example, a male bandwagon fan meets a female common fan. The male fan becomes attracted to the female fan. Next, the male fan will act as a common fan of her team in order to aid his mating attempts. Social espionage such as this is only typical for a bandwagon fan.

Yet, in spite of the social advantages of being a bandwagon fan, we often get the feeling that bandwagon fans are somehow missing out. Common fans reap the most from following their team. A common fan’s journey with his or her team will allow him or her to experience all emotions from the ecstasy of victory to the outrage of controversy to the misery of defeat, not just the superiority complex of supporting a successful team. Knowing all these feelings will serve him or her well in life’s ventures where victory and defeat are personal and uncertain.

Ultimately, neither type of fan can control what his or her team accomplishes. Therefore the true beauty of sport lies in the roller-coaster ride of emotions earned by living vicariously through a team, an experience bandwagon fans will never have.

Questions? Email Nathan at nmcclell@fandm.edu.

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