I live in the Chicago area, so right now, in the aftermath of the 2016 World Series, there is Cubs gear everywhere. Everyone is flying that W flag from their windows and their cars, (1) and everyone is wearing Cubs t-shirts and jackets.
And with all of this outpouring for the Cubs, there comes the inevitable lament (2) about “bandwagon” fans, fans who “don’t really” care about the Cubs, or baseball, but are acting like they do because the Cubs won. False fans who haven’t put in the time watching the Lovable Loser Cubs and “paying their dues” and therefore don’t deserve to call themselves fans.
Yeah, fuck that.
As someone who came to baseball as an adult, I have no patience with critiques of bandwagon fans. I don’t care if you became a fan of the Cubs in the tenth inning on November 3, 2016 and stopped caring on the way home from the parade, or if you’ve been a fan since 1920 (3). Baseball needs more fans, young and old, black and white, women and men, and if winning brings more people into the fold, some of whom may stick around when the team loses, then great. We can’t all have dads who were baseball fans when we were kids, and that shouldn’t be a prerequisite for a “true fan.”
Part of the reason why I feel this way is obviously personal, because of how I became a baseball fan, but part of it is also objective fact: I am a more intense baseball fan than most people I know. This last season, I traveled to five cities to see baseball and went to over thirty games. I’ve only been doing this since 2008-9, really, and I see more games, and spend more money on tickets and gear, and know more about the rules, than most of my friends and many of the people I meet at the games who have been baseball fans for ten or twenty or thirty years.
That’s not a slam on anybody, or a way of saying that I’m “a better fan” than any other fan. I’m not. But it is an argument against the idea of the bandwagon. Why is some dude who started following a team twenty years ago because his dad did and sees one or two games a year when his company gives him free tickets not a bandwagon fan, but someone like me in 2009 is? The vagaries of birth and circumstance? The mere passage of time? Nah, I’m not having it.
The thing is, you never know which so-called bandwagon fan is going to become me. In 2007, no one could have predicted my love of baseball. Not my friends, not my family, not me. It hit me like a lightning bolt and changed me into a fan the way a spider bite changed Peter Parker. The people complaining about the bandwagon here in Chicago don’t know who is going to look back at this October twenty years from now from their season ticket seats and think “that was moment it started for me.”
1. There’s an L flag, too, a fact I discovered this year. It makes sense, if you think about it, but no one seems to wave the L flag around. Maybe I should start. 🙂
2. No joke, this started even before the Cubs won. See, e.g., this article. Only Cubs fans could turn a World Series victory into a loss.
3. Hats off to those elderly baseball fans, though, with their headphones and their jackets and their hats full of pins. Y’all are what I want to be when I grow up, ladies and gentlemen.