Bandwagon fans are the worst to those of us who put our blood, sweat and tears into our fandom.
Do we take fandom too seriously? Yes, but they don't take it seriously enough, and it's annoying. If you're not watching the team and caring about the team during the regular season, you shouldn't be able to flaunt your fandom during the postseason—or worse, when the team in question is on the cusp of winning a title.
Maybe the reason this is such a sore spot for me is that this bandwagon thing is especially prevalent here in Boston, in relation to my favorite team. In Boston, it seems that very few people even realize the Bruins exist until they're one or two games away from winning the Stanley Cup. Then, all of a sudden, everyone comes out of the woodwork as The Biggest Bruins Fan Ever.
Here's the way I look at it, though: When my team loses, it hurts me. Deeply. If you don't have to deal with the same horror when the team loses, you shouldn't be able to have all the glory when it wins.
Here are some of the telltale quotes to help you spot a bandwagoner.
Some of us watch every single game. Fandom is an investment, after all; however, even if you don't have time to watch every single game—and during baseball, basketball and hockey season, who does?—you can still put in the work in other ways.
You can read game recaps. You can delve into stats. You can engage in conversation with others via Twitter. You can catch at least a few of the games during live broadcasts.
It's no excuse to say that you couldn't find the time to care during the regular season but then, all of a sudden, you have all this time to care when the stakes are highest. Just admit it. You jumped on the bandwagon when the playoffs started.
Most of us don't have the foresight to know that a decent player can and will become a superstar in the right environment, surrounded by the right teammates and commandeered by the right coach.
That's why most of us are not general managers of professional sports franchises.
So don't be that guy. Don't be the guy claiming that you knew all along that the Red Sox's 2013 strategy would be genius—especially when odds are high that back in January, February and March, you were calling Ben Cherington crazy for paying guys like Jonny Gomes, Stephen Drew and Mike Napoli.
Just enjoy the success of the team. From afar. Quietly.
No. That's not how it works.
When your team gets eliminated, it sucks, but it's over. That's the point of being a fan. You pick one team and you stick with that team all the way through. When that team wins it all, it is euphoric, but that's not going to happen every year and you can't just pick a new team when the one you picked to begin with gets knocked out.
You especially cannot pick the team that, a month away from the culmination of the postseason, looks like a mortal lock to win it all. You can't have all the glory without any of the guts.
You're supposed to be a fan of a team because that team genuinely means something to you, not because it has the best chance of winning.
Um, great. You've been a fan for a week and you've spent that week reading as much about the team as possible.
That's not an accomplishment.
Part of being a fan means being in touch with at least a little bit of the team's history. It means having some awareness of the players—and coaches and officials—who built the team up from the ground. The best player in the history of your team could very likely be someone who never won a title, so you better know who he is.
When you get shown up by someone who's been watching for years—maybe even decades—you totally deserve it.
There is one situation in which saying this is appropriate: It's when you are admittedly not a sports fan but you're filling out a March Madness bracket in the hopes of winning money.
Otherwise, just stop.
Liking the way a jersey looks is not a legitimate reason for liking a team. Sure, awesome colors can be a nice perk when you already like a team—for example, it is simply good fortune for me that the Bruins have the best colors and logo in hockey—but there has to be more to it than that. There has to be.
You are not guest-judging Project Runway. You are watching sports. Start acting like it.
I understand that all those afternoons spent climbing to the mountaintop in Madden were meaningful to you. I understand that a lot of work and emotions and time went into that.
Your Madden team isn't real, though. It may have made you happy for a short time, but it's not real. You can enjoy the fact that the Chiefs won it all for you in the virtual world, but that doesn't give you the right to declare yourself the biggest Chiefs fan ever.
What about all the people who actually like the Chiefs for legitimate reasons? Like they've been following the team—the actual team—their whole lives and now that team is finally good?
How do you spot a bandwagoner? He or she tells you that he or she loves the Miami Heat.
I know. It's kind of unfair to pile it on a franchise that is notorious for having the most fairweather of all the fairweather fans, but the team has that reputation because it's true. (Um, hello. Nothing epitomizes being a bandwagoner more than this.)
Sure, it's all fun and games in Miami now that nobody—nobody—can beat the Heat in the playoffs. It's all fun and games now that this team barely has to put any effort into earning the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
Just don't pretend you cared this much pre-The Decision. You're better than that.
Yes. You were a huge Baltimore Ravens fan during last year's postseason because you just loved Joe Flacco's work at Delaware. In fact, you didn't question the Baltimore Ravens at all when they selected Joe Flacco with their first-round pick in 2008. You were just so impressed with Flacco's work at Delaware that you knew it would all work out.
There are probably a couple of people out there in the world who can make this claim. Literally, there are probably one or two. The rest of you, though? Just admit it. You mocked the bejesus out of Flacco for the first three-and-a-half quarters of last year's divisional playoff game against the Broncos. You didn't think he had it in him. Then, he shocked the world.
You can be excited, sure. Just don't come up with some asinine excuse about how you've been following Flacco's career for so long that you never had any doubt.
Maybe the reason you rarely hear real fans complain about the rigors of the postseason schedule is because they're used to the ways sports can interfere with the rest of their lives. They're used to staying up late for games. They're used to missing out on sleep.
The bandwagoners, though—they struggle when the playoffs hit.
When the Stanley Cup Final game goes into triple overtime and thus the team ends up playing almost two full back-to-back games and it doesn't end till after 1 a.m., the bandwagoners love to flaunt the fact that they stayed up.
When the MLB playoffs stretch deep into the night, the bandwagoners love to tweet, just to prove that they're awake.
The silent majority is, too.
There's this thing happening this season. Suddenly, a bunch of Cowboys fans are coming out of the woodwork and claiming that they believed in Tony Romo all along.
All it took was for the team to go 5-5 through the first 10 weeks of the season!
It's true that Tony Romo has served as the brunt of a lot of jokes over the last few years. A lot of the time, he's deserved it. This year, his team has had to endure a couple of pretty tough losses when he's been pretty darn good.
But all those people that said they've been singing his praises this whole time? Not accurate. Just stop. You're lying.
Look, when someone calls you a bandwagoner, and you know you are a bandwagoner, just admit it. Just laugh it off. It's fine. It happens.
Don't think of an asinine excuse such as the one above.
Does this mean you cheer for the team in question if "your team" played earlier in the day? Or yesterday? Or last week? Does this mean you cheer for the team in question if "your team" is on a bye? Are you so invested in having one of "your teams" in the running on that particular day, or at that particular hour, that you need a team for every day of the week? Are you really trying to say that if your second-in-command team played "your team," you'd root for "your team"?
Because you're totally lying. You'd just say you rooted for whatever team ended up winning.
Here we go; a two-parter!
This is a claim that sets up the true sign of a bandwagoner. If you live in or move to a place where the local team sucks, you probably will immediately start looking for an excuse to hate that team.
Saying "the team sucks" isn't good enough. If you moved to OKC six years ago and decided to hate the Thunder back then, you better still hate the Thunder right now.
It's not as bad as saying you hate the local team because you don't like their colors, though. Or because the star player has a haircut you don't like. Or a car you don't like. Or a way of speaking you don't like.
It's pretty transparent that you're just looking for an excuse to hate the local team so you'll be able to say…
Have you ever met those people who are from, say, Tempe, Ariz., and claim to be the biggest Duke, Miami Heat, New York Yankees and New England Patriots fans ever?
Yeah. You know those people.
They think of an excuse to hate the local team(s) so they can hop on the bandwagons of whatever teams are winning. What is the point of this? I don't get it. Part of the fun of being a fan is supporting a team through the terrible times so you can truly experience the joy when it pulls off the ultimate coup.
What is the point of rooting for every team in the world that always wins? Everyone can see through you, dude.
It's not even cool to say "Yankees suck" anymore. That's how you know that the people still saying it are the late arrivals to the party.
The whole "Yankees suck" phenomenon culminated with the 2004 postseason and really slowed down after that. The Red Sox had done it. They tortured the Yankees into submission. They won the World Series. They defeated the Curse of the Bambino, and they really did make the Yankees look like they sucked.
There's obviously still a rivalry between these two teams, but now that they're on a far more even playing field, it's far less charged. Red Sox fans used to chant "Yankees suck" because the actual team's play didn't speak for itself. Now that it does, the fans don't need to say it anymore.
Unless the fans don't get it. And trust me, there are plenty of bandwagon Red Sox fans who don't get it.
It's true—championship parades are fun. You get to see the players you've cheered for all season roll through your beloved city, wearing championship gear, toting the biggest prize of all: the trophy.
Except I'd be willing to wager that the vast majority of people who populate those parade crowds have barely watched a game all season.
It's fun to get out there and cheer the local team for winning a title. It's fun to feel like a part of something. And it makes the city look far better when the streets are filled with fans than when they're empty.
But when you're at the point where you can barely put a name to the faces you're seeing on those duck boats/buses/parade vehicles…yeah.
This is the thing bandwagoners love to say the most. It's their way of excusing their abhorrent behavior. It's their way of justifying the fact that they only just started caring two weeks ago.
But here's the thing: The regular season does matter. The regular season is where character is built. It's where the best storylines are crafted. It's where all of the adversity—the stuff that the eventual hero must overcome—percolates.
If you're not watching during the regular season, you're a bandwagoner, plain and simple. If you're not watching during the regular season, you don't care enough to be a fan. Sure, you might care a little, but you don't care enough. You're waiting until the team has a good shot at winning it all to actually get involved in the conversation.
So please. Pipe down.