In sports, we always pride ourselves on being die-hard fans. The NFL is a perfect example of that, where even the Jacksonville Jaguars have a small, but loyal, following that will attack anyone with a snarky remark on Twitter.
We shame bandwagon fans. Nothing worse than being called a bandwagon fan.
Not in 2017.
This is the year we publicly embrace bandwagon fans, and become one as well. Ask why, but really, why not?
Imagine being an Atlanta Falcons fan (my apologies). It’s a franchise that has been around since 1966, and it was on the cusp of winning its first Super Bowl on Sunday. But the Falcons blew a 25-point lead in the second half to the New England Patriots, the largest comeback in Super Bowl history.
Years of loyalty, irrationally optimistic expectations and time spent following the Falcons all led up to this point. It’s finally going to pay off, they thought, just to see the Falcons choke once again.
Couldn’t be me.
The return on investment in becoming a die-hard fan is rarely worth it, unless it’s a Boston sports team, or Alabama’s football team, these days. Sports is supposed to be an escape. Why do we choose to be in agony when this is likely our mechanism to cope with life’s misery? Which other realm of life do we volunteer to suffer? Marriage? Parenting? At least there can be first-hand rewards in having a husband, a wife or a child. But fanhood loyalty? Nothing but yearly disappointment and threats to relocate the team to Los Angeles (my apologies to St. Louis and San Diego) or Las Vegas (looking at you, Oakland).
It’s an extremely difficult league. The Washington Redskins haven’t had consecutive postseason trips since 1991 and 1992. The Dallas Cowboys, “America’s Team,” have won two playoff games since 1997. We’ve had 11 presidents sworn in since the last time the Philadelphia Eagles won a championship (1960).
In such a storied division, the New York Giants are the only team in the NFC East to win a Super Bowl in the past two decades. They did it twice (both against the New England Patriots!) and nobody still can explain how.
The beauty isn’t in the loyalty, it’s in the sport itself.
The concept dawned on me because of @TylerIAm, and he’s right. The annual pain experienced by dedicating your life to one team just isn’t worth it, even if the team finally wins a championship.
I love the Dallas Mavericks. When they finally won the NBA Finals in 2011, it was a cool moment. I was especially happy for Dirk Nowitzki. He deserved that. But it wasn’t worth dealing with 2006, when the Mavericks choked in the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat, or 2007, when they were the top seed in the Western Conference and got upset by the Golden State Warriors.
In the same manner coaches and players are always quick to remember their toughest losses before their greatest accomplishments, that also applies for fans.
And rarely do franchise players these days remain with one team for their entire career, like Nowitzki. Once Nowitzki retires, the Mavericks won’t mean much to me. Heck, even now, there’s no desire to schedule my life around a team currently 12 games below .500.
Nobody wants to watch a bad product, which is why attendance and ratings typically drop during awful seasons. We collectively lose interest when our favorite team produces a bad product, as we should.
So why not choose happiness, and support winners? Like my New England Patriots. Or my Clemson Tigers. Or my Cleveland Cavaliers.
We’re not limited to just watching our local teams anymore. We can watch any game we want on practically any device at any time. More joy, less agony. Win-win. Express that loyalty in other facets of life, but root for Villanova men’s basketball and Connecticut women’s basketball in the meantime.
It doesn’t have to be for a long time. Just a good time.
With the Redskins out of season, beat writer Master Tesfatsion offers an occasional lighter take on sports.