Perhaps the biggest sin in American sports fandom is bandwagoning – the act of becoming a fan of a team when they’re playing well, but then ceasing to be a fan once they’ve cooled off.
We all know bandwagoners… like your hypothetical friends “Dave and Cindy”. Dave and Cindy don’t especially care about the NFL. They’ve never owned a piece of NFL apparel in their lives, nor had they ever even considered buying any. They express no desire to watch regular-season games with you, and might even be hostile to the idea of watching a game in the first place. But then your local sports team makes it to the playoffs and suddenly Dave and Cindy want to come over to your house to watch the game. They’re wearing matching team sweatshirts, have officially licensed pom poms in team colors and even have a pair of team flags on their car. Dave sits on the sofa and tries to converse with you using things he’s cribbed from the sports section of your local paper. Cindy sits with your missus and cheers at the appropriate times. Unfortunately, as soon as the playoffs are over, Dave and Cindy completely forget all about your team… until the next time they go to the playoffs, in which case Dave and Cindy will be back wearing their sweatshirts and waving their pom poms.
Over the years, several unwritten rules have been developed in the “Man Code” to prevent bandwagoning. The biggest rules are thus:
If you are born in a city with an professional sports franchise, you must be a fan of that team if you’re going to be a fan at all. If you move to a city that has a team in the same sport, you are allowed a five-year “grace period”, in which you may root for your original home team, before you are required to become a fan of your “new” team. If you move to a city without a team in that sport, you are allowed to continue cheering for your original home team; if a team is created after you move, you are allowed to keep cheering for your original home team. If your home team moves, you are absolved of any allegiance to them, and can root for any other team you choose.
It’s silly, isn’t it? The problem with bandwagoning is, as I see it, not with the first part of the definition (“becoming a fan of a team when they’re playing well”), but the second (“ceasing to be a fan once they’ve cooled off”). After all, every sport needs new fans, and if a team on the other side of the country makes you an NFL fan, well… fine by me.
So I hereby propose the following modification to the “Man Code”:
1) You may choose any sports team you like, for any reason you like. Your favorite local college player was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks? Your girlfriend is a Bears fan? You like the colors of the Miami Dolphins? All of these are perfectly acceptable reasons for liking a sports team in my book. However…
2) You must state your affiliation in public. You must, in the presence of three (or more) of your closest male friends, state the name of your favorite new team. All participants must be sober and attentive, and the venue must be (somewhat) quiet. You may not try to “sneak it in” one night when your friends are too drunk to contest the matter, or during an important game when they’re distracted, or at a loud bar where conversation is difficult.
3) You must cheer for this team for a “trial period” of 15 years. After announcing your newly found fandom, you must cheer for your new team through thick and thin, feast or famine, for a “trial period” of 15 years.
4) After the trial period, you may change your affiliation. Once. A lot of things can happen in 15 years. You can move. Your team can move. You can stop liking one sport and start liking another. Whatever the case may be, after your 15 year trial period, you may switch teams. You may do this one time only. Once you have either “re-affirmed” your “trial team” or switched to a different team, you cannot change teams again (unless the team ceases to exist, in which case you may repeat steps 1-3).
The above proposal applies to professional sports teams only, and does not apply to NCAA teams.
Any thoughts from the peanut gallery about my proposal?