A Serious Sports Question

Most men love sports, and over the years an intricate set of rules have developed surrounding “fandom”. For example, if you are a fan of your hometown NFL team, and that team moves to a different city, you are free to choose any other NFL team to pull for, as long as that choice doesn’t violate any of the other rules. If you are a fan of a particular college team, and one of that team’s heroes is drafted by an NFL team, you are free to start liking that NFL team, too.

One of the worst “violations” of the “Man Rules, Sports Division” is “bandwagoning”, which is to start liking a team as soon as they start playing really well. If your hometown NFL team has played poorly for years, then starts getting really good, you’ll see the stands fill up with “fairweather fans” who have “jumped on the bandwagon”. This, in itself, isn’t so bad. However, most of those people will stop liking a team the instant they start playing poorly again, and that’s why “bandwagoning” is so bad.

A question though:

What’s the statute of limitations on bandwagoning?

When I was a kid, I liked two NFL teams about equally: the hometown Atlanta Falcons and the Pittsburgh Steelers. I honestly don’t remember when or why I started liking the Steelers. My folks tell me I started liking them when I was 4 years old, so you can understand why I don’t remember any of this. But my first memories of the Steelers aren’t of them winning big games, but of the individuals that made up the team. I thought that Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, “Mean Joe” Greene, Jack Lambert, L.C. Greenwood, Jack Ham, Rocky Blier, Mel Blount, Dwight White, Lynn Swann and John Stallworth were giants among men. This was the first team that I actually “got into”, the first team I actually spent time learning who all the players were, what positions they played, and actually paying attention to the team’s schedule.

As I said, I liked the Falcons and the Steelers about equally… until January 1983, when the Falcons fired Leeman Bennett, one of their most successful coaches ever. This earned the team the unending hatred of my father, who (I believe) is still pissed off about the whole thing. At any rate, the Falcons broke his heart, and he stopped pulling for them. And me, being a little kid who saw his father as the ultimate authority in sports knowledge, stopped liking them too. Which left only the Steelers.

So… I guess you could say that I am a “bandwagon” Steelers fan… although I jumped on that bandwagon 38 years ago. I was there during the 1980s, and I suffered through the Kordell Stewart years just like people born in Pittsburgh. So am I still a “bandwagoner”? Or am I just a “fan” now?

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