Within every competitive atmosphere exists a group of people who remain uninterested in that environment until a very interesting moment or event occurs. In the sporting world, the typically disinterested person who suddenly develops a "burning passion" for a team or player is more commonly known as a "fair-weather fan" or "bandwagoner." Fair-weather fans exist in all aspects of professional sports and are always lurking in the shadows, ready to pounce on an opportunity to jump on a bandwagon. Over the past decade, the number of these so-called fans has been increasing all across America and there seems to be no limit as to what these people sporadically take interest in. For example, it has always been common for the teenage boy living in a suburb of a big city to one day become the biggest fan of that city's football team once the post-season begins. Today, however, fair-weather fans even consist of American men springing onto the Women's National Soccer team bandwagon during this past summer's women's World Cup. And, as the action of the October Major League Baseball playoffs intensifies, bandwagoners are at it again.
It's very easy to weed out the true die-hard fans from a despicable crowd of fair-weather fans. However, it's much more difficult to determine what kind of fair-weather fan a bandwagoner actually is. There are many different levels and categories of a bandwagoner; each consists of varying degrees of pathetic fake worship. Now, in order to shed light on the entire cast of fair-weather fans, I present to you (from most to least tolerable) the Levels of Fair-Weather Fans:
Level 1- "I was focused on another sport during the regular season"
The most tolerable fair-weather fan belongs to the group of people who claim that they were too invested in rooting for a different sports team to be focused on a second sports team within in the same city. Now, you may be thinking this is just an excuse, but most of these fans actually were dedicated to another sports team of the same city. For example, Joe the Schmoe was a dedicated basketball fan and didn't have enough time to focus on the city's football team all winter long until the NFL playoffs began. Joe has known the football team's record throughout the season, but can't recall actual games or any meaningful player stats because he has just glanced through box scores in the morning paper. Joe's friends probably invited him to watch a few football games over at someone's house a few Sundays as well. However, Joe was too busy with going to the basketball team's game or watching it at his house until one day, when the football team advances deep into the postseason, Joe asks his friends if he can purchase a ticket near them at the football team's Conference Championship game. His friends, knowing that he is a true fan of their city's sports teams at heart, respect his sudden passion for the football team, even if it did come a little too late.
Level 2- "I was really busy during the regular season"
Following the two-sport pickled fan, there are fans that are too pathetic to even come up with an excuse for not following the team during the regular season. Within sports fandom, just like school, work, and friends, the excuse "I was too busy" is just as cliché and false as the "my dog ate it" defense. Unless the person was seriously devoting their time to earning a promotion at work, bringing their grades up or spending more time with their friends and family, there is no reason to be "too busy" to follow a sports team. Unfortunately, the people that might actually have a legitimate reason probably only make up five percent of the population of the fair-weather fans in this category. The "too busy" fair-weather fan also commonly complains that watching road games on TV is too boring to waste their precious free time. If this excuse is made, definitely expect the person to follow up that statement with some form of argument derived from "the team's TV commentators are also annoying and uneducated about the game." Well, the commentators are definitely a hell of a lot more invested in the team than they are.
Level 3- Fans who defend not wearing team apparel until the playoffs
Most high schools across America are overflowing with students who are Level 3 fair-weather fans. In most towns, the residents tend to root for and become affiliated with the closest city's sports teams. For example, a kid growing up in any part of Illinois is born and bred a Chicago sports fan. However, it is extremely uncommon to see an Illinois high school student walking down the halls rocking a Derrick Rose jersey in September or wearing an Aramis Rameriz jersey during the winter. Only true die-hard fans will sport an out-of-season jersey or team apparel during the off-season. The excuses for not wearing out-of-season team apparel range from "I was wearing the in-season team's apparel" to "I outgrew my old fan gear" to "It was too cold to wear a jersey." Yet, the Level 3 fair-weather fan is optimized by the guy sitting in front of you at a playoff game who still has the tag on his recently purchased jersey. True fans wear their team's colors year round, and it's really difficult to accept fake fans who buy team apparel after that team wins the championship or suddenly becomes good.
Level 4- The girlfriends of die-hard fans
It's not sexist to say that the majority of women are not true, die-hard, "cut me open and see I bleed my team's colors" sports fans. Even though there are female fans that have grown up most of their life supporting a sports team, too many women become passionate sports fans out of the blue. What's the reasoning behind this phenomenon? Women who take up an interest in sports fandom to either impress their boyfriend or husband or to spend more time with that spouse. This latter reasoning does make sense. If a woman's boyfriend goes to football games every Sunday and she wants to spend more time with him, then she should take full advantage of every opportunity to go to a game with him. But, when the girlfriend suddenly becomes a die-hard fan in order to impress her boyfriend, his friends or his dad, then a serious case of Level 4 fair-weather fandom should be diagnosed by a local doctor. Within a competitive atmosphere that often consists of arguments and heated sports discussions, men don't want to be bothered with a girlfriend trying to impress them with her limited knowledge. However, if the woman does actually have a point, then her boyfriend's peers will embrace her. So ladies, don't get caught up in impressing your boyfriend with your sports knowledge. Understand the fine line between attending a game and ruining the sporting experience for your boyfriend's buddies.
Level 5- Other team's fan who claims to have always liked your team
Nothing is more irritating than a fan of another team who claims that your team is his "second-favorite." In the world of true sports fandom, you can only support one team within each sport. And, your devotion to that team can only be influenced by the city you were born in or grew up in and by which team your parents root for. That's it. So, when a person suddenly starts rooting for a team that doesn't belong to the aforementioned categories, you need to bail. Don't trust them, because they're probably going to negatively influence your sports-rooting experiences. The worst example of Level 5 fair-weather fandom exists in New Jersey and Connecticut. Both states are commonly states that New Yorkers choose to raise their children in and ultimately bring along their infectious New York fandom into the state as well. For example, when a guy moves from Manhattan to a South Jersey suburb to raise is children, he raises his children as New York fans living in a town that is heavily populated with Philadelphia fans. So, when the New York team is eliminated from playoff contention or the playoffs, the New Yorker's son suddenly claims he's been a Philly fan all along and that they've always been his second-favorite team. The die-hards know better.
Unlike the Level 5 fair-weather fan, I'm actually a die-hard Philadelphia sports fan. I've cringed when my dad has thought aloud about giving up his 76ers season tickets and I've sat through Phillies games in third grade when the Marlins were coming into Citizens Bank Park and dominating. I've cried during losing streaks and cheered during winning streaks, but I've never hidden behind an excuse and sunk to the level of a fair-weather fan. Detroit Lions fans have always shown up to games during the team's 19-game losing streak back in 2009. Today, the team is on fire and the fans are still there. But the fact that the Buffalo Bills have increased ticket sales this season doesn't speak for good marketing and good business by the organization. It points directly at the fans that have suddenly become Bills supporters now that things are starting to look up. So to all those people out there who are jumping on bandwagons all across America: go home. You need to experience the bad times before you can truly appreciate the good.