In the world of sports, the concept of a band wagoner refers to a person who shows sudden interest and support for a team only once they start to win. Contrary to the opinions of many long-term fans, however, the trend of bandwagoning isn’t as simple as a distinction between real and fake fans.
It’s easy to understand why diehard sports fans who have invested hours of their time, not to mention an exorbitant amount of their money on a specific team, are quick to criticize bandwagon jumpers for being fake fans. Those who jump on the bandwagon of a winning team have never experienced the heartbreak of seeing the team they’ve supported all season eliminated from the playoffs. Sebastian Manna, a paddler on the New Dragons dragon boat team, points out that the term ‘bandwagoner’ isn’t so black and white, and tends to be misconstrued: “you could be cheering for a team that is most likely going to win… but also those that hope for a team to win may just [happen to] be supporting the home team,” he points out.
Although it is frustrating, the trend does make sense. It’s our nature to want to be associated with winners. No one wants to lose forever, but unfortunately, losing has become synonymous with Toronto based sports teams in recent memory.
It’s our nature to want to be associated with winners.
Toronto’s most heartbreaking team, the Toronto Maple Leafs, have not been a division leader since the 1999–2000 season, and they have not won the Stanley Cup since 1967. Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (MLSE) recently dropped from being the most valuable franchise in the NHL, proving that fans can only take so much losing. The Leafs are still in the third position overall with a $1.15 billion evaluation from Forbes and are the second most valuable Canadian team, behind the Montreal Canadiens, This could signal that the Leaf’s lackluster performances are finally catching up with the franchise. Now that fans are leaving, this could be the motivation MLSE needs to improve important aspects of both the franchise and the team.
A more recent example of bandwagoning is the amount of ‘life long’ Jays fans popping up now that the team has had their first taste of the playoffs since 1993. Unsurprisingly, attendance also rose to the highest it has ever been since 1993. Declining attendance places pressure on management to intervene, “The reason why Montreal [Canadiens] can contend in the playoffs is usually because when the team is doing poorly the fans stop supporting them,” suggests Manna. “The Jays did well too because the managements jobs were on the line.”
Many fans perceive bandwagoners in a negative light — why should someone who can’t name more than five players on the roster, or who doesn’t know the difference between a homerun and home plate, get to call themselves a fan? Long-term fans, however, can learn to embrace bandwagoners, and instead of being upset over their ignorance, can take the opportunity to bombard them with as much sports jargon as possible — they’ll love it.
At the end of the day, team sports are a form of entertainment for fans, especially those who invest large sums of time and money to support a team. If a team consistently performs poorly, no one should feel obligated to support them — especially not for 22 years.
“A fan is anyone who supports a team,” says Manna. “People say true fans support a team through rough times and the good times but in the end a fan is a fan.”