With the Capitals making their turnaround in the last few years and the Nationals and Wizards looking like they will take a turn for the better in the next few years, there has been a lot of talk about “bandwagon” fans. Particularly in hockey, it seems “diehard” fans don’t like bandwagoners, saying they aren’t true fans because they didn’t know their team existed before they began winning. My answer to that accusation is always this: so what?
Everyone was new to hockey fandom and one point in their life. Why be a fan of a sport where your hometown team constantly loses? You are provided with a limited and below-average level of the game, so why put your money into it when you could be watching a more entertaining team? It is the team’s duty to give the fans and community something worth watching. If the product isn’t good, there is no reason to expect people to buy expensive tickets to come watch them.
Diehards assume that because people are new fans, it means they aren’t real fans. They are so deeply rooted in their team that they can’t let anyone who “isn’t worthy” into their circle of fandom. This is one of if not the silliest part of sports. Who gets to determine who gets to be a fan and who doesn’t? It is no one’s place to decide who is and isn’t allowed to be a fan, particularly when they are trying to build up a relatively weak sport in the United States.
Especially in a game such as hockey, which is trying to grow its fan base to keep up with the NFL, NBA, and MLB, there is no reason to exclude anyone, and frankly the “real fans” can’t afford to exclude anyone. We are trying to show people how great this game is, not give them any incentive to leave it.
A common view of bandwagon fans is that they are fair-weather fans. What some people don’t realize is that these are two separate types of fans. Bandwagoners jump on when the team is don’t well, but they don’t necessarily jump off once the team slumps a little bit. I have met several “bandwagon” Washington Capitals fans who jumped on board after Alex Ovechkin came to the team. They are now among the most passionate hockey fans I know.
I understand people being upset with fair weather fans. They get to feel all the glory and triumph of victory without roughing it out through the tough years of the franchise. They get to brag that “their team” won the championship without having to endure the constant disappointment that made it possible. I get it, I really do.
But to deny those people your respect as fans is ridiculous. Even if some people do only root for winners, who cares? They are still supporting a team and a sport you love, which is no easy feat in this economy and with rising ticket prices across all sports. Cut them some slack. Next time someone asks what icing is at the Phone Booth, take the 3 minutes to explain it patiently to them. You catch more flies with honey, and right now the NHL needs all the flies it can get. The Capitals now have 60+ consecutive sellouts because of them.