It’s official, LeBron James is now a Laker and DeMarcus Cousins is heading to the Bay Area as a Warrior. Every year, the NBA’s free agency period seems to send all-star caliber players across the nation followed by a flood of fans. To many, these fans are known as bandwagon fans.
Bandwagon fans are commonly viewed as some of the most obnoxious fans in sports. They are known as people who blindly follow good teams or players just because they are successful. The fact is, a lot of bandwagon fans have stronger reasons to back their fandom than the traditional location-based sports fans.
Historically, fans were taught and expected to have pride in the local teams. There is nothing wrong with this, in fact it gives people who know very little about sports the opportunity to associate strongly with an organization. The problem that we see is when fans are scrutinized for choosing to follow teams or players that aren’t local. Just because someone doesn’t live near a team or isn’t able to recite the starting lineup for the last ten years doesn’t mean they aren’t a true fan.
For example, people who have grown up around the game, like playing or coaching, are more likely to appreciate skill or excellence when they see it. A person who spent hours practicing dribbling when they were younger is much more likely to have an appreciation for a player like Kyrie Irving and his ball handling ability. Someone like this would have every right to be a Kyrie Irving fan because they have an appreciation for basketball and a player who has mastered a skill that they know to be challenging.
I remember the first time I saw Steve Nash play in person. It was February 9th of the 2009-2010 NBA season and Nash led the suns to a win with 21 assists. I was inspired by his fast paced, deceptive playing style and dead eye shooting ability. Though I wasn’t cheering for the Suns at the time, I was able to appreciate the impressive performance that was coming to fruition right in front of me because I knew that a 21-assist game didn’t happen very often. I now realize that if I was fixated on the success of my home team, I would have missed out on appreciating a special moment from one of the best point guards to every play the game.
For all you non-bandwagon fans out there, continue to cheer for the local team (the Kings need fans too). Just remember that there is more than one way to qualify as a true fan and make sure you don’t let hometown pride distract you from appreciating the greatness around you.