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ISSUE 117 VOL 15 PUBLISHED 4/9/2004

Bandwagon fans: A necessary evil

By Anonymous
Contributing Writer

Friday, April 9, 2004

Sports would not be sports without the bandwagon fan. They are, of course, the people who pay only cursory attention to a team that, in all likelihood, is from their home state. These people usually earn the contempt of a devoted fan, due to a plethora of absolutely maddening and often inexplicable reasons.

A bandwagon fan never experiences the heartache brought by defeat. Nor is the taste of victory quite as sweet to them as it is to a devoted fan. They are not subject to the gut-wrenching emotional roller-coaster ride that is a close game. Deep down, they simply lack the attachment of sport-to-soul that is only forged only through years of wins, losses, championships, cellars, injuries and scandals.

The words even differentiate themselves. Fan is short for fanatic, a notch below religious extremist, whereas bandwagon fan, though sharing the fanatic abbreviation, uses the bandwagon add-on that downplays the intensity and commitment of an individual. These things are indisputable; do not even try to discuss it with me.

I cannot tell you how many times one friend or another has attempted to carry on a conversation with me about Nebraska football, the great years and not so great years. It is fine, I can humor their interest. However, anyone who has a deep passion about any sport knows bandwagon fans just do not feel the way you do.

Memories stretching back to elementary school still evoke strong emotions about wins, losses and ties. Case in point: I vividly remember watching grown men do victory laps around a hotel lobby during the 1994 Orange Bowl after a Nebraska punt returner took one for a touchdown. And immediately after their victory lap, they (and this includes me) hurled food and profanities at a big screen television when the punt return was called back on a horrible clipping call. I sobbed when we lost that game, only to find myself doing a victory lap around my neighborhood in my underwear the next year when we won the National Championship on that same field.

That is the emotional investment, vicarious and sick as it may be, that differentiates the fan from the guys who use the gathering as a pretense to get drunk. In fact, there's a rule of thumb for you: if it's an important game coming down to the wire and you're drunk, then you're not a fan. A fan wants to savor every moment of the action. A fan wants to feel every back-tightening, fist-clenching, and stomach-turning emotion of the last 30 seconds. A fan displays signs of physical infirmity and anti-social behavior after a close loss. A fan supports their team with little regard for the summed total in the win and loss column. A fan is inexorably tied to their team, and the team to them.

However, having gone off the deep end with all this "a fan is" talk, I think it's important to substantiate my introductory statement. The bandwagon fan indeed is an integral element in the realm of sports appreciation.

For starters, who would fill out the majority of the general admission sections and cheer their drunken heads off in the 70,000-seat stadium or 16,000-seat arena that is the home of a good team? Who would take the sports bar's attendance level from crowded to packed to over-capacity during a big game? (Sub-question: would sports bars even exist if it were not for the alcohol needs of bandwagon fans?) And because every bandwagon fan has the potential to turn into a rabid ranting lunatic, though lacking the guts and devotion to do it game after game, year after year, who would take on the responsibility of spreading the stupid cheers around the stadium when the fanatics voices have long since given out? Perhaps most delightfully, without bandwagon fans, who would be there to say with a voice of pure elation and excitement, "Whoa!!! Did you just see that?" on a play that was no more than above average?

Upon deeper thought, I've decided that a true fan dislikes the bandwagon fan because they are able to share in the elation of a team's success, albeit to a lesser extent, with the dedicated fan, yet they are not forced to experience the personal loss and emotional body slam that is your team's ineptitude. Is this contempt just masked jealousy? Probably. However, at the same time, I think that Ryan Elbing '04 had a point when he said that he "has no respect for bandwagon fans."

After devoting a large part of your life to an athletic organization, it's hard to respect someone that cares only when it's convenient. Though upon Jenn Trudeau's '04 further, and more objective, review, it makes sense to say that though "bandwagon fans irritate true fans, they are good for sports."

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