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ISSUE 120 VOL 1 PUBLISHED 9/22/2006

Inside the Lines: Skirting the bandwagon

By Eric Monek Anderson
Sports Editor

Friday, September 22, 2006

I don’t want to be that fan. That fan who never experiences the ups and downs of a full season. That fan who checks the standings in mid-August and chooses a team with definite playoff possibilities.

There will always be casual sports fans, and in no way is this unacceptable. However, when those fans become enthralled by a team’s success and travel to the local sporting goods store to fortify their wardrobe with team apparel, a line has been crossed.

This feeble attempt to convince others that this is "your" team is something we can all do without. It cheapens the experience for those fans who’ve endured season after season of misery. And we know where you were during those bitter April games: gnawing on wine and cheese.

I grew up in Seattle a diehard Mariners fan, following a team that didn’t make the playoffs until its 19th season, one that has never even been to a World Series and boasts the most talented roster of ex-players in Major League history. (Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez, and Randy Johnson all left in a five year period.) Of course, 2006 has been another mediocre roller-coaster ride for Seattle fans.

Whenever the Red Sox or Yankees play at SAFECO Field in Seattle, fans stream into the stadium wearing red or navy pinstripes. The Jeter and Ortiz jerseys outnumber the "Yankees Suck" t-shirts or jerseys emblazoned with the latest Mariner free-agent bust. True Seattle fans get their competitive kicks from lustily booing A-Rod, who hasn't played for the Mariners since 2002, but still speaks volumes about the lack of true fan support in the Pacific Northwest.

Seattle seems infested with bandwagon fans, especially of the Red Sox, even though Boston is 3000 miles away. Maybe that’s because the city’s lone modern pro sports title came 27 years ago when the Supersonics won the NBA title. Empty Octobers become boring.

Though I suppose it has not always been easy to be a Red Sox fan over the years, Bostonians know their owner will spend plenty of money every offseason. It’s so easy to be a Yankees fan because their early-season panic always comes with the knowledge that their GM will buy that year’s Bobby Abreu at the trade deadline.

I’m bitter. Each year at the end of October I have to watch some other baseball team leap out of their dugout in celebration and form a pile of humanity by the mound. I would do anything to be a part of that celebration. Anything, that is, other than becoming a bandwagon fan.

After last year’s Super Bowl, I had to endure a week of Jerome Bettis and Ben Roethlithsberger. Even if you aren’t a Seahawks fan, you suffered.

One of my greatest joys will be when (if?) I celebrate with the Mariners as they bring home their first title. I will cry, I will yell, I will call nearly everyone I know. And all of those times when I watched someone else win will make the taste of victory that much sweeter.

Have the courage not to jump on the bandwagon, tantalizing as the prospect may seem. Root for the team that will always be yours. Remember the atmosphere at the hometown stadium. Treasure the savory words of your local announcers and beat writers. Recognize the beauty in the journey of a normal season.

You didn’t choose your team. You were chosen.

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