There are important milestones in every blogger’s life. The first post. The first return reader. Inevitably selling out to the first offer that comes your way. And with apologies to my friends at Halls and Vicks, without whom I couldn’t possibly be fighting off the intense cold I’m currently dealing with, I haven’t quite reached that level of success. However, I did just receive an important gift: my first reader email. Granted, it was actually a text, but reader email sounds better. He (you didn’t really think it would be a girl, did you?) has a Burning Question that he needs answered. It’d be rude to keep him waiting any longer.
Reader WhiteKong asks:
“Idea for blog: something about the unwritten rules of switching sports teams. Like how you have to have a team picked before you’re 10 and you can’t ever switch it. And if you do the stigma surrounding it.”
Great question, WhiteKong, and thanks for reading! The murky waters of sports fan ethics can be difficult to navigate, but luckily for you, an expert helmsman is guiding your ship. There’s a lot to parse through here, but let’s start with the obvious. If you earnestly switch allegiances after being public with your old one, you do deserve to be cast out into the leper colony that is the bandwagon jumping community. However, it’s not always that easy.
For example, if your favorite team relocates, and, this is important, if you’re from the general area, you can switch teams. However, if you picked the team at random (a topic for another time), only the most egregiously unethical move (Colts, Thunder) can reopen your allegiance. For example, if you’re a Rams fan who was born and raised on the East Coast with no connection to St. Louis, you’ve got to stick with them even though they moved to L.A. The team stinking is not a valid excuse for team switching.
Poor performance does present another challenge, though, that tests your resolve as a sports fan. How do you hold off the temptation that the eye candy around the league gives? I struggle with this constantly, not necessarily because of poor team performance (literally none of my teams have been bad in like, 20 years) but because of appealing or new playing styles, exciting players, cool jerseys, really anything that can catch the eye. In college I a crisis of faith as a proud Celtics fan. I had to convince myself to root for the team when Rajon Rondo was the best player. They played slow, couldn’t shoot or run any kind of offense, couldn’t really defend, and were just generally horrible to watch and destined to finish with 44-48 wins. Meanwhile, the Spurs were crushing teams with the ball movement that’s commonplace today. The pre-title (and bandwagon) Warriors were running and gunning, casting up ill-advised 3s at will. Even the Grizzlies, who played a nearly identical style to the Celtics, were more appealing because of their passion and infectious personalities. It was the toughest challenge I’ve faced as a fan, but I held true. I looked at it this way: A married CEO may bring in a new secretary every week. Each one hotter than the last. But, at the end of the day, his wife is who he comes home to. At the end of the day, I knew that the Celtics winning the championship would still, even with such an unlikeable team, give me the most joy. It’s up to you to muster up the fortitude to stick around through the lean times. Look for beacons of hope, like Kristaps Porzingis or a good Color Rush jersey. Because I guarantee a lifelong Lions fan will get a lot more respect than a “lifelong” Warriors fan will.
Which brings up to the final obstacle, and one that I, unfortunately, have no secret to overcoming. What to do when your team becomes good after being bad? More specifically, what to do when the actually win a championship? How do you avoid that most feared of insults: accusations of bandwagon jumping? Luckily for 10 year old me, Twitter wasn’t around when the Pats won their first Super Bowl after decades of being mostly futile. Otherwise I myself may have had to fend off such charges. If, for some reason, you actually are a lifelong Cavs fan, how do you separate yourself from the legion of Lebron fanboys that fill your timeline with non-stop and unabashed bandwagon drivel? How do you separate yourself from the crowd that refuses to be anyone but Real Madrid when playing FIFA online? (No joke, one of my friends in college bragged that he was great with the 49ers in Madden 14. I’m pretty sure at least half the roster was 90 overall.) Well, there is no foolproof strategy. Besides abstaining from sports arguments that expose your rooting interests (unrealistic, I know), the only thing you can do is always have proof of your fanhood. Make your Twitter avatar a picture of you in Cavs gear that was clearly taken in 2002 or earlier. Make sure you have a physical copy of that picture with you at all times. Always have backup. Never leave the house without bringing someone that can confirm that you did, in fact, like the Seahawks before Russell Wilson. Never go online unless you know that person is there with you. Unless you already have one, don’t go out and buy a retro jersey, especially if it’s for an ironic player. Nothing exposes a hipster poseur faster than an Adonal Foyle Warriors jersey. And never, under any circumstances, try to intimidate your accuser by talking about how much you know about the old teams and how they were better. Because if your accuser is a bandwagon jumper himself, nothing will satiate his desire to declare the new better than the old ad nauseam. It’d be a never ending argument. And, if your accuser is not a bangwagoner, you’ve just insulted their fandom and intelligence. Other than that, the only solution is waiting until the team stinks again. Sometimes it’s fast. No one remembers that Heat fans used to be exactly what we view Cavs fans as. In fact, they’re probably the same people. Other times, like in my case, the teams are dominant indefinitely. Just be patient. Eventually, your declaration of fanhood will be met by the same apathy as 95% of professional teams. Other than that, it’s kind of a dilemma you have to solve for yourself.
So there you have it. About a tenth of my thoughts on sports fan etiquette. WhiteKong, I hope your questions are answered. All others, I hope your worldview is just a little clearer. Keep the reader requests coming. I’m more than happy to be your pilot through the rough skies of life. Now all we need is a comment section.