During periods of sports teams’ success, lifelong fans love to condescendingly call new fans “fair-weather fans.” Although many Northwestern students may worry about the abrupt arrival of new fans surrounding the football team’s strong start, I wonder if the bandwagon is really a problem at all.
Throughout my childhood in Seattle, I endured my fair share of terrible sports teams. The Mariners haven’t made the playoffs since I was seven. The Seahawks have generally been decent-but-not-great. The only title I could claim, a 1979 NBA championship won by the SuperSonics, lost some of its luster when the team relocated to Oklahoma City in 2008.
So it’s been refreshing that the Seahawks have been playoff contenders the past couple of years. Many Seattleites jumped at the opportunity to support an exciting team, which bothered some of the more serious football fans nationally. To some critics, the “average Seahawks fan is a twenty something year old douchebag … that can’t seem to form an opinion they aren’t regurgitating from ESPN and couldn’t name an offensive lineman if their life depended on it.” Seahawks fans have been slapped with the dreaded “bandwagon fan” label.
To some degree, I agree. There has certainly been renewed interest in the team, as with any team that suddenly experiences great success. Even my family, one that has long preferred basketball to football, has pledged full support to the Seahawks. There are a number of new fans who blindly support the team without much knowledge about its past or even its present.
But I still don’t see why that is so offensive.
Perhaps it is due to the perception that Seahawks fans are particularly vocal and that these new fans don’t always know their football as well as some would like. However, supporting a hometown team often inspires unconditional commitment and vocal support anywhere you go, which will come across as obnoxious to opponents regardless of how many years the fan can claim loyalty to his or her team.
I even know some Seattleites who take issue with the modern wave of Seahawks mania. Seattle is known as a “hipster” city, and I can see the appeal of having been a fan before it was cool; certainly the 2014 Super Bowl win was more satisfying if you can remember the last-second loss to the Falcons in the playoffs the year before, or the refereeing debacle also known as the 2006 Super Bowl against the Steelers. However, there’s nothing inherently better about being a sports fan for longer, and it strikes me as elitist to claim exclusive ownership of a team simply because you have followed them for longer.
Although “bandwagon fans” come with small irritations such as rising ticket prices or a huge uptick in jersey-wearing outside of gameday, the alternative is the meager amount of fan interest that frequently characterizes NU. Outside of marquee football and men’s basketball matchups, the student sections are rarely filled. Certainly, our school faces unique obstacles to attendance — a small student body and busy schedules, to name two — but those aren’t enough to explain the general lack of enthusiasm surrounding NU athletics.
Perhaps our teams would benefit from following the lead of the Seahawks: Win, and they will come. That’s easier said than done, of course, but NU students have shown the ability to get behind a winning program. In 2013, students packed the Lakefill at three in the morning to be at ESPN’s College GameDay set preceding a huge game against Ohio State. At the game itself, security turned people away from a student section that was filled to capacity and as rowdy as I’ve ever seen it. We Cats are clearly capable of supporting our sports teams, and with an AP Top 25 football team, we have a chance to set up the type of enthusiasm and tradition that eventually becomes ingrained into campus culture. So, hop on the NU bandwagon with me and support our teams all year long. I already called shotgun, though.
The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.