Yesterday I posted an article regarding bandwagon fans in sports on the toes of the Red Sox coming into Baltimore to play the O’s. In last night’s Oriole victory, the biggest number other than the score (the O’s downed Boston 5-2) was 18,247: the attendance. My point with bandwagon fans was that they find a team that’s winning, and they latch onto them. Furthermore, the worst of them will even try to engage in a bit of “revisionist history” and pretend like they were fans of that team all along. Regardless of where you’re from, if you grew up a die-hard fan of a team like the Red Sox, Yankees, Steelers, Cowboys, etc, I have no problem with that. But if you suddenly started rooting for the Red Sox because they won a World Series after 86 years, the Patriots because they won three Super Bowls and have a hot-shot QB, or the Lakers because they’ve won so many titles and have Kobe “I cheated on my hot wife” Bryant, you need to ask yourself why you follow sports or what you want out of being a fan.
In past years, Red Sox nation would take over Oriole Park at this time of year. Heck, I’ve attended two games against the Red Sox this year (May and June), and there were Boston fans all over the place. There were Boston fans in that group of 18,247 last night for sure; when the Red Sox scored you could hear their pesky little voices cheering. However based on how things sounded over television and the number of boo’s that drowned out those evil Let’s Go Red Sox cheers, it appeared to be a Baltimore crowd. One way or the other, 18K+ is more like a normal Oriole game than a game against Boston or NY. Now admittedly, this series is occuring mid-week, so odds are that it might be harder for people (in both fan bases) to get to the yard for the games. However at the very least I would have expected crowds of 30K for a Red Sox game, many of them Boston fans.
So if this were Family Feud, the survey would probably say that bandwagon fans are just as quick to jump off the gravy train as they are to get on. Many Sox fans that come to the yard do come down from New England, especially for weekend series’. However starting six years ago we saw a lot more Boston Red Sox merchandise in sporting goods stores around the area due to the fact that their fan base started to swell. This season hasn’t been kind to Red Sox nation, as is evidenced by the apparent absence of their fans at Oriole Park at Camden Yards last night. There’s no doubt that teams like the Red Sox probably embraced the idea of bandwagon fans. We never heard terms such as Red sox nation thrown around so forcefully until after they won their World Series. Their goal was to get as many people as possible to join Red Sox nation. Part of that message was that if your home team stinks, feel free to come over to our side and we’ll win for you. We win, and by extension you win…how can anyone go wrong?! Sure it’s a good marketing scheme, but only in the short term. The Red Sox couldn’t have possibly been on top of the world forever, right? So fast-forward to a year like 2010, when they have a slew of injuries that’s seemingly broken their season. Where did all the red go in visiting ballparks? I’m sure the Red Sox were probably shocked when they hit the field for BP last night at the yard and they were heckled by Oriole fans. So hold on, you mean all of those screaming Boston Red Sox “fans” that used to come to see us play here have abandoned us? That’s right guys, their fandom for you was as fickle as it was for whomever they rooted for previously.
So I guess my message is “once a bandwagon-hopper, always a bandwagon-hopper.” How can an organization be so short-sighted that they’d rather cater to bandwagon fans than the people that have been with them forever and presumably will be? Honestly, if I were a lifelong Sox fan, I’d probably be ticked off to see so many new faces, suddenly to see them disappear again. This is not to say that the Red Sox won’t be good again next season and that those bandwagon fans won’t magically reappear. However the fact is that many of their “fans” made a decision not to see them play in person because it’s looking more and more like the Red Sox won’t be in the playoffs this season. Now you can also argue that the Orioles are the real losers in this scenario because they didn’t get the huge gate that they normally get when Boston comes to town. However this should put the New York Yankees, Pittsburgh Steelers, Dallas Cowboys, and all others who welcome new “fans” with open arms to the effect that those supposed “fans” will leave you one day if you stop winning or have a down year. As for me, I’ll stick with the teams I grew up with through thick and thin, which is the definition of a sports fan. I can look myself in the mirror in the morning and know that I’m honest and true to myself and to my teams. Not all sports “fans” can say the same.