Monday, March 18, 2013

When it's Okay to Jump on the Bandwagon

I work with a lot of people, some of whom are even hockey fans. Among these are a father and son pair who have traditionally both cheered for the Ducks. As the Kings advanced deeper in last year's playoffs, the father started to change his allegiance, even going so far as to reference the Kings in the first person ("our power play", "Saint Louis can't stop us", etc.) which is usually the sign of the either the die-hard or the delusional.  That probably made for some awkward drives home.

So this year year, with the Kings struggling a bit, I noticed the father once again cheering for the resurgent Ducks.

In an innocent, totally not trolling way, I asked the son, "how do you feel about your father cheering for the Ducks again?"

"He's not my father," the son angrily sneered, "that's impossible!" It would've resonated more like the Darth Vader and Luke talking scene at the end of Empire Strikes Back, except the son didn't jump off the ledge into to a seemingly bottomless pit. Mostly due to absence of seemingly bottomless pits.

So with that anecdote and the season being about half over (thanks lockout!) I thought it'd be a good idea to look into some guidelines and considerations for bandwagoning.

Reasons to jump on ye olde bandwagon:
1. To help you get playoff tickets from your real fan friends.
2. Extend your emotional (and financial!) commitment to the hockey season as your new team progresses deeper into the post season.
3. Your team moved or is moving to/from Phoenix or another hockey indifferent location which has left you in the market for a new team.  Honestly, you might as well go pick a winner, it'll take the edge off of your recent loss.  This is a rebound relationship at best and probably won't last.

Reasons not to jump on the bandwagon:
1. Really? Do I need to explain this to you?
2. Don't you feel shame for doing this?
3. I thought we had something special here, says your old team as it stands at the doorway of your heart sadly clutching a battered cardboard box full of memories, a single tear rolling down its right cheek.

Mortal sins of bandwagoning for those who didn't feel any pity for their old team:
1. Going to Division rival - If you're going to give your old team a swift kick in the naughty bits, at least have the class and courtesy to change conferences.
2. Their biggest local rival - This is a actually a holding place for expansion after realignment when Toronto 2.0 will be in the west and probably better than the Leafs and Quebec will be in the Pacific division awaiting it's inevitable move to Seattle.
3. Any Team employs Raffi Torres or Patrick Kaleta - This is pretty self explanatory: If you're going to be a douchey band wagon jumper at least don't jump on the bandwagon of a team that employs douchey players.
4. The Penguins - Honestly, I have nothing against them but do you really want to have anything in common with Commissioner Bettman? 

When it's okay (it still isn't but if you're already committed to the hockey equivalent of adultery you might as well make the most of it):
1. If you stick with the team through thick and thin.  I discovered hockey (as did most of Southern California at the time) in 1993 but joined and rode the Maple Leafs bandwagon when their run to lose in the Western Final. That run made me so much of a fan that I've stuck with them through both bad times and worse times. Through bad trades and bad signings. Through them changing conferences in 1998-99.  And the heart breaking day, each and every season, when they're eliminated from the playoffs. Sometimes this occurs before Christmas.
2. Martial bliss - if your spouse cheers for the opposition, it is totally understandable to cheer for this new team if you don't want to sleep on the couch for the duration of the playoffs/your marriage.
3. Your favorite player is traded to that team - because sometimes the name on the back is more important to you than the name on the front as they chase elusive glory. Boston cheering for Ray Bourque was cool.   Quebec cheering for Patrick Roy, not so much, but it also never happened.
4. You're undecided about a team so you basically had only taken your previous team for a test drive.  Now, just so we understand each other, if you've happened to cheer for the last 5 different Stanley Cup winners, you Sir/Madam are what we like to call a front runner.  Or a politician.
5. You're under 12 years of age and are still coming to grips with soul crushing defeat.  Just wait until you start dating young sir/lady and this will all make far more sense.
6. Your talked your older son into playing with his younger brother because it'd be adorable. (Mrs. Neidermayer only).

And finally, if I couldn't guilt you to stay with your current sucksville team, here's an article that every sports fan should read: Down Goes Brown's "Dear Son, Welcome to Life as a Leafs Fan" which I think nails a fan's emotional connection to their team and explains the greater sense of joy we'll receive when our team finally wins after so many painful seasons of losing. This beautifully captures the heart and soul of hockey fandom and if his words can't get you to shamefully climb down from the bandwagon, then nothing will.

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