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Strike Up the Band(Wagon)

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The topic of new/returning fans has come up multiple times in the diaries in the last few weeks, often accompanied by use of the word "bandwagon" and much discussion as to how/when/why/to whom it applies with any validity.  This isn't my favorite conversation in the world but since it's a semi-hot topic (and is sure to become more so as the Blazers get better and better and more people hop on) I thought we might as well tackle it here on the main page and (hopefully) be done with it.

I interpret "bandwagon fan" very narrowly.  The only kind of fan truly worthy of the label is the guy who switches to front-runners constantly.  One year he's a Yankees fan, the next year the Angels, one season with the Lakers, then with the Mavs and Spurs...all the while claiming that's his lifelong team (and usually shoving victories in your face).  I have no respect for that kind of fan.  The reason why is very specific:  he's taking a lot of things that should be communal and enduring--history, tradition, passion, uniforms, sweat, tears, team play--and bending them for purposes of his temporary self-aggrandizement.  In essence he's saying, "See that effort and sacrifice those guys put in to get that good and win that much?  Hear the roaring of the crowd?  See those rings?  That's all about ME baby, so I could wave it in front of your nose and feel superior to you and your crummy old team."  Besides being obviously selfish and immature it goes against the basic grain of what sports are supposed to do:  reward team excellence and rally people around a cause that unites them and gives them identity.  The closer you get to "This is all about me!" the farther you are from the best aspects of athletics.  We say this of players all the time but it's also true of fans.  Since this guy's entire purpose for being a fan revolves around the "me" aspects (and since he's an unconscionable boor) I have no problem applying the "bandwagon" pejorative to him.

Other than that--as long as you're not switching teams left and right and not shoving things in people's faces--I don't see the need to apply the label.  Some fans leave and come back to certain teams.  Maybe they go through life changes like children or job transfers or marriage and divorce or just plain growing up.  Maybe sports isn't as important for a while...one of those childhood treasures to be rediscovered at a later date.  Who among us hasn't done that?  Or maybe the team goes in the crapper for a long period of time or, like the Blazers, become all but impossible to root and watch for because of off-court/community issues.  Was it really that noble to stick through Rasheed's tantrums, Ruben's outbursts, Qyntel's speeding and alleged dog-fighting, and Zach's brushes with the law (to name a few)?  I'm not saying it's bad to have stayed, but if you're looking to praise nobility, loyalty, honor, and all that stuff you can find a million better examples--people holding together families, serving their country, standing up for human rights, protecting children, and so on--than those of us who kept buying League Pass through the Jailblazer era.  It's natural that more fans would discover (or rediscover) interest in the team now that things are getting better.  Are people supposed to wait for a 20-win season to declare their allegiance?  Hopefully we'll have to wait a couple decades to get any new fans then!  The same thing holds true of people switching teams.  One of the best aspects of being demonstrably good is that more people discover you.  Many long-time Blazer fans started out rooting for someone else.  And I would remind you that the team has done only a small iota better on the court to date.  It's not like we've come close to having a winning season or anything.  All the fans coming back are coming back for something other than victories and bragging rights.  That "something" is probably the same loyalty and love as the people who have been here the last few years.  The word "bandwagon" doesn't even begin to apply.

In the end, I hope that word never finds wide use at this site.  Not only does it draw lines completely unnecessarily and make people who are just trying to root for the team feel bad and inferior, it also suffers from the exact same failings described in paragraph one of this post.  What is the great sin of the true bandwagon guy?  Subverting wonderful concepts like loyalty, togetherness, and communal passion to the overweening tyranny of the self and making others suffer thereby.  What are people doing when they label other people "bandwagon fans" if not saying, "I have been here longer, been more loyal, suffered more, and I deserve more credit than you"?  Again loyalty, togetherness, and communal passion are traded in for the cheap rush of feeling superior to another...exalting the self.  It's the same thing.  Real, mercenary bandwagon fans and those quick to label others bandwagon fans end up having the same failings.  I believe that's exactly why it instinictively rubs many people wrong when the word is used, even if they can't quite put words to it.  

It's relatively easy to dismiss and ignore the mercenary bandwagon fan for what he is.  It's much harder to deal with people committing the same error within your own ranks and in the name of your own team.  In the first case a person walks away saying, "That guy's a doofus" and they're probably right.  In the second case people walk away saying, "Blazer fans (or Blazersedge folks) are doofuses (doofusi?)."  I sincerely hope in that case they're wrong, but I hate leaving that impression. Either way you go--being a bandwagon fan or labeling others bandwagon fans--what you gain in smug, self-credit pales besides what you lose in community spirit and the chance to make friends and converts to your team.

I've always said that in most ways this is as much your site as mine and I mean that.  Beyond the boundaries of basic civility that I've put in place I've never been in the business of censoring people's thoughts and comments and I'm not about to start now.  But at the same time we also pride ourselves as being a site where people really do read other people's comments and really do respect them and take them seriously (or funnily or however they're meant).  Whatever you write is going to be read, thought about, taken to heart, and probably responded to by a whole lot of people.  I just wonder if distinguishing between enthusiastic Blazer fans in this way is the best use of that time, attention, and passion.  I tend to think not.  That's why I hope after this post and any ensuing discussion the term will be put to rest.  

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

P.S. Let me also say that this post is basically theoretical/philosophical in nature and not directed at anybody individually no matter which side(s) of the previous bandwagon conversation(s) they've been on. Frankly I don't remember who said what because my eyes tend to glaze over every time the subject comes up. I guess I've been reading the tenor of the posts more than specific names and points. So don't anybody take this post as Dave coming down on "Person X" (or even worse in a twist of horrible irony throw a post like this is Person X's face) because honestly I don't know who Person X even is. I'm just saying how I feel and why.