Everybody loves a winner.
What they dont love so much, judging from some recent comments about Wichita States successful basketball season and the horde of new fans it has spawned, is low-down rotten bandwagon jumpers who cheer for teams only when theyre winning.
Theres a fine but well-established line, Im told, between true fans and posers, between those who have paid their dues and those who wear 2013 Final Four T-shirts but couldnt name three players on this years team.
(Quick side note: Is there really anyone left in Wichita who cant name three Shocker basketball players? Seems unlikely. Theyre everywhere.)
So I posed the question on Twitter recently not to pick a fight but because I really wanted to understand: Why do some fans loathe bandwagon jumpers so much? Exactly how and when should fandom begin?
First, a bit of history: The phrase jump on the bandwagon has its roots in the South. In the late 18th century, traveling bands would play in front of political rallies, often attracting a crowd. While the musicians had the crowds attention, politicians or religious leaders would sometimes jump on top of the bands wagon, interrupting the music, and deliver a speech to the attentive crowd.
Now the phrase refers to people who hitch themselves to any successful venture, usually uninvited. In the sports world, its a person who doesnt support or cheer for a team until that team is well on its way to championship glory.
Which brings us to the Shockers and their fans, old and new, for whom this season has become a powerful source of community pride. Folks are buying shirts, waving flags and jumping on the black-and-yellow bandwagon left and right, and who can blame them?
Every team will have bandwagon fans when they win, said my colleague Josh. Thats the deal.
He jumped on the Detroit Tigers bandwagon on April 7, 1984, he recalls, the day Jack Morris pitched a no-hitter against the Chicago White Sox and launched a season that culminated with a World Series title. He remains a Tigers fan. (So dont talk to him about last years loss to Boston.)
I jumped on the North Carolina State bandwagon in 1983. My two older brothers went to college there, but I only started following basketball during the teams astounding national championship run. I eventually earned my degree from the school and have remained a fan despite many more depressing seasons, so I guess you could say I paid tuition and dues.
My son, Jack, is a Patriots fan. Why? Because he likes Tom Brady and teams that win, and for most of his childhood, they have. (My daughter doesnt follow sports but appreciates Super Bowls for the tasty appetizers.)
Most of us jump on bandwagons. Do you recall watching Michael Phelps compete anywhere other than the Olympics? Do you often tune in for competitive skiing, speed skating, bobsled or curling? And do you follow those medal winners after the Olympic flame is extinguished? Likely not.
I dont have a problem with jumping on in good times, said my friend Dan on Twitter. Its when they then jump off in bad times that gets me.
That could be the case. Perhaps the true measure of a fan is sticking around for losing seasons as well as perfect ones. Maybe youre not a true fan unless you can name third-string players, recite the schedule or properly pronounce Tekele Cotton. (Its tuh-KALE.)
But why begrudge new Shocker fans in Kansas or elsewhere from embracing the magic and joining the party, however long it lasts? Theres plenty of room on the bandwagon. Hop aboard.