Here’s a situation we have all experienced before – your friend is a huge fan of the Jays. Unfortunately, the Jays haven’t been doing so well in the playoffs – but the Dodgers have. Suddenly your friend is the biggest Dodgers fan that has ever lived – they cheer every game, they buy a new Dodgers hat, they are the Dodgers. Biggest. Fan.
Annoying, isn’t it?
This is what we call a bandwagon jumper, or a fair-weather fan.
Except for some die hard fans, fan identity is something that can change and shift regularly. This is because sports are inconsistent. A team that did well last year, could perform horribly this year – and visa versa. And this could be all it takes to change your favourite team.
Aside from winning, there are other reasons that we identify with teams as well. Perhaps our friends are fan of a team that we haven’t supported in the past, so we jump on the bandwagon with them. Or maybe a team has a new player that you identify with, so they now become your favourite team.
But is this an annoying habit? Do people care if they are called a bandwagon jumper or a fairweather fan? Am you annoying people when you jump the bandwagon? How do you stop doing this? And if you fit the definition, how can you defend yourself against bandwagon and fairweather haters? Today, we’ll dive into this interesting topic and help you through all of your bandwagon and fair-weather concerns.
Bandwagon Jumper vs Fair-weather Fan
A Fair-Weather Fan
A Fair-Weather fan is someone who only follows and supports a team when they are doing well. This person doesn’t necessary switch their favourite team, but he also doesn’t really care about them or support them unless they are doing well.
A Bandwagon Fan
A Bandwagon jumper, unlike a fair-weather fan, will switch their favourite team. They hop from team to team, depending on who is doing well at the time. When their “favourite team” is not doing so well anymore, they quickly jump onto the bandwagon of another team, who is playing well.
To clarify this distinction, let’s replace “fan” with “friend”.
A Fair-Weather friend is the friend who only comes around when they need you – when you are throwing a party, when you have money, etc. But when you’re sad, depressed and/or out of money, they suddenly stop coming around.
A band-wagon friend is the friend who will leave you at the drop of a hat if they meet someone they deem more popular or “cooler”.
Okay, let’s see if you’ve been following along. Here’s a short quiz to test your knowledge:
Your friend Timmy is a huge Cavaliers fan, especially since Lebron James returned. But after Lebron signs with the Lakers, Timmy suddenly says, “I’m finished with the Cleveland Cavaliers. If Lebron leaves, the team won’t stand a chance. I think I’m going to start rooting for the Celtics in the East this year, they’re projected to win”.
Is this a fair-weather friend? Or a bandwagon jumper?
If you said bandwagon jumper, you’re right!
You’re also right if you determined that Timmy’s prediction was only partially true. This is because during the 2017-2018 season, the Cavs finished fourth (50 wins and 32 loses) in the East with Lebron. They averaged 20,562 bums in seats. The next season they finished second last with a record of 19 wins and 63 loses. They lost over a 1,000 bums in seats this season (avg. 19,349).
Now, let’s give an example for fair-weather fans. The Toronto Blue Jays have a lot of these. People only seem to show up in seats when the Jays are winning. In fact, the numbers of bums in seats has been dropping since their last playoff run in 2016. As a matter of fact, through the first week of this season, the Jays saw a 30% drop in attendance from last.
Let’s look at attendance figures over the past 9 seasons for proof of a large number of fair-weather fans.
On Wednesday, April 24th, the Toronto Blue Jays brought up their top prospect 20-year-old Vladimir Guerrero Jr. The call up came at one of the worst times in Blue Jays history. The story on Guerrero Jr., nicknamed Vladdy, is that he will be one of the “the greatest players in the history of organized sports.”
Before the call up, the Jays averaged 19,773 fans at home games during the season.
But as soon as Vladdy was called up, fans all of a sudden came out of the woodwork. After Vladdy’s debut, fan attendance was reported to be 28, 688 – that’s a huge increase from the home game before, which only had an attendance of 9,036.
The fans that showed up? We label them as bandwagon jumpers and fair-weather fans.
So why are there so many bandwagon jumpers and fair-weather fans in the world?
In order to determine why people are so quick to jump the bandwagon, we must first understand what factors make someone attracted to a team (or not). Here’s what we found:
Not surprisingly, people are attracted to certain teams based on their characteristics. Perhaps they like the city which the team represents, maybe they like the players, or maybe they simply like the colours of a team. Any characteristic of the team and the players on the team can have an effect on fandom. And it certainly doesn’t hurt if the team is winning (because really, who likes to lose?)
Sports teams aren’t all about the players – there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes as well. And what goes on behind the scenes can also affect fandom. Does the organization behave with integrity? How do they treat their fans and players? Do they participate in any charities? All of these things impact how people support a team.
A big portion of sports is related to the social aspect. In other words, a lot of people enjoy watching sports because it makes them feel like part of a community. No one wants to be part of a community of one. So if a team doesn’t have a big support system, it could shift a fans support to another team that does have a larger support system, simply because it raises their sense of community.
Sporting fans want to feel part of something, so how a team manages their fans matters. Do they have a Facebook fan page? Do they post blogs? How does the team interact with their fans? These interactions will make a huge difference in the level of support that they receive from fans.
Family and Friends
This again comes back to the idea that sports are social events. When you watch sports together, you bond together. And cheering for opposing teams can interfere with the bonding process. In return, it’s no surprise that our family and friends can have a huge impact on our preference of team, and can often change who we decide to support.
Because there are so many traits that affect which team we support, it’s not shocking that people are so quick to jump teams. With that being said – it doesn’t make it any less annoying. Which brings us to our next question – is the bandwagon label a bad one to have?
Is the Bandwagon Label a Bad Label To Have?
The answer to this question is really quite subjective. The truth is, bandwagon jumpers do often get a bad rep. All it takes is a quick Google Search and you will find hundreds of people stating, “I hate bandwagon jumpers”, “bandwagon jumpers are the worst”, “stop jumping on the bandwagon!” So it does seem that a bandwagon jumper is a bad label to have.
But why? Because the truth is, a lot of people do it. In fact, jumping on the bandwagon is so common that it is actually a type of psychological phenomenon known as the “bandwagon effect”. And it’s not just in sports that we see bandwagon jumping. It’s also in areas of politics, consumer behaviour, social behaviours, and the list goes on and on.
So why does it get so much hate? Because when people “jump on the bandwagon”, it’s assumed that they aren’t taking their own values and beliefs into account. In other words, “they don’t form their own opinion” and are “easily manipulated” – or so some people assume.
Who gets annoyed with bandwagon jumpers?
We said above that how you look at bandwagon jumping is subjective. Some people could care less, and others have extreme opinions about it. In sports, these opinions may differ based on what type of fan someone is. There are three types of fans in sport:
Low (Social Fans) – Casual, social-interaction based fans
Medium (Focused fans) – They love a specific team, but are on the bandwagon
High (Vested fans) – Who love a team no matter what.
Chances are if you are a social fan, you don’t really care about people jumping on the bandwagon. If your a focused fan, you probably are a bandwagon jumper. And if you’re a vested fan, than you probably dislike bandwagon jumpers.
So how someone feels about bandwagon jumping, really depends on how they feel about the sport.
Can I be one?
You can choose to be a bandwagon jumper if you want to. It’s your choice, and no one else’s. Having said that, you need to know that if you choose this lifestyle, you might annoy others. If that’s something you can live with, than there’s no problem with jumping on the bandwagon. If it’s not, than you might want to pick a team and stick with it.
Something to Keep in Mind:
Keep in mind that if you choose to be a bandwagon jumper, you might not get as much excitement out of sports as if you are loyal to a specific team. In others words, as a bandwagon jumper, you don’t have as much invested as a die hard fan. If the team you’re rooting for wins, you won’t get as much as excitement out of it as if it was a team you’ve been rooting for your entire life.
The drama is removed. When you jump bandwagon, there’s no praying for a win, or deciding that you’re life is over after a loss. Rather, you can just enjoy the game – and that’s a plus for band wagon jumping.
“We Mentality for Social Boasting”
Some bandwagon fans try to pull out the “WE” beat your ass type stuff. These are the type of people that just want to be part of the winning. Don’t be one of these people. If you get joy from watching a team and want to root for them, then by all means, do so. But be humble. Be kind. And remember that you were only their fan when they started winning.
Then you have those people that know they fit the definition of a bandwagon fan, but still swear up and down that they aren’t. Here are some other types of sporting fans to be aware of:
1. Player Fans
A player fan is completely different than a bandwagon fan. Bandwagon fans are fans that root for whatever team is winning (ie. Lakers fans who became Warrior fans circa 2015). I’m a Lebron fan. I’ve been a fan since I watched his high school games on ESPN in the second grade. I’m loyal to him, and remain a fan whether he does well or not, and whether his team does well or not. This makes me a player fan. It’s not about the team, it’s about the player. I love Lebron, so I cheer for whatever team he plays for. I am invested in him, not his team.
2. Casual Fans
What I’ve realized about most bandwagon jumpers is that they are usually casual fans. This means that they don’t follow the sport in any great detail, and don’t have an intense knowledge of the sport. As a result, bandwagon jumpers often make broad generalizations and create uninformed opinions. Due to their lack of knowledge, it’s almost impossible to have a rational conversation with them about sports.
With that being said, every sport needs casual fans. They also need fairweather fans, and bandwagon jumpers. Why? Because they help to boost ratings and fill seats.
So the reality is, it doesn’t really matter if your a fairweather fan, a bandwagon jumper, a casual fan, a player fan, or a die hard fan – we all have the right to watch and enjoy sports exactly as we wish. But if you are a bandwagon jumper – best to keep your opinions to yourself, because die hard fans may not take to them so kindly.