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August 22, 2011

Changing Speeds

Ethical Bandwagon Jumping

by Ken Funck

It’s late August, and if the team you root for is already out of contention, you’re not alone. According to our Playoff Odds Report, only 12 teams currently have even a 5 percent chance of making the postseason, meaning that fully 60 percent of teams are realistically playing out the string with more than a month to go. If you follow one of those teams and are the sort of fan who finds that having a heart-felt rooting interest greatly adds to your baseball enjoyment, what are you to do with the rest of the season? My recommendation is to become a bandwagon jumper, or more specifically, an Ethical Bandwagon Jumper (EBJ).

To describe what it means to be an EBJ, I’ll need to define a few terms. A “Bandwagon Jumper” is not the same thing as a “Fair-Weather Fan.” The latter is someone who is nominally a fan of a given team but is only active at certain times. For example, this year’s crop of late-summer Brewers apparel looks to be larger than I’ve seen in years, since local growing conditions—hot team, cold division, the fertilizer of ugly politics—have caused once-dormant Brewers fans to resume paying attention to and bonding around the local nine. This can actually be a wonderful thing to witness, akin to wildflowers blooming in the desert after a rainstorm.

A “Bandwagon Jumper,” however, starts rooting for a contending or front-running team in mid-season or later. Such behavior is often derided among hardcore fans as shallow and self-serving, much like making your pick for the Sausage Race while Frankie Furter and Stosh are casing-to-casing down the stretch. Don’t let this negative connotation deter you, though. If you follow the Ten Commandments of Ethical Bandwagon Jumping, you can find a new team to root for whole-heartedly, if temporarily, while maintaining long-term interest in your long-time favorite—avoiding guilt and recrimination, while enjoying the pleasures (and pains) of rooting for a contender down the stretch.

I. Thou shalt not ignore your original team. Unlike the traditional bandwagon jumper, you have a team waiting up for you at home, and you’re not about to forget that. This isn’t a trial separation—you’ve been through a lot together, and you both know you’ll be back soon. You and your team have a mature relationship built on years of trust and a lifetime of shared experience, but you both understand and accept that, right now, circumstances have kept your short-term fan needs from being met. Don’t take advantage of this, however—your future continues to be with your old team. Give them the attention they deserve, even if they’re playing out the string.

II. Thou shalt not shop around. Similarly, don’t demean the entire fan/team relationship by half-heartedly groping your way through a number of possible teams before settling on one to follow. Pick one team quickly and stick with it. Shopping for a temporary team is like shopping for underwear—you can’t try it on, you just have to find what you’re looking for on the shelf, buy it, and take it home.

III. Thou shalt not root for the Yankees. This is self-evident, no? Jump onto the always-crowded Yankees bandwagon, and the tires are liable to explode. Moreover, part of the idea here is to immerse yourself in the season of a team you generally don’t follow closely. If you pay attention to baseball media at all, you can no more avoid in-depth Yankees coverage than Hollywood can avoid misguided superhero origin scripts. You’re already following the Yankees whether you like it or not. Try another flavor.

IV. Thou shalt not root for the Red Sox. See above. This would have been acceptable prior to 2004, however.

V. Thou shalt not root for a divisional or traditional rival. Don’t shop your fandom around your own neighborhood—it’s unseemly and can lead to logical and emotional complications once your rooting interest has flown home. Moreover… ick.

VI. Thou shalt not pretend to be a long-timer. When long-suffering fans finally have something to celebrate, few things annoy them as much as having to share their joy with unworthy latecomers, especially those who don’t realize they’re unworthy. No matter how much you know, embrace the fact that you’re a tourist, not a local, and don’t act as though you’ve already been down all the franchise’s back roads. You may remember Kent Tekulve, you may have seen Kent Tekulve, but the Pirates fans on the barstools around you lived Kent Tekulve. Give them their due.

VII. Thou shalt not choose again. One mulligan per round. Once your EBJ team falls out of contention, be grateful you were at least able to keep some skin in the game a little longer.

VIII. Thou shalt not root ironically. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no stranger to ironic appreciation: one of my favorite pieces of clothing is a baby blue t-shirt with a drawing of Sherman Hemsley amid the words “Shut up, honky!” EBJ, however, requires a genuine respect for your newfound rooting interest—otherwise, you risk demeaning yourself and, by extension, your normal team. Don’t use irony in selecting your team or in the way you express your single-serving fandom. Especially out of bounds is acting beyond any stereotype of your new team’s fan base, e.g., wearing a foam Brewers cheesehead hat to work, throwing a cheesesteak wiz wit at the your TV when Ryan Madson blows a save, or politely clapping the Twins’ effort after a loss. There’s no winking in baseball.

IX. Thou shalt not be more obnoxious than the team’s normal fans. Similarly, don’t be even more blindly supportive of your short-term team than long-time fans—you might enjoy lighting off fireworks at the party, but it’s their living room you’re trashing. First-person example: the 1985 Chicago Bears, who were the first team in which I had a primary rooting interest to ever win a championship. They were also one of the most obnoxious teams in history, and every loud-mouthed, unethical bandwagon jumper in the country flocked to their banner. As a result, the primary emotion I felt when they won the Super Bowl wasn’t so much joy as relief, and the backlash against that team and their boastful fans, many of them squatters, has yet to fully abate—many Packers fans still can’t take joy in their own team’s success without tossing in “the Bears still suck.”

So… don’t do that.

X. Thou shalt not become a serial front-runner. If you find yourself transferring allegiance every summer from your own crummy team to whomever leads the league at the All-Star break, perhaps you’re just not wired for monogamy. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but if this describes you, why even bother calling yourself a fan of your crummy team? You don’t qualify as an Ethical Bandwagon Jumper, but no worries. Embrace the variety, allowing that you may be trading joy quality for joy quantity, and root for whomever strikes your fancy.

Or, just give in and root for the Yankees full-time already. Bandwagon jumper.

Ken Funck is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Ken's other articles. You can contact Ken by clicking here

Related Content:  Fans,  Kent Tekulve,  Yankees Fans,  Team,  Rooting

41 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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Brock Dahlke

Love it, and needed it as a twins fan. I was just getting old enough to enjoy sports around 2000 when the twins came to be a competitive team, so i'm kind of lost being out of contention so early.

Aug 21, 2011 23:46 PM
rating: 1
 
robustyoungsoul

I am icky as I do tend to root for a team in my division if things go badly for my own side. My thought there is that victory for a team in my own division lends credence to the "my team plays in a tough division" argument.

Aug 22, 2011 07:05 AM
rating: 0
 
prs130

ditto for playoff eliminations... I'll root for the guys that vanquished my team's hopes (with certain exceptions).

Aug 22, 2011 08:47 AM
rating: 1
 
R.A.Wagman

I would add to "V" - Ideally, your bandwagon team should be from the opposite league as your old team.

Aug 22, 2011 07:36 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Ken Funck
BP staff

Ideally, yes. As a native Chicagoan transplanted to Wisconsin during my youth, it was easy for me to root for both the Cubs and the Brewers. Then Bud went and moved them to the NL, ruining everything.

Aug 22, 2011 07:50 AM
 
Peter7899

I'm with you Ken. I'm a Chicagoan, but can't help but root for the Brew Crew. Conflicting as it is, I love watching them stick it to the Cards right now.

Aug 22, 2011 10:42 AM
rating: 1
 
Agent007

I prefer to transfer my attention to my team's minor league affilates, as a means to kindle a little bit of hope for the future. Unfortunately, I am an Orioles fan. Fortunately, four of their minor league teams are playoff bound.

Aug 22, 2011 07:46 AM
rating: 2
 
Randy Brown
(189)

This is genius.

No one could possibly get upset with a person jumping onto the Frederick Keys bandwagon..."The Keys only win because their payroll is $800,000 every year!!"

Aug 22, 2011 08:10 AM
rating: 7
 
CRP13

This sadly isn't an option for Astros fans. All of their minor league affiliates have a winning percentage of .170

Aug 22, 2011 09:36 AM
rating: 4
 
Peter Benedict

VI -- It is OK to pull for a team from a state in which you've lived for more than three years.

I moved from MN to AZ in the late '80s, and lived through the formation and growth of the Dbacks before moving back to MN. I have been fortunate to pull for two teams that seem to take turns being good; rarely have both been out of it.

I struggled with the ethics of both, but since they're in different leagues and I was a homer for each, I figure I'm an EBJ.

Aug 22, 2011 08:17 AM
rating: 3
 
BP staff member Ken Funck
BP staff

I'll buy that, although it sounds to me more like you're a full-time fan of more than one team. Big Love!

Aug 22, 2011 11:21 AM
 
mdsklar

I have a different problem.

I've been a Phillies fan since I was six, and a Red Sox fan since I was 23 (I moved from Philly to Boston).

What do I do this year if they both make it?

M

Aug 22, 2011 08:42 AM
rating: 0
 
CRP13

Depends on how old you are now. There's a mathematical formula to determine this.

Alternate method: My mom lived in Cincinnati for the first 35 years of her life, then moved to Houston. She maintained she was a Reds fan until I said "Name the Reds' starting lineup." She said "Griffey...uh....". Then I said "Name the Astros starting lineup." I believe she named six or seven of them.

If you can't name your old team's entire starting lineup, you root for the new one.

Aug 22, 2011 09:39 AM
rating: 3
 
CRP13

Or to paraphrase, your team is the one whose lineup you know the best, except the Yankees.

Aug 22, 2011 09:39 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Ken Funck
BP staff

Well said.

Aug 22, 2011 11:22 AM
 
cfinberg

Obviously you should root for the Sox. They are the only team anyone should ever root for, ever. They have an outstanding record of upholding human rights, their GDP has managed to climb in spite of the global economic malaise, and Phillies fans always drink too much in my bar and so I have to kick them out and clean up their vomit. Q.E.D.

Aug 22, 2011 09:46 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Ken Funck
BP staff

What do you do if the Phillies face the Red Sox in the World Series? Close your eyes and thank your lucky stars you're not a Cubs fan.

Aug 22, 2011 11:23 AM
 
Drew Miller

My Comcast tech the other day claimed to be both a Red Sox and Yankees fan. I suspect he's a candidate to violate whichever rules he hasn't already violated.

Aug 22, 2011 13:34 PM
rating: 2
 
amazin_mess

Bah...you don't jump on bandwagons!!

cough - Go Brewers - cough

Aug 22, 2011 09:03 AM
rating: 3
 
escapingNihilism

another NYM-MIL here. a friend of mine makes three.

Aug 22, 2011 15:59 PM
rating: 0
 
John Carter

These are all reasonable rules, but rules are meant to be broken upon circumstances. I was a Tigers fan growing up in the New York area. Naturally, the Mets were my NL alternative, which went well in '69. The Tigers fell apart in the mid 70s and the Mets slowly sank as well. Meanwhile, the company my dad worked for had great seats at Yankee Stadium and the Yankees were getting better and better. It was OK they were my team in '77 and '78.

I moved to L.A. in 1980 and while my alligiance was still primarily to the Tigers, the Dodgers under Fernandomania became my new NL team and I was guiltlessly able to take joy in their revenge against the Yankees in 1981.

The true test of my loyalities came when I moved to Toronto in 1983. From then to the end of the decade, the Jays and Tigers were close division rivals. When I watched them play each other, I could not help but sing the Star Spangled Banner louder than Oh Canada and could not help cheer for my Tigers. Of course, that paid off particularly well in 1984 and 1987.

The Tigers became a team of disgrace in the 1990s and early 2000s. I tried to root for them, but becoming engrossed in Fantasy Baseball (Scoresheet Baseball), it became to me to be more about the individuals than the team. And, the Tigers were not behaving like the Tigers of old during previous down turns, they were doing much stupider things like selling the nucleus of their future for a vastly overrated player and misbehaving jerk like Juan Gonzalez. Who could root for that? The team that was collecting the most compelling group of individuals - from all over the world - was the Yankees! As an ex-tri-stater, I could reclaim them and enjoyed their dominance for awhile.

However, I do have ties to Boston. I went to university there, my sister lived there, many of my ancestors were the first white settlers there. My sportswriter hero Bill James was working for the Red Sox. And who could like George Steinbrenner? Well, many people did, I suppose, but he is the kind of successful guy I feel sorry for and find a bit repulsive. So, I switched to Boston in time for 2004.

Then back to good old Detroit for 2006!

Aug 22, 2011 10:54 AM
rating: 0
 
CRP13

I thought you said you grew up in New York. Only Europeans say, "I went to university there."

You went to college, dude. This is America for Pete's sake.

Aug 22, 2011 13:31 PM
rating: -2
 
R.A.Wagman

hotstatrat is a Canadian now! We say University.

Aug 22, 2011 13:38 PM
rating: 0
 
CRP13

Oh yes, I forgot. Weirdos! :)

Aug 22, 2011 13:43 PM
rating: 0
 
klipzlskim

I prefer a hardline approach. You get one team in each sport, which is the team from the city where you grew up and/or the city where you lived when you became interested in that sport. This only applies to childhood - if you became a fan of any sport after high school, your hometown team is automatically an EBJ. If your city didn't have a team in a particular sport until after you graduated high school, too bad: EBJ. If you move permanently to a new city, that team can be your EBJ (one-time only). College years don't count. Any team from a city where you haven't lived is a U(Unethical)BJ. Teams from NY, Boston, Philadelphia or LA are never acceptable as EBJs. Furthermore, it's your ethical responsibility to hate teams from those four cities (unless they count as your home team per above), the Raiders (ditto), local rivals, division rivals, and teams that beat yours in the playoffs. This ensures that you'll be suitably bitter and miserable almost every year, in every sport.

Aug 22, 2011 11:48 AM
rating: 4
 
Mr. Cthulhu

I think you need a caveat for the Raiders hate. You should be allowed to root for the Raiders no matter what city you live in/lived in, if you happen to be a member of a violent (this is key) gang. Without this you may limit the fan base to single digits.

Aug 22, 2011 15:51 PM
rating: 5
 
Drew Miller

An fun and well-written piece. We stat-nerds appreciate the humor!

Aug 22, 2011 13:30 PM
rating: 2
 
Ric Size

I would offer this: If your favorite team/organization is screwed up, due to stupidity, mis-management, whatever..., then you should have the freedom to root for other better managed organizations, without feeling guilty. We shouldn't be slaves to stupidity.

Aug 22, 2011 14:38 PM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Ken Funck
BP staff

Sure. That's not bandwagon jumping, though. That's permanently changing your allegiance, which is perfectly fine. If your original team wises up, you can always switch back.

Aug 22, 2011 14:40 PM
 
John Douglass

When the team I was emotionally tied to for most of my adult life wises up and dumps Tony LaRussa, I may be too enamored of Tampa Bay from watching them the last several years to want to go back.

Aug 22, 2011 14:51 PM
rating: 1
 
CRP13

That solves MY ethical quandry.

Aug 22, 2011 15:44 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Ken Funck
BP staff

Hey, that's what I'm here for, man.

Aug 23, 2011 09:27 AM
 
Bob

Exception to Rule III: you can root for the Yankees if they play the Phillies. Always.

Aug 22, 2011 21:35 PM
rating: 1
 
Bob

Exception to Rule IV: you can root for the Red Sox if they play the Yankees or the Phillies.

Aug 22, 2011 21:41 PM
rating: 1
 
NYYanks826

Mmmm...wiz wit. I hope that means you prefer Pat's over Geno's, Ken.

Aug 23, 2011 01:32 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Ken Funck
BP staff

I'm not going to claim a preference, since I'm a tourist, not a local (see VI. above).

However, as a boost to the Wisconsin economy, I strongly recommend everyone put cheese of some kind on every entree.

Aug 23, 2011 09:33 AM
 
BrewersTT

Boy am I glad to see a calm discussion of dual fandom in these comments. I root for three teams for various reasons. Almost everyone thinks this means I cannot "really" be a fan of any of them, whatever that means. Even though the teams are all perennial losers, I long ago determined what the pecking order would be if they ever did compete for something meaningful.

Aug 23, 2011 08:27 AM
rating: 0
 
Mr. Cthulhu

Don't leave us hanging like that! What are the three teams (I'll go out on a limb here and assume one is the Brewers)?

We need to know so we can judge you!

Aug 23, 2011 22:11 PM
rating: 0
 
BrewersTT

@Mr Cthulhu: Brewers #1: Born in Wisc. and most of my family are fans of the teams there. #2 Orioles: As a kid I was a Senators v 2.0 fan, and when they left, the Orioles were on TV several times a week and became the obvious choice. #3 Nationals, as I still live in the DC area and they look like latter-day Senators, in uniforms and place in the standings. Judge away, I've heard it all :-)

Aug 24, 2011 09:32 AM
rating: 0
 
Mr. Cthulhu

I cannot judge an Orioles fan. Only pity them. I am so sorry.

Aug 24, 2011 12:58 PM
rating: 0
 
BrewersTT

@Mr Chthulhu: You are so right. :-)
Actually, on a serious note, there is reason to feel compassion for Orioles folks today, as Mike Flanagan has reportedly taken his own life.

Aug 25, 2011 10:37 AM
rating: 1
 
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