The lifeless corpse of the Green Bay Packers’ season wasn’t even cold Sunday when familiar snipes started drifting across the Twittersphere. Cries of “bandwagoning” and talk about how “annoying” Seahawks fans are filled my timeline.
Fans of storied franchises like the 49ers and Packers and Patriots gleefully took the assorted fandom of the Seahawks to task for suddenly caring. Or not caring enough. Or something. I’m not entirely sure what the message was, but it’s along the lines of “unless you suffered through Dennis Erickson you’re not allowed to claim fandom of this team.” It’s a compelling argument against fans of winning teams – “you’re not a TRUE fan, you only cheer for them when they’re winning.” In and of itself, this is a dumb argument; like “You only use Twitter because it’s popular. If you were a REAL fan of social media, you’d be on Ello or Google Plus.” If there were more people using those other social networks, I’d be using them too. But they aren’t, so I’m not. I guess that makes me a social media bandwagonner, but I prefer to call it “expending my energy in areas where I see a possible return.”
It’s a funny thing. When the Seahawks were losing, nobody cared that they were my team. More often than not, admitting to cheering for a team with a lifelong championship drought was met with a mix of bemusement and pity. Then they started winning, actually giving me something to cheer about, and the backlash started. Do I care? No. Should you care? No. Here’s why:
Do you really want to be the person responsible for policing someone’s enjoyment of something? The beautiful and maddening thing about sports fandom is that fans can cheer for whoever they want – your opinion is irrelevant! Think that guy at the bar in the recently-purchased ‘Wilson’ t-shirt can only name marquee players on the team? You might be right! Who cares? If we only grant “fandom” to people who can answer a rigorous test chronicling the extensive history of a particular franchise, there are probably going to be a lot of disappointed eight year olds who don’t pass muster. Do YOU want to be the guy telling an eight year old that they can’t cheer for something because they’re a stupid bandwagonner?
You cheer for the 49ers because of childhood Sundays spent watching the games with your dad? Congratulations on letting your parents indoctrinate you into sports fandom (it’s okay, it’s the same reason I’m Catholic AND a Roughriders fan). For every feel-good “this team was the only thing that ever brought my family together and was an oasis of goodwill in a stormy sea of dysfunction” story, there’s five more “I got wrapped up in the excitement when they were winning and never looked back.” You think the Edmonton Oilers would have the fan base they enjoy today if not for the dynasty in the ‘80s?
Good for the team, good for the community, good for people looking for the shared experience of getting together with other like-minded individuals to watch a bunch of multi-millionaires compete for the right to call themselves champions of something.
Think back to the Canucks’ championship run in 2011. Yes, people who were possibly fringe fans (or indifferent to hockey altogether) were suddenly mega-fans and every night was an impromptu party on the Granville strip. Did it matter if they became fans the day before? Hell no! We laughed together, we cried together, we burned the city down and then rallied together to clean it back up. Merchandise stores and sports bars saw record sales as these fairweather fans flocked to spend money supporting a team they had only recently started caring about. Ditto for the Seahawks’ back-to-back Super Bowl Super Bowl runs.
If anything, expect to see more Seahawks fans in Vancouver as more people grow to appreciate that we have an actual champion in the Pacific Northwest only a few hours south of us (apologies to the BC Lions). Making the argument that people shouldn’t cheer for teams based on municipal, provincial, national or regional borders doesn’t hold any water—I’d like to see you explain why the Vancouver Canucks count so many people in remote northern B.C. outposts as fans when they’re farther removed from Vancouver than we are from Seattle. It’s because, for all intents and purposes, they’re the closest thing they have to a ‘home’ team.
With these points in mind, let’s all enjoy watching the Seahawks repeat as Super Bowl champions before the team is dismantled in 2015. With any luck, none of us will have to endure being called “bandwagonners” for at least another decade. But if I see you suddenly wearing a Patriots jersey, expect to exchange words.