Get off the wagon

Back in the fall of 2010, the San Francisco Giants were marching through the baseball playoffs on their way to their first World Series in 50 years. Northern California had Giants fever, and being in Sacramento, I saw a lot of this up close. As the Giants got closer and closer to that World Series, more people wore Giants gear. More Giants bumper stickers showed up. More people outwardly expressed fondness for the Giants. More people of the Northern California variety were posting pro-Giants statuses and tweets on social media.

It was sickening. And obnoxious.

(Two disclaimers here: First, I’m an Angeleno, so I already have the anti-NorCal thing going. Second, I’m a Phillies fan, and yes, I was a little bitter that the Giants eliminated the Phillies in the NLCS that year.)

But even if you remove those biases, it was still pretty sickening. Because there’s nothing more annoying in sports than bandwagon fans.

I admit, I openly rooted for the Giants to lose. Not because I don’t like them, but because I wanted all the bandwagon fans to just shut up. I have nothing against genuine Giants fans. Many of my closest friends in Sacramento were lifelong Giants fans, and I was happy for them when they got their championship. But I wanted the bandwagoners to pretty much shrivel up and die.

Do you expect me to take you seriously when you barely know anything about baseball (it’s a run, not a point, dummy) or don’t know half the players on the team or still think Barry Bonds is a Giant?

Exactly.

I’m sure all the diehard Giants fans were annoyed too. At least they should have been.

I understand the bandwagon is how some people get on the path to legit fandom. Winning generates interest. But if you’re going to be an obnoxious bandwagon fan, at least learn a little bit about the team and the game. Don’t be an idiot. Don’t piss off the hardcore fanbase. If you ask questions about the team, that’s cool. If you ask about the rules of the game because you want to know how this stuff works, cool. The hardcore fanbase appreciates people who want to learn.

But if you’re just there to be seen and don’t care if you’re displacing the hardcore fans, well, screw you.

In 2005, Ed and I finally moved back to California after spending four years on the East Coast. Even though we weren’t in L.A., we still wanted to buy football season tickets at our alma mater, USC. We were willing to make the trip south, we wanted to sit with our friends — all season ticket holders since graduating from college — and we relished the idea of being able to watch USC football games in person again.

But there was one problem: the Trojans were in the middle of their Age of Glory. And of course, it meant Trojan football games were a hot ticket.

We couldn’t get season tickets that season.

I was crushed. And really angry. I’m an alumna! I went to school during the really crappy football years! I cheered for this team when it couldn’t even finish above .500! I followed the Trojans religiously even when I lived on the opposite coast and couldn’t get their games on TV!

And now that I could finally see this team win, I couldn’t? What?

We had to settle for various game packs when we couldn’t get season tickets, which meant we wouldn’t be guaranteed tickets for all the games. We paid through the nose to see Nebraska and Ohio State. We didn’t bother to try and get tickets to UCLA and Notre Dame. Not having the guarantees was sad. It would be two seasons before we finally got our coveted season tickets. USC lost a couple of shockers along the way, so I guess enough bandwagoners jumped off so we could get tickets.

Meanwhile, some of these newer fans’ expectations also spiraled out of control. They came to expect dominance. They didn’t seem to appreciate the winning as much as some of us diehards did. It was almost like they had a sense of entitlement.

When the Trojans’ seven-year conference title run finally ended in 2009, people seemed genuinely disgusted. My friends? Sure, we were incredibly disappointed, but we also remembered the days when USC couldn’t even beat UCLA. We took it in stride and appreciated the incredible run our team gave us. We were realists. We knew they couldn’t be amazing forever. We also knew probation and sanctions were around the corner.

And you know what? We still came back. We will likely keep coming back until we’re 80. And now that USC is stacked again post-probation, I hope some of those folks who jumped off the bandwagon a couple of years ago trip on their way back and get run over by it. Screw you guys.

It’s happening again in Los Angeles with the Kings. All the fair weather fans are coming out of the woodwork. So are the bandwagoners. While some really do appear to want to stay for the hockey — it’s always nice to see hockey gain new fans — there’s still a lot of those annoying types around. It’s even worse in L.A., which loves a front-runner (see aforementioned Trojan success).

Ed is an L.A. Kings lifer. He’s seen a lot of terrible with this team. He seethes at the bandwagoners. Like his cousin, who attended Kings games with him in the Gretzky years. Back in November — remember, the Kings were kinda so-so in the regular season — he had a conversation with said cousin about the Kings. The cousin said, “Oh, I don’t really follow the Kings anymore.” He didn’t know anyone on the team. Ed took note of this and moved on.

Just before the Stanley Cup Final started, said cousin posted on Ed’s Facebook wall that he was going to try and get a ticket to the Stanley Cup Final games in L.A. and would root on the Kings.

The look on Ed’s face when he saw that could have killed the population of an entire country.

And again, the diehards are being threatened. Ticket prices are skyrocketing. Tickets are disappearing fast. We were fortunate to get Game 4 Stanley Cup tickets, but if a Game 6 is necessary, it’s not likely we’ll be able to get tickets, as much as Ed would give every limb in his body to be there to witness (potential) history. And that’s bittersweet.

Shouldn’t the championship be celebrated by the people who have endured through the bad times, who have waited their entire lives to see this? Those are the people that deserve front row seats at the parade, not the opportunistic Johnny-come-latelys who will forget who the Kings are if the Lakers decide to start winning again.

So, if you decide to hop on a bandwagon, any bandwagon, remember this: There is an entire legion of fans that went through years (decades, even) of crap, and all these people ask for is not to be overshadowed and crowded out when they want to celebrate their team winning the big one.

Respect that, and the bandwagon will take you in with open arms. And we’ll even answer your questions about our team.

But if you want to be that obnoxious jerk, don’t be surprised if someone pops the champagne cork right in your eye or shatters the bottle over your head. (I’ll be first in line to do that if I can.)