The importance of being a bandwagoner


Sometimes, it's best to just move on. Sorry, Mark.
Sometimes, it’s best to just move on. Sorry, Mark.

Jackson Prince, sports editor

A bandwagoner, as defined by Urban Dictionary, is “someone who shamelessly cheers for a particular team, not because he likes them or follows them faithfully, but only because that particular team is the ‘popular’ choice, or has been – or is – the top team in their specific sport recently.”

However, the concept of the “bandwagoner” applies not only to the world of sports, but to many other areas as well. For example, a musical artist might become a staple on someone’s personal playlist only after they’ve reached the top of the charts, or have been featured (and overplayed) at the most recent Bar Mitzvah or Sweet 16 (see: Macklemore).

Or, in the world of television, a number of viewers were “addicted” to the heartwarming story of a schoolteacher who cooked meth since the show premiered. Yet once it gained popularity, those who had remained stubbornly stalwart in their highly critical opinion of the show suddenly entered the world of Heisenberg and became…Breaking Bandwagoners.

The phrase “jump on the bandwagon” was coined by a clown in 1848. Dan Rice, who ran a popular travelling circus, used his bandwagon and its music in a political campaign to gain the attention of potential voters. Other politicians soon found themselves enamored with its success, and the association with “the bandwagon” became quite a successful election ploy. But in the debates of the 1900 Presidential election, William Jennings Bryan (APUSH alert) gave the phrase a negative connotation, implying that those who “jumped on the bandwagon” didn’t consider what they were joining and merely wanted to be a part of a winning team.

The negative slant on the word “bandwagoner” attributed to Bryan accompanied it for the next century. Today, it’s still in bad form to be seen as a bandwagoner.

The bandwagoner is perceived to have chosen their team, restaurant, performer, TV show, movie or band only because other “true fans” before them have made these objects popular. In sports, a bandwagoner may cut ties with a flailing team and place their devotion toward a more successful squad. Many see this “fan” as weak of character and disloyal, as they are unable to withstand their original team’s losing streaks.

Bandwagoners are often seen as the “gold diggers” of fans, only attracted to winners and success. They are Dan Rice-style clowns, suddenly passionate and devoted aficionados of a team, show, person, fashion or movement, without any independent thought of their own.

While others may be angry with these seemingly ungrateful dilettantes, there’s an argument that, in fact, life is good for the bandwagoner; for the disloyal fan; for the winner-chaser.

What’s good about rooting for the Lakers right now? About whipping out that Blackberry? Or replaying the latest Jason Derulo track, hoping that it’ll sound good at some point? Answer: nothing. Celebrating with a winner is simply more enjoyable than sticking with a loser.

In many cases, the person unwilling to bandwagon a movement is viewed negatively. For example, every four years, the World Cup unites the world. And, every four years, soccer is the most popular sport in America. Not following the United States soccer team or participating in the “fútbol” fun is ludicrous. A bandwagoner is welcomed in this case (except by a few cranky soccer fanatics who don’t want the company).

In Beverly Hills, sports bandwagoners flourish like Christian Louboutin heels. Because we lack a Los Angeles football team to call our own, many are forced to jump another NFL city’s team bandwagon. For example, how does a Norman choose his Super Bowl team? We bandwagon simply because we like a certain player (Richard Sherman) or hate an opposing team’s player (Richard Sherman).

Boys varsity basketball at Beverly has seen its fan base grow dramatically as their attendance dwarfs that of football. The “BevBallFam” is causing students to buy into the idea of a spirited campus. How did they accomplish this? The Normans hold first place in Ocean League and are one of the better squads in the history of the school. They’re winners, and it’s fun to root for a winner. Just wait until coach Stansbury turns around the football program. Suddenly, the Nickoll Field stands will be the place to be.

What is confusing is the hatred that bandwagoners receive from self-professed loyal fans. Why do these banner-waving mainstays shun the newcomers? A true fan, one who has struggled through the hardships of their team/artist/show/whatever, should welcome the arrival of a bandwagoner. They’re an addition to the growing popularity, another passionate person in the fan base. The only downside is that this drives up the price of tickets and merchandise.

In the end, unless you crave that empty sensation of rooting for a losing team, or if you, in the desire to avoid being seen as a mindless follower, continue to miss out on good music, television, and technology…why not bandwagon?

It’s okay to be a bandwagoner. You should embrace your desire to cheer for a winner, to download a Grammy winner, to DVR a hit show. In fact, as long as the bandwagoner is aware of their bandwagon-ness (not pretending to be a life-long fan), you might want to consider jumping on the “bandwagoning bandwagon.”