Nov 7, 2008

State of Florida Sports: The Bandwagon Lives Here

The second part of my examination of the Florida sports scene addresses the dreaded "Bandwagon."

The fact that Florida as a whole functions as a "sports town" means that our state is more susceptible than most to the sports Bandwagon.  For those of you unfamiliar to that term, the Bandwagon can be defined one of three ways:
  1. The showering of positive predictions on a franchise by a large group of sports "experts" - usually a team that has had a checkered past and is aimed at a "breakout season."  EX: This year's Portland Trailblazers in the NBA.  [A Corollary to this is a large group of experts predicting doom for a team - like this year's Spurs.]
  2. A large number of fans suddenly supporting a team that is doing well.  Often this involves a team with a "good story."  EX: This year's Tampa Bay Rays
  3. A large number of fans suddenly claiming "I've always liked this team" when that team starts doing well - even though they never indicated that before.  EX: The millions of Boston Red Sox and New England Patriots fans that crawled out of the woodwork in recent years as those teams did well.  The same thing happened last year with the Celtics.
The reason that Florida is more vulnerable to this problem is that it seems that everyone here is really from somewhere else.  This makes them likely to jump on the Bandwagon with both definitions 2 and 3.  Here is how it all works.

Johnny moved from Connecticut to Lakeland when he was eight years old.  Before they moved, the family cheered for the typical New England Combo Platter - Patriots, Celtics, Red Sox, Bruins.  Since they moved to Florida, they followed those teams, but they were never diehard fans.  They lived in Lakeland, so they actually had more pull towards the Detroit Tigers, since they had a minor league team there.  Every Sunday they were predestined by the NFL to watch the Bucs.  And the local papers eventually started more coverage of the Magic and Rays and Lightning.  So, by geography, they became more familiar with and invested in the local teams.  And it helps that for the first portion of their lives after the move, the Boston teams were lousy.

So, like most Central Florida residents, they got behind the Bucs in 2002 when they won the Super Bowl.  And they pulled for the Magic when they got in the playoffs.  But, they also had the pull to the Boston teams once they started doing well and getting national coverage.  So Johnny buys a Patriots jersey, a Red Sox cap, a Celtics shirt.  And he claims he "always cheered for those teams."  No one around him growing up knew that.  But now, he is more vocal - partly because they won.  And he also is happy when his Florida teams win.  

So, Johnny has become a Bandwagoner.  Even though he has legitimate reasons, he jumped at both groups of teams with their success.  If you check his closet, he has a Bucs jersey and shirt ("In case I go to a game").  During the course of a year he watches 30 Magic games and 10 Celtics games.  He actually has taken his Bandwagon ways and expanded them into what Bill Simmons labels "Sports Bigamy."  He truly has two teams in each sport - the local and the "real team."  This is a natural pull - especially in today's media heavy sports world.  It is hard to not care about the local team when that is what you are saturated with.  It is easier to get coverage of your team from back home, but the local stuff is everywhere.  

So, for one of many reasons, most Florida residents pull off this Bandwagon jumping and Sports Bigamy with every sport.  It could be that they went to a different college than the one they cheered for growing up.  That happened with me when I went to UCF after being a UGA fan.  UCF is clearly my college team, but we're usually out of play long before UGA is (something I'll address in my next post).  It could be that a spouse liked a team different than them.  They may move within Florida.  Moving from South Florida to Orlando will test those Dolphin allegiances - since they teams shown here are the Bucs and Jaguars.

What is the big deal?  There isn't really any big deal.  To people who spend way too much time worrying about sports and how other people deal with sports, both the Bandwagon and Sports Bigamy are very offensive.  These are the people who want you to "pick a team and stick with it."  If your team moves or shuts down or becomes offensive, you should cheer for no one rather than pick a different team.  And most of these people are from New England - where they have nothing to do for months except think about things like this.  I think a lot of it comes from being Red Sox fans, and staying true for 86 years, and then watching a bunch of people jump on the Bandwagon right at the end.  They wanted to separate themselves (the "real" fans) from the newcomers (the "bandwagoners").  This is why Florida is so offensive to those people.  The whole state is a bandwagon.  Our newer teams and recent success and tons of implants from other areas invite you to cheer for two (or more) teams.  

So, next time someone accuses you of jumping on the Bandwagon when you haul out your brand new Arizona Cardinals jersey or Atlanta Falcons hat, don't try to defend yourself.  Don't tell them about how you have always really loved the Cardinals, since they were in St. Louis.  Don't give some story about your family history in Atlanta.  Just say, "That's right!  I'm on the Bandwagon.  It's a Florida thing - you wouldn't understand.  Until you move here when you get old and drive slow in the left lane."

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