Bandwagon Come to Play

Michael Liu, Writer

When the Los Angeles Kings hockey team makes the playoffs, suddenly cars are adorn with team flags and people who can’t name a single player on the Kings start watching or attending games, cheering excitedly for “their team.” There’s even a word for these fickle people: bandwagon fans, which Urban Dictionary defines as “Anyone who claims they are a ‘fan’ of a particular sports team, even though they had no prior support for/interest in the team until that team started winning. Most of these bandwagons probably only watch the play off seasons. These bandwagon fans bring us to the question of why do more people watch the playoffs compared to regular season games? Before addressing this question, why do people even become sports fans?

Psychology Professor Daniel Wann, Ph.D., a psychologist, of Murray State University in Kentucky, says that there are eight major reasons for becoming a sports fan: positive stress, escape, entertainment, economic, aesthetic, group affiliation, self-esteem and family needs. He also describes a fan involvement ladder, ranging from Suspect at the bottom to Raving Fan at the top.

Clearly, many of these Suspect fans move up this ladder during any sport playoffs. For example, the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs was the second most watched championship round since 2006. It was a classic east meets west showdown, with the Kings prevailing over the New York Rangers. According to Adam Sternbergh of the New York Times, there is one major benefit to being a sports fan: “It allows you to feel real emotional investment in something that has no actual real-world consequences. In any other contest like a presidential campaign, the outcome can be exhilarating or dispiriting to its followers and, by the way, when we wake up the next day, the course of history has been changed.” World history is not changed with the a winning goal or touchdown, but obviously given the markedly higher television ratings of playoffs and finals compared to regular season games, many people come on board for a number of reasons. Studies have shown that fans of winning teams feel better about themselves after their team wins. Win or lose, there is a collective sense of community and shared experiences when people gather around a TV or into a packed stadium. With society becoming more active and busy, people of all walks of life can come together for a common purpose. Who can forget the faces of the hometown Brazilian fans during the World Cup as their team choked while the world was watching. In addition, with politics and religion off limits as topics of conversations at the workplace and at school, sports is something everyone can talk about without saying something politically incorrect. It is human nature, to become interested in what others are excited about, and sports is a harmless pastime that everyone can get excited about, no matter how serious of a fan one is.

During the 2014 regular NBA season, the average viewership per game was 2.3 million. On the other hand, during the five playoff games, the viewership ranged from 9 to 18 million.  These statistics prove that there is a dramatic increase from the regular season to the play off games. For the NFL, regular season games averaged 17.6 million viewers while the Superbowl drew 108.41 million viewers. The statistics clearly show that more eyeballs are watching play off games than regular season games. Our world is becoming busier as each year passes. Adults are working longer hours to support their families, and since our society becoming more health conscience than ever before, people with limited leisure times rather exercise themselves than watch others exercise.  Due to these reasons, fewer people watch the regular season games. Also, many sport seasons are becoming longer, fans are becoming less interested in the earlier games. However, when the playoffs arrive, watching sports become more of a priority in people’s lives. In conclusion, during the most important games, when every shot, kick, throw, and hit can mean the difference between victory or defeat, every fan from bandwagon to the rabid come together to experience the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.