They are out in full force, crawling around your city sporting yellow and purple jerseys, mostly number #8. A while back, they were seen in Michael Jordan's red and black, although, chances are that jersey is retired. Don't be fooled; they appear to be passionate fans, always there for the ticker-tape parade, before fading into the background and awaiting the next opportunity to bask in the next man's glory. We call them “front-runners” or “bandwagon fans.” They are relatively harmless, though their disease, which stems from some innate fear of losing, inhibits their ability to, among other things, truly enjoy sports.
It's true. Front-runners have been around forever, masquerading as Cowboy faithful in the '70's and again in the '90's, when they doubled as the long lost Chicago Bulls fans that nobody knew existed before Mike came around. Still, they are becoming more prevalent than ever in this new, demented society where everybody wins in little league.
The fear of losing now spreads to not knowing how to lose, which may be worse. Without knowing defeat, how can one enjoy winning? Go to Boston, and ask a Red Sox fan that question.
Of America's big three, the NFL has done the best job of combating the situation. Their salary cap keeps a nice competitive balance on the field, so aside from fashion, it is difficult to hand pick your team for the wrong reasons.
Unlike football though, Major League Baseball is in shambles. With no salary cap, the same five or six teams predictably enter the postseason every year, while the rest have no chance and play in front of empty seats night after night. America's Pastime is so lopsided that you can almost forgive the bandwagon jumpers.
Then there's basketball, which has a softer version of the salary cap and a decent balance of power, for the most part, but also aids and abets the problem in a different way. This has always been star-driven league, reaching a crescendo with the Air-Jordan enterprise and since maintaining a steady supply of big names.
The NBA loves selling jerseys and sneakers, so they promote the individual player in order to do so. What this creates is a neighborhood court that looks like an the all-star game. The problem is that rooting for an individual also circumvents the concept of team sports and negates the true thrill of victory.
Dating back to ancient Greece, sports have been an intrical part of our culture. It is human nature to compete, and in varying degrees throughout history, it has been a trait necessary for survival, not only in sports, but in life.
When empires were conquering land, there were no consolation prizes, and there was certainly no “switching sides.” In those days, you staked your claim and defended it to the grave.
In modern times,only the best person for the job is hired, and only the shrewdest of businessmen survive in the market. The loser goes home with no chance to change jerseys. Even those attempting to live a humble, spiritual life strive to accomplish a goal, and be a champion for themselves.
Seeing that this idea is fairly important and supersedes sports, realize that the Yankee/Laker fan, born and raised in Texas, is not just an annoying co-worker who will never know how it really feels to be triumphant. He suffers from a social disorder, which is being nurtured more and more as generations pass.
The only way to stop it is at home. Take charge. Put that jersey on your son (or daughter) early, and catch a ballgame together to watch the team play. Hopefully, they lose.