“Hello, my name is Will, and I’m a Bandwagon Fan.” Well, at least I used to be. It seems these days; social media is filled with fans being challenged on their loyalty and dedication to “their team”. If you are new to a group, or if you have anything negative or critical to say about your team, you are not a “real fan”. Apparently, a real fan is someone who believes that their team is like Mary Poppins, practically perfect in every way. In fact, practically perfect may be an understatement. Your team blew a 12 point, fourth quarter lead? That’s okay, I’m sure they were just having a bad day. Perhaps their biorhythms were down. All is well. No changes are necessary. “SD4Life”!
Well, if that I being a real fan, count me out. Going by what I read online, I believe that I will always be labeled a bandwagon fan. You see, I started watching football in 1972. I was six years old and living in San Diego. My father always had the Chargers game on, but my brother seemed to like the Dolphins. So, being the little brother, I followed the Dolphins. Who wouldn’t choose the 1972 Dolphins as their favorite team, if given the choice? Griese, Csonka, Kick, Warfield, Anderson, Yepremian, etc.. That team was loaded with talent and they won literally every Sunday. Yes, my first favorite team went undefeated! Super Bowl Champions!!! What a way to start out my football fandom.
The Fins followed up the ’72 season with yet another Super Bowl ring (although not undefeated). After that, a new league showed up and started taking my favorite players away! The World Football League was an upstart league that flashed a lot of money. Next thing you know, I didn’t recognize my Dolphins anymore. Time to move on.
Remember, I’m eight or nine years old and not clued in to the intricacies of how to be a fan, so who should I like now? The Pittsburgh Steelers! You guessed it. In the mid 1970’s, there was no better team than the Steelers. Four championships in six years! Wow, being a bandwagon fan was a lot of fun. But alas, my new team aged and it was once again time to move on.
My Dad was still watching the Chargers, and I watched them as well, but they still didn’t win enough to capture my heart. Enter the low point of my sports life……the Oakland Raiders. It makes me a little queasy to admit it, but there was a time when I was a huge Raiders fan. It was fun to follow guys like Stabler, Branch, Matuszak, Biletnikoff, and company. Not to mention, they won another Super Bowl, just for me!!!!
But wait, there’s a new sheriff in town, and his name in Don Coryell. Coach Coryell came into San Diego with his high-flying aerial attack. Along with Coryell was a young gun by the name of Dan Fouts who played like no other Charger quarterback that I had ever seen! I was starting to sway to the home team.
At this point, I would say that I was a two team fan. I liked both the Raiders and the Chargers (ludicrous, I know). Every Sunday, I tried to keep up with both teams and I walked away happy as long as one of them won. Then it happened. Playoffs on the line….Chargers hosting Raiders…….last play of the game……Chargers lead…….The Holy Roller!!!!!!!
Yes, the Raiders beat the Chargers on a play that should have been called an incomplete forward pass and went down in history as one of the most controversial plays ever. It even forced the NFL to change the rules so that you can no longer advance a fumble in the last two minutes, if you are on offense (not that it was a fumble, or that the rule change helped the Bolts at the time). What the hell was going on????? Even at a young age, I was able to tell that the Raiders got away with cheating and the Chargers were robbed of the win and a spot in the playoffs! It even looked as though the “San Diego Chicken”, might just die in the crowd! That was just wrong.
I may have been a bandwagon fan, but I knew right from wrong. I knew that I could no longer follow a team that would stoop to that level. That’s right; my heart was no longer split, or given to the team I thought would win each year. On that fateful Sunday back in 1978, I became a San Diego Chargers fan and that is what I would stay. Win or lose, I would stick by my Bolts from that point on.
Even though it has been a rocky ride, I have never regretted changing my ways and becoming a committed home town fan. It has been 36 years and now I don’t even believe that one should have a second favorite team, much less root for a team just because they are talented and win a lot of games. I’m hometown all the way.
In the last 36 years as a Chargers fan I have followed them faithfully, bought plenty of gear (mostly t-shirts and hats), defended them against fans of all other teams, had a successful blog under the pen name, Bolt Backer 21, worked as an administrator on a Facebook Chargers fan page, and now I write for the top online source for Chargers information, BoltBlitz.com. Not bad for a bandwagon fan.
Here is the moral to my story. Here is the reason that I open my self to ridicule by letting my past skeletons out of my closet. We never know what is going to turn a “bandwagon fan” into a “real fan”. Maybe they will never change. Maybe they will always just attach themselves to winning teams like remora to the belly of a shark. Maybe they will be turned off by a team’s fan base that won’t accept them and allow them to enjoy the fruits of victory. Or, perhaps they will stay with a team forever because they love being a part of a fan base. We don’t know how long a person will be a fan, just because we know when they became a fan. Let’s welcome in the bandwagon fans, now that the Chargers are looking more and more like true contenders, and try to embrace them so that they stay Chargers fans and decide this is where they want to stay. Don’t worry, adding these fans to the fan base will only sell more tickets to games and build more excitement in the city. Deep down inside, you know that no one will reap the level of satisfaction that you will as a life-long fan that day when the Bolts parade through downtown San Diego, holding their Lombardi Trophy high. Cheer and let cheer, I always say (Okay, this was the first time I have ever said that, but you get the point).
Enjoy the game and Go Chargers!!!