The Pittsburgh Pirates clinched at least a shot to get deep into the post season and the Wild Card Play-in Game. They are two behind the Cardinals for the division lead and with six games on the schedule, still have a slight chance to skip the play-in altogether. This is a great story of course after the Pirates have gone since 1992 since last making it to the post season. Such a story is great for baseball. But it has also become the latest example of the bandwagon phenomenon.
The bandwagon phenomenon happens when a perennially bad team suddenly becomes good and reaches the playoffs after a long drought. The “loyal” Pirate fans who have supported the team through thick and thin scoff and feel superior to what they consider “bandwagon” fans who have hopped on that bandwagon simply because the Pirates are suddenly good.
Pittsburgh is not the first to do this sort of thing. So these “loyals” can be forgiven for exhibiting the kind of human behavior that has happened time and time again. But what is behind it all? Why do human beings do this? First, I need to show you a few Twitter examples of what I am talking about:
Those loyal #pirates fans who never jumped off bandwagon had to enjoy this moment
— Bob Pompeani (@KDPomp) September 24, 2013
And so the holier than thou Pirates tweets begin. Explicitly say you’ve always loved them, or run the risk of being called a bandwagon fan.
— Jennifer Zysk (@JenniferZysk) September 24, 2013
CONCLUSION — Bandwagon #Pirates fans: fine. Bandwagon fans that overreact to every at-bat: go back to chasing autographs in Latrobe.
— James Santelli (@JamesSantelli) August 5, 2012
Again, why does this happen? My feeling is that human beings are always looking to set up pecking orders. The caste system, except for a few “unenlightened” countries, is always there. It is why prejudice happens. It is why a society becomes either male or female dominated. We have this ingrained ability to set ourselves higher up on the food chain at the slightest provocation.
If you first read J.R.R. Tolkien in the sixties (like I did), then you own Tolkien and are infinitely superior to those who have just discovered the writer. I saw the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show when it happened, so therefore, I am superior to any Beatle fans that have come since. The only “caste” that trumps me are those that were actually IN the Ed Sullivan Theater.
I have lived in northern Maine since 1990. That is twenty-three years. But I will never be a “native.” In what is truly fascinating, this area of the country did not have minority populations so the Acadian French became the lower caste citizens.
And thus, the bandwagon phenomenon occurs. I have been a fan through the lean times so I am a better fan than someone who just jumped on board. What do you want, a badge of honor?
Frankly, we all need to get a grip. As a team like the Pirates explodes out of its proverbial decades-long funk, what is better at the games, twelve-thousand loyals going crazy with their loyalty badges on or forty-thousand raucous fans creating a roar that can be heard all over Pennsylvania? Yeah, the latter seems more exciting to me too.
And how long did you have to watch the Pirates and wear their caps before you qualify? Five years? Ten years? Twenty? “I became a fan of the Pirates in 1993, after Bonds left. I am the best Pirates fan.”
Come on, now. The more the merrier. The boost in attendance and sales of team wear from these new fans will help the team. Payroll for players will be a bit easier. Keeping young players will be easier. Welcoming back A.J. Burnett will not have to break the bank. There are more options for the team next year.
When network television shows a Pirates game for the first time in twenty years, does it not represent your team better if that stadium is full rather than filled with just those core fans? Sure it is.
If you look at it this way and embrace these new fans, there are more people to share in your joy. The entire city and community can pull together in the joy of the moment. Embrace it people!
If you have suffered for years as a fan of the Pirates, God bless you. You have been through a lot. Just consider the full stadium and the riotous cheering and take it all in and smile. You waited a long time for this. Just smile and enjoy it along with your new brothers and sisters.