Bandwagon Hoppers Rattle Dedicated Warriors Fans

We Believe. These two words were the slogan of the 2007 Golden State Warriors. They epitomized the team’s improbable second half of the season and their stunning push to make the playoffs.

Richard Pham/Guardian
“”Which team am i supporting today?””

We Believe.

These are the words that were printed on the now-famous yellow T-shirts handed out to fans during hometown games against the Dallas Mavericks during the first round of the NBA playoffs. These words gave hope to the Warriors’ faithful and inspired the team to pull off one of the greatest upsets in league history, defeating Dallas in six games.

We Believe.

These words brought the national spotlight on the Warriors and caused a new movement among basketball fans to form: bandwagon hoppers.

These are the people who have no faith in one team, and instead root for whichever team is popular or currently on a hot streak. These are the fans who follow the big-name players and flashy headlines. These are the supporters who, as the Warriors began winning, started wearing “”We Believe”” T-shirts and talking about how they always knew Baron Davis was the best point guard in the game.

But what about those of us who have believed all along?

This year was the first time the Warriors have made the playoffs in 13 years. During that painfully long postseason draught, the Warriors never even really came close to the playoffs. While those years did have some highlights – Jason Richardson winning back-to-back Slam Dunk Competitions and a brief stint by the Space Jam celebrity Muggsy Bogues – they were horribly overshadowed by moments that would make the already-red-faced Don Nelson blush.

The lows of the late-’90s Warriors are too numerous to tally, but at the top of the list are Latrell Sprewell chocking then-coach P.J. Carlesimo, passing on Kobe Bryant in the 1996 draft, trading away Vince Carter and not re-signing the now seemingly unstoppable Gilbert Arenas. Through all of this, the Warriors fans never wavered, always staying by their losing team and living by the slogan, “”Next year’s our year.””

So this year’s success was no surprise for those of us who have predicted this outcome every year for the last decade. All of a sudden we find ourselves joined by people who, two weeks ago, were more worried about if Eva Longoria was going to be at the Spurs game than whether or not Golden State could overcome the Los Angeles Clippers for the final playoff spot.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that you are rooting for my team rather than the Lakers or the Phoenix Suns, but where were you when I was pulling my hair out after hearing that the Warriors gave Adonal Foyle a $42-million contract? Where were you when the Warriors played host to the NBA All-Star game and had a grand total of zero hometown representatives? Now that the Warriors are hip and edgy, and their “”thug”” image is exciting to watch, people all over are hopping on the Warriors bandwagon. Hell, it even provoked a reaction from the overweight and outspoken Charles Barkley, who promptly made enemies with the entire Bay Area.

Bandwagon hoppers can be found throughout sports. If I had a dime for every time somebody told me their favorite baseball team was the New York Yankees, even I would be able to buy myself a World Series ring for every finger and toe. The Yankees represent everything that is wrong with mainstream sports. Now before you take up your pitchfork and march over to my dorm room, let me give you this disclaimer: I respect Yankees fans who are either from the greater New York area or whose parents were Yankees fans. Beyond that, there is no excuse, especially for Californians, to root for the “”Evil Empire.”” Bandwagon hoppers love the Yankees because they have more big-name players than last year’s National League All-Star team and win often enough that the casual fan can space out for a year or two and not worry about the Bronx Bombers being in a slump. The fact that the Yankees are currently pulling themselves out of the American League East cellar brings me more joy than when the ridiculously over-paid Alex Rodriguez couldn’t buy himself a hit in the 2004 playoffs.

Now before I rip into the L.A. Lakers, let me say that I think Kobe is the best player in the league and that the new era of Lakers basketball deserves respect. But during the early 2000s, the Lakers were the Yankees of basketball. With the high-profile ensemble of Bryant, Shaq and head coaching guru Phil Jackson, the Lakers won three straight championships. That’s great!

Congrats to them. The fallout of the Lakers three-peat led to a nauseating amount of L.A. bandwagon jumpers, most of whom loved the limelight but could never in a million years tell you why their “”beloved”” team was called the Lakers (its because they were originally from Minneapolis and were named after the Great Lakes, for those of you who still don’t know).

In football the New England Patriots attract a similar fan base with the dazzling smile of Tom Brady. In international soccer, David Beckham jersey sales are the best way to measure fan interest and bandwagoners cheer on Brazil’s national team only because Ronaldinho is the only player they have seen in Nike ads.

I am not trying to discourage anyone from following sports, and I realize that most of you actually have lives and cannot spend insane amounts of time reading sports articles online and following a team religiously. All that I’m asking is for you to choose a team, preferably your local team, and to stick with them through thick and thin.

Trust me, the feeling that you get when your team finally does win is worth it all. And for those of us who have long since given up our dreams of being pro ball players, dedicating ourselves to a team is all we have left. We don’t follow sports for cheap thrills or easy entertainment; we follow sports because we want to feel as though we are right there in the huddle calling plays. We want to taste a mouth full of dirt after diving head-first into home plate and having teammates dog-pile on top of us. And sometimes we want to feel despair after watching our teams lose a heartbreaker, because in those moments we feel connected to the sport on a higher level and share the tears with the players we idolize.

For these reasons we bleed our team’s colors – in my case orange and black – and have a million excuses for why “”our,”” not “”the,”” team had yet another down year. So to all you bandwagoners out there, have faith in your local team, follow them as much as your busy schedule will allow and sit back and enjoy the rush of vicariously living through professional sports.

Oh, and one more thought: Damn the Utah Jazz! Next year’s our year!