Only after buying a "Beat L.A." T-shirt, methodically checking ESPN for World Cup updates, and watching every installment of the NBA Finals with a religious fanaticism, has the hard truth settled in: I am a bandwagon fan.
Rising from the depths of ambivalence, bandwagon fans are those who support a sport, team, or player as soon as they're popular. Think of us as the hipsters of athletics. With so many big and shiny spectacles grabbing our attention this year, you might be fooled into thinking we actually give a damn about sports.
It turns out that right now, bandwagon fans are in the middle of a double-whammy. The Boston Celtics are squaring off against the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals this week, and the American team is playing in the FIFA World Cup for at least another week too. Wouldn't you know it, everyone is wearing a lot more green and tuning to SportsCenter way more often than they usually do.
But the ill-timed admiration didn't start there. (Anybody remember all the "lifelong" Red Sox fans who appeared when the boys beat the Yanks in the '04 ALCS?) Just last month, the Portland Sea Dogs managed to sell out a weeknight game. In town for just one night, the Sox' Jacoby Ellsbury increased Sea Dog interest by 1000 percent. Yet as soon as he left Hadlock Field, the hoopla quieted right back down. But acting like a nomad is what a bandwagon fan does. The minute something is hot, we're all over it. And as soon as it cools off, we immediately jump ship to wait for the next big attraction.
And man, do we get burned for it. Am I proud to be a bandwagon fan? Absolutely not. Actual enthusiasts give me way too much grief to ever let me fully enjoy myself. I sometimes try to act like I've been a follower since the beginning, but they always see right through my shallow knowledge. While devoted fans are stuck in a monogamous relationship with their teams, we jump from championship-winner to championship-winner. They're so quick to scold us with righteous rage that I'm starting to think condemnation of others is half the fun for those who stick with their team through sickness and health.
But that doesn't mean I'm going to stop, either. As someone who can never get halfway through a box of cereal before digging into a new variety, riding a team's brief wave of popularity is just about all I can manage before moving on. And I'd be lying if I said being a bandwagon fan wasn't convenient. Just think of all the hours I save by not watching regular season games, and the perennial heartbreak I spare myself!
After the NBA Finals and World Cup have ended, we'll shelve our limited knowledge of the game, stuff our T-shirts at the bottom of the dresser and keep the water-cooler chatter on topics we actually understand. But grab your Red Sox memorabilia now: It might make you feel like less of a poseur in October.