Monday, February 15, 2010

The Second Commandment of the Rivalry

No matter your allegiance in this rivalry, Sox and Yankees fans alike are intelligent fans. They know the game, they understand the nuances of being good fans and cheering at games, and they follow their sport on a broader level.

But because of the popularity of both sports markets, there's a type of fan prevalent in Boston and New York (and indeed across the country) which both sides avidly despise and avoid: the bandwagon fan.

Let's take a step back to address the obvious: Yes, I just admitted that Sox fans, while deeply misguided in their preferences, are intelligent baseball minds.

Before you send Satan a sweater, let me explain. This in no way increases my affinity for Boston sports bars or anyone who can actually cheer for Kevin Youkilis. I'm thoroughly annoyed by Sox fans -- but I understand that most of us in this rivalry are baseball aficionados on the highest level. I hold a begrudging respect for the Fenway faithful, and I know that respect is mutual.

What neither side can respect, however, is the casual onlooker who jumps on the bandwagon. These fans dwell in retail stores, buying hoards of "their" team's gear -- but never in the proper, official team colors. The more it varies from the original, the better. 

Bandwagon fans are also bred by success - Kansas City and Pittsburgh do not suffer from this epidemic.

This Boston Magazine article discusses both of these criteria, and points to the spike in pink Sox hats following 2004 as a growing problem.

Why are these fans to be avoided at all costs? Because any Yankees or Red Sox fan worth his or her weight in sunflower seeds knows the current roster, the history of the rivalry, and the general baseball landscape at the pro level.

What do bandwagon fans know? To answer that, I offer this true story of my September ride home on the T (which is towards Fenway Park, incidentally).

As I squeezed into a packed train around 6:30pm, I was unlucky enough to stand next to not one, not two, but three Papelbon shirts, all worn by rotund college-aged co-eds who reeked of booze.

Gross Girl #1: "What time does the game start?" (A fact any true fan knows. A weekday game? 7:05. Next question.)
GG #2: "Don't worry, we'll make it in time to see Papelbon."
GG #3: "Whoooo, Papelbooooon! He's so good!"
GG #1: "I know! Why don't they just put him in to start every game? I don't get it..."

Switch the shirts and the city and the moral stays the same -- thou shalt not accept bandwagon fans. Disagree? Then I've got a pink hat with your name on it.

For more despicable fans, visit this list by Bill Simmons.

Rivalry Commandments:

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