Get off the bandwagon already

I just had an epiphany. The concept of the bandwagon sports fan has got to go. It’ll probably never happen, though.

There is nothing more annoying to me than watching people root for teams or players who they have no clue about. What’s even more annoying is that I used to be one of those people, and for all I know, I may still be one of those people.

But now I know why.

I was watching ESPN the other day (anyone who read last week’s column knows why), and I saw a commercial, the likes of which I’ve seen before.

Sports Illustrated was advertising a subscription to its magazine. The catch? If you called up and bought a one-year subscription or something like that, you would get an authentic, limited edition, numerically number University of Connecticut book commemorating the team’s recent men’s NCAA championship. Not only that, but if you call now, you also get a free, limited edition UConn basketball. It’s not big enough to play basketball with, though, and even your 4-year-old kid might cuss you out if you try to give it to him.

I’ve seen the damn commercial like 40 times since the Final Four ended in the beginning of April. Then it hit me. Why the hell would anybody, besides UConn fans, be even remotely interested in a book commemorating UConn’s championship?

Not only that, but what kid of a sick person, regardless of whether they’re a fan of the team or not, would want a useless squeeze ball that doesn’t even look like it’s fun on the commercial?

You know who? The bandwagon fan, that’s who.

Clearly, Sports Illustrated knew that merely because Connecticut won the NCAA title, there would be a bunch of people out there, somewhere, pretending like they always lived and died with the Huskies.

Bandwagon fan: My Huskies took the title! I love UConn!

Me: Oh, really? Then who’s the coach?

Bandwagon fan: Jim Cocoon.

Me: Jim Calhoun.

Bandwagon fan: Yeah. I love that guy.

You think I’m lying?

I have a dream. I dream that it doesn’t matter who wins the NBA Finals this year. Because whether it’s the unlikely Miami Heat, or even the perennial favorite L.A. Lakers, there will be a book made to commemorate their championship. And even a crappy ball.

I have a dream that every champion from every sport, from now until eternity, will have books and balls made to remember their feats by people who can’t name more than two of the team’s starters.

And I have a dream that enough people will be so enticed by such commercialization of champions that they will actually be duped into buying pretty much anything to get it. I have a dream.

It’s sick.

The reason this phenomenon takes place is the commercialization of athletes and teams. I think it was initiated by players like Michael Jordan. Sometimes, a character of unparalleled ability both on and off the court or field comes along and is able to inspire just about everyone. Then, whether he or she is on your team or not, you can’t help but root for him or her, even if it is in secret. But don’t tell me that the Emeka Okafor inspired you in the same way. It’s not possible. Not yet, anyway.

Respect players, enjoy watching them, recognize individual and team accomplishments and recognize when a different team or player-other than those you normally root for-does better than your favorite team.

But love a team for a reason that’s deeper than who it got in the first round of last year’s draft. All of a sudden, there are more Cleveland Cavalier fans than back in the day when Shawn Kemp was traded to the team. What? Because of LeBron? What kind of name is that, anyway? In all seriousness, I know LeBron James is good. And frankly, I also know he has the potential of creating an excitement in the NBA that hasn’t been there since the demise of MJ. I didn’t say he’d be the next MJ.

I said he could create an excitement that is comparable. But I can’t ever say that the Cavs are my favorite team because they’re not-no matter how much fun that guy is to watch. So if I buy a subscription to Sports Illustrated, it’ll be because I want to read a magazine about sports and because I’m a fan of sports.

Not because I get a brand-new The Do’s and Don’ts of Basketball book with Kobe Bryant’s smiling face on it. And if you call now, the original sex tape from the Colorado hotel room.

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