After a 45 year drought, the longest wait of any NHL team, the eighth-seeded LA Kings have won the Stanley Cup. It was an incredible run, a historical run, that includes many milestones from a 16-4 record and only the third American-born player to win the MVP award. Kings fans have reason to celebrate, but they won’t be the only ones losing their minds. It’s times like these that the bandwagonners and fair weather fans come out of the woodwork, too.
What’s so bad about this? There is so much venom towards the fair weather fan. Those fans that get caught up in the excitement of a championship run, a record-setting win streak, or the acquisition of a star player. It happens across all sports all the time. Without fail, the distaste for poser Kings fans came out this post season, and now that they’ve won, self-proclaimed real fans seem to despise the masses of new Kings jersey owners and NHL look-in audiences.
It makes no sense that you’re mad at people in LA and California for throwing up the finger and cheering number one. Why such animosity to the casual fan? People love an underdog and even more love a winner, so it makes sense that this young Kings team became the darling of the playoffs. Against all odds they went on a unbelieveable run to capture the cup. Their story even persuaded non-hockey fans to keep an eye on the box score.
Casual fans and bandwagon fans can’t be helped. Some people out there don’t love sports as much as the rest of the fan base. Most fair weather fans and look-in audiences are fans of their city. People in LA, from LA, or near LA, are going to get excited for success for their city. A sports team represents a city like nothing else. Look at the New Orleans Saints and how that franchise lifted a city out of the ashes and gave them something to believe in just by playing ball games. A team represents the best qualities of people in their teamwork, pride, perseverance, and their dedication. You can’t hate on someone because an idealized analog for their city is succeeding. It is pride in their town that motivates most fair weather fans. It’s why people say we won instead of they won. It gives a community something to collectively root for, and we are all a part of it despite just being spectators.
Casual fans are where hardcore fans come from. No one is a fan of a team from birth. There is no understanding why people choose to live and die with a team in any sport. There are die hard fans of every imaginable sport out there, and it’s not my place to try to understand why. I know many people who are fans of teams from cities they’ve never even visited. Teams like the Yankees, Lakers, and Cowboys garner a love–or pure hate–that has nothing to do with geography, and I’ve never understood that. Some fans adopt teams in cities they move to despite a long-standing love for a team in a city they are moving away from. There’s no rhyme or reason for why people support a particular team. Sometimes it’s engrained in us by our parents, but that doesn’t make any more sense than any other reason. As ESPN tells us, “It’s not crazy. It’s sports.”
Sure, there are going to be fans that buy a jersey, a cap, or a shirt, and pay attention or cheer only during a winning streak. They will enjoy it for the next few weeks, but then they will bury that jersey in a closet only to pull it out if the Kings make the playoffs next season. Few will understand what that five-minute major and those three goals meant to the Kings winning that game. Fewer still will be able to tell you how many players are on the team, who the captain is, and only know the term high sticking and think that every penalty is that penalty. It’s not their fault, they just don’t like hockey as much as the next guy. Actually, most “next guys” don’t like hockey as much as a few guys do.
Not everyone loves every sport, but everyone loves their city. People will be happy to celebrate a win for their city. Story lines can be contagious, and everyone loves rooting for the impossible. Fair weather fans and a Stanley Cup win in a major market like LA can only help the sport, which seemed on the ropes a few years ago in American relevancy. LA knows success, and maybe this is where some of the animosity comes from. From soccer to baseball and even former LA football franchises have known success. LA might get hated on for being spoiled in their successes, but that’s no reason to hate on the people who are just excited at a team from their city accomplished something no one else did this year. They’re not fair weather fans of the Kings, they are all-weather fans of their town and rooting for a team that personifies all the best parts of what people can do. It might be fair weather fans and a look-in audience, but after the win it is more than a sport, it’s about the community. The Kings are the best of us, and we love to see the efforts our best pay off, if only while basking in the warming rays of winning.