By Rob Ficiur
At the start of the 2015 baseball season most fans had little hope that the Toronto Blue Jays would be a playoff team. The team had holes at starting pitching, relief pitching, second base and left field. Even as their most optimistic fan I knew all would have to go just right for the Jays to contend for a playoff spot.
In May when the Jays tied a franchise record 11 game winning streak a few fans jumped on the bandwagon. This was the team that could break the longest current playoff drought in baseball. The teams’ defense and pitching were still sub par, but their league leading offense gave them a playoff chance…right? For the next six weeks the team sputtered around at .500; giving fans hope one day and disappointment the next.
The traded deadline changed everything. The Blue Jays added an elite starting pitcher, an elite short stop, two solid relief pitchers and a solid left fielder. After the team won 11 in a row (for the second time this year) the Jays and their new bandwagon fans found themselves 0.5 games ahead of the New York Yankees for first place in the American East.
Fans have jumped on the Blue Jays’ bandwagon in record numbers. The team has had over 40,000 in each of their last five home games; a feat they have not done since the 1995 season.
This weekend the Jays’ lost a series with the New York Yankees, relinquishing first place to the Bronx Bombers. “If they can’t win that game they are not going anywhere. I am not following them anymore.” I heard one fan say. While the Jays had been winning they were not a perfect team (as if there really is one). Six of their hitters were batting .220 or less for the month of August.
Why do fans jump on and off bang wagons? The Blue Jays, Saskatchewan Roughriders and Chicago Black Hawks will give us the reasons.
1. The Chicago Black Hawks just won their third Stanley Cup in the last five years. If they struggle next season, and miss the playoffs, most Hawks fans would not jump. Chicago have shown they have developed a winner. One poor season won’t lose a fan base. Experienced fans know there are good and bad years.
2. Saskatchewan Roughriders – After seven straight losses – the Saskatchewan Roughriders did not lose this week. It was their bye week, so they did not play but the good news they didn’t lose. There are three reasons why we won’t see Rider fans jump off their green bandwagon.
First injuries to starting quarterback Darian Durrant (week 1) and backup quarterback Kevin Glenn (week 5) have devastated the team. No CFL team is going to thrive using their third string rookie quarterback.
Second the Saskatchewan Roughriders won the 2013 Grey Cup. The memory of that victory in Regina is still somewhat fresh in their fans’ minds. In the last ten years the Roughriders have won two Grey Cups, tying them with Montreal, Calgary and BC for the most championships in the last decade. When your team has recently won; and won as often as anyone else no one is going to jump off the bandwagon.
Finally there is something about the Green Rider Nation goes against all the momentum of Bandwagon jumping. Unlike most sports teams once you get Rider Pride in your blood it infects (or affects) you for life. If you are not from Saskatchewan you can’t totally understand it or explain it. However, when Albertans see more Green Riders jerseys than any Alberta based teams, you know the Rider Pride is real.
The reason for Blue Jays Bandwagoning now is simple. The Toronto Blue Jays have not played a playoff game since Joe Carter hit the game ending, World Series clinching home run in the 1993 World Series. When a fan base is hungry for a winner – and one seems like it could be coming – dormant fans jump on hoping their team can win it again.
Keep riding the bandwagons you like, it hurts when your team crashes; but when you win that is why we cheer for our teams.