As the Australian cricket team continues to embarrass us, we may seek pastures new. However beware the bandwagon that takes us there.
As the sporting seasons change, and the air grows hot, we as a collective slip into the roll of the supportive base for the national cricket team. The patchwork of partisan football allegiances are quietly packed away, as the whites/foodstained-couch-dwelling-shab-uniform proudly rest upon our shoulders. It’s a tradition. One born from our obvious talent, and the other being a lack of a decent alternate. But this year, obviously, there’s a problem. We’ve somehow forgotten how to play the sport. That makes us feel awkies downstairs. And when we feel awkies, we do reckless, impulsive things.
I have a long, and turgid history of my closest friends riding the ‘wagon. Now, I suppose some of this might be our national condition, that of the tall poppy, but nonetheless it chides me. As much as I’ve changed, the feelings I feel when the bandwagon rolls through familiar streets, has not.
For the first instance of this, let us wobble the screen and go back to 2001. Probably my best friend in the whole wide world and I were transfixed by the beauty of the Premier League. Back then, SBS devoted their entire Sunday to football coverage, and lord, what a time it was to be alive. While we were supporters of the beautiful game, we had no team to support. So, blithely, I hitched my wagon to Leeds, whereas he planted his flag at Old Trafford. The “why” is important. He chose them because a) they were winners and b) one David Beckham. Now, I won’t go too far into this, because he’ll probably read these sentences, but his hair and library throughout high school was fashioned after Becks. Being honest with myself, perhaps the origin of this ire may well be the guy who jousted Posh; the man who never left my consciousness; the man who, somehow, wrote four autobiographies.
Moving on. Years slipped by. I met some more friends, great people who I see as family and who would make up the small number to attend my funeral but who, bitterly, are also bandwagon supporters. After the birth of his son, a man I truly respect confided in me that he supports players, not teams, which was why his progeny celebrated the Golden State Warriors’ win in full kiddie garb. Cute. Combine this with two grand lads of the friendzone, who recently discovered their love for the game, as we all did through video games, have now started wearing the shirts of Real Madrid and Barcelona, home of Messrs. Ronaldo and Messi. Which is fine, but, boys, Bandwagon. Although, one of that number does support an awful local team. So, respect. But still, Barcelona.
Also on The Big Smoke
Yes, I have a problem. And yes, I might not have any friends after they read this, but the bandwagon presents a very real societal quandary. You see, the bandwagoner also has a reflective effect on the team you support, prior to whatever reason the bandwagon doubleparks in your stadia. In the eyes of the general populace, you are one of the them. Even if your support long predates their arrival, those you sit with are who you are shackled with. Words to refute that label are met with mute sarcastic nods. A recent example of this is with the A-League’s Melbourne City, which is my team. Have been since day one. They follow me on Twitter. Look it up. City was a team that previously had a silly name (Heart), and sported equally sillily-named players such as Rutger Worm. Chortle. Suddenly, along came a bloke called Tim Cahill, sat atop the mothership of gulf oil money named Manchester City, and suddenly things are different. I’m glad for their fiduciary support, and the fact that we might actually lift the toilet seat, which is something I never assumed would happen, but the possibility of that victory has birthed countless clones of plastic support in a fashion akin to Fantasia where the axe of criticism will merely split them to become more numerous, and continue their purpose despite our best efforts.
I don’t even know why I care, but somehow I do. More fans = better support. I feel that should be the takeaway lesson. But I feel that the bandwagon is careening toward the generations of tomorrow, sans handbrake, clanging the bell of assumption that following a winner, because they win, is the formative way of sportsfandom. But those who wear the famous insignia of the Yankees, or the Dodgers, or the Cavaliers, who do so because they stand at the top step of the podium (or because they pay the bills as backup dancer in a hip-hop troupe) are missing out on something beautiful.
2016 has taught us many dire lessons. Mainly that “things can always get worse”, but in the sporting realm, it is enduring that loss eventually gains lasting reward.
2016, year fairytales and drought breaks 🏆
Leicester: 132 years
Western Bulldogs: 62
— Jamie Pandaram (@JamiePandaram) October 3, 2016
Add to that list: the 108 years of the Cubs, and those numbers equate to the square root of fandom. The peaks are nothing without the troughs. Remind yourself of that, as you put your feet up, and watch us get flogged by South Africa, safe in the knowledge that things can get far worse, but far better.