When it Pays to Be a Bandwagon Fan: My Jersey Curse

by Phil Kehres*
Special to iVoryTowerz

Ah, the World Series. Just the mention of it brings to mind so many wonderful things. Baseball under the lights in the cool, crisp autumn air. Heartwarming renditions of the national anthem sung by relevant celebrities. Rugged, lifelong fans that have followed their boys through every second of the grueling 162-game season. It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

But if you happen to be one of the, um, few fans that were late to jump on the bandwagon, chances are you’re stocking up on whatever Rays (or Phillies) gear you can get your hands on. Buying caps and jerseys to support your favorite team is every fan’s rite of passage, even if you’ve just discovered the team’s existence at some point in the past two weeks.

But this act must be undertaken with extreme caution. I realized this just the other day when I got home to find my brand new, authentic, home alternate Grady Sizemore jersey waiting for me in the mail. After jumping up and down with giddy elation for five minutes or so, I was overcome with a sudden sense of sinking dread.

You see, each of the past two times I’ve purchased a specific player’s jersey or tee shirt, awful things have happened. After Travis Hafner’s breakout season in 2006, in which he set the single-season record for grand slams, I bought the home version of his jersey. I went to 12 games in 2007, proudly sporting the Hafner jersey each time and watching the Cleveland Indians go 11-1 in my appearances. But while good for the Tribe, my negative jersey karma crippled the masher formerly known as Pronk. He followed his monstrous 2006 with the most disappointing year of his career in 2007. Well, most disappointing up to that point — his 2008 was even worse, and marred by injury.

The purchase was, in short, a disaster. But I didn’t learn from that experience. After Fausto Carmona’s Cy Young-worthy 2007, I decided to buy his player tee shirt — the kind that looks like a jersey, but is only a tee shirt. Harmless, right?

Nope. Carmona sat out a good chunk of 2008 with an injury after a wild and ineffective start to the season, and never regained his 2007 form. So imagine my dismay when I realized what was going on. Grady Sizemore is coming off what may be his best season and is only expected to get better. He’s the face of the franchise. Suffice it to say I’ve been knocking on wood all night long since my revelation, and will continue doing so through October 2009.

Consider the waves of Rays fans who have come on board since Tampa made the playoffs. I’m sure there are some bandwagon jumpers in Philly too — it comes with the territory of having a championship-caliber team. Maybe my jersey curse can be attributed to coincidence or small sample size, but perhaps there’s something to the bandwagon-buying mentality. Maybe if you wait for your team to get good and buy a bunch of shiny new gear mid-season, you can aid your player of choice rather than contributing to his demise. Maybe die-hard fans are hurting their teams by pledging their material support too early. Maybe teams with bigger bandwagon contingents are more likely to succeed late in the season because of the anti-jersey curse.

Or maybe I’m totally off the wall and incapable of rational thought when it comes to baseball. That’s probably it. Actually, it might just be the onset of malaise caused by another October without Indians baseball. Is it Hot Stove season yet?

*Phil Kehres is one of the authors of Excuse Me, Is That Your Blog?

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Rick Rockwell said...

This just means you are too superstitious. I realize sports is filled with superstition and ritual... but you gotta draw the line somewhere!

Sports Chump said...

Like any good sports fan, your allegiance blurs your objectivity.

I'm glad to say I'm often in the same boat.

Here's my latest take on the band wagon fan. Your comments are welcome.


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