USA Today Sports

Scoot: Is criticism of “bandwagon” Pelicans’ fans fair?

April 23, 2018 - 10:21 am

The New Orleans Pelicans swept the Portland Trail Blazers out of the NBA playoffs Saturday afternoon.  The Pelicans beat the Blazers 131 – 123, putting an exclamation point on advancing to the NBA semifinal round.  And for the first time in Pels history, 2 players scored over 40 points: Anthony Davis scored 47 and Jrue Holiday poured in 41 points.

New Orleans has not yet earned the title of being an “NBA city,” but the two sold out games at home in the Smoothie King Center show that NOLA has the potential to be known as an “NBA city.”  Attention and local money spent on the Saints is one big reason support for the Pelicans has been light, but there is nothing like winning to increase support for a team.

However, the sudden support of a sports team brings on the debate over the fans that have always been there supporting the team even during the times the team was losing and the so-called bandwagon fans - those new fans that have become fanatical since the team has been winning. 

Resentment of bandwagon fans by some of diehards is understandable, but anyone who is a diehard fan should love to be part of the games that are suddenly sold out.  The atmosphere of a sold out crowd adds to the experience for those who have been at games with a sparse crowd.

In sports, winning is important.  Most people do not attend a sporting event of a team they support just to watch the physical artistry of the game.  Fans may appreciate that; but they go to a game with the expectation - or at least hope - that their teams can win the game.  Regardless of the sport, fewer fans support teams that show little potential to be known as “winners.”

Even in cities, like Portland and San Antonio, where the only major franchise is the NBA team, the number of fans attending games is linked to the prospect of winning.  Once a team shows at least the potential to be a winning team, support will remain stronger even when the team is not having a winning season.  It is the proven potential to win that is important to attracting enough fans to sell out games.

The New Orleans Pelicans have faced challenges in attracting more local support.  There have been times in the past when support for the Pels was greater than it has been in recent years.  Even when Anthony Davis, one of the most talented and most exciting players to watch on the NBA court, became the Pelicans’ star player, attendance at games was far from consistent.  But now that the Pelicans have surrounded A.D. with the talents of Jrue Holiday, Nikola Mirotic and Rajon Rondo, the team has come together as a consistent winner.  Credit to the Pelicans’ front office for plugging the gaping hole created when DeMarcus Cousins suffered a season-ending injury.

As the Pelicans move onto the semifinal round of the NBA playoffs, fan excitement has multiplied with greater ticket sales and with the purchasing of Pelicans merchandise - jerseys, T-shirts, etc.  Many Pelicans’ fans are also Saints’ fans and the “WHO DAT!” refrain has been changed to also include “HOOP DAT!” for the Pelicans.

Anticipating that some Pelicans’ fans may be criticized for being bandwagon fans, I thought it was important to defend the many fans who are now showing support for the team.  The players and the team love when games are sold out, and that wasn’t happening with only the most diehard fans in attendance.  It took the fans inspired by the greater expectation of winning to create the recent sell outs.

There may be some resentment from the most loyal churchgoers of those who only go to church at Christmas and Easter, but doesn’t it feel good to see the church packed?

Comments ()