Sports

Sheehan ’12: A bandwagon fan’s conversation survival guide

By
Sports Columnist
Friday, April 13, 2012

It’s pretty awkward that the NHL playoffs have started. With the Boston Red Sox on pace for 135 losses this season and the Boston Celtics re-emerging as the team I knew they could be, I forgot to hold true to my hockey-watching pattern this year. The NHL, though I regularly enjoy watching a Boston Bruins game more than a Sox game, regularly slips through the cracks for me. 

Being a Boston sports fan is like having four very different children. The Celtics are the oldest and most dependable child who wrote several best-sellers in a row when they were fresh out of college. Now middle-aged, they mostly hang around and write a new best-seller every 10 years – just enough to live off of.

The Red Sox are the second-oldest and most heartbreaking child who grew up to be a famous actor. Though they won a couple of Oscars and the pride of the family, they regularly fall off the wagon into a drug-addled rock bottom covered by TMZ (the Boston Globe).

The New England Patriots are the youngest child who grows up to be a successful investment banker. Clean-cut, no-nonsense and comfortable, the Patriots’ recent success has done the family proud, but we’ve also come to expect big things from them.

And then there’s the Bruins.

The Bruins just won the Nobel Prize last year. The second youngest and the quietest, the Bruins’ hard work and long hours spent in labs getting their advanced doctorate finally paid off. We, the parents of these Boston teams, saw what the Bruins did last year. But everyone else in the family had come into such success that we almost expected it. We patted them on the head and told them we were proud of them, but right after we had to leave the house and head down to the police station to post the Red Sox’s bail again.

As a sports fan, you’ve got to decide where to spend your attention and, for me, it’s often the Bruins that end up the odd team out. For the past three years, I’ve developed a system to make sure that I’m in touch with what’s going on with Boston’s black and gold by the time the playoffs come around. Watch 10 of the first 20 games, 10 of the middle 42 and 10 of the last 20. That’s what I did last year and it worked out perfectly. The Bruins picked up the slack when the Celtics got crushed in the playoffs, and I was overjoyed.

But this year I’m out of touch. I watched 10 games all year. It’s like the Bruins told me not to forget to come to their dance recital, and I not only blew it off, but I forgot to pick them up as well.

The problem is that I can’t not watch the playoffs, even if I haven’t really been watching the team at all. This leaves me with one option. I have to resort to one of the most disgusting acts in all of fandom. I’m talking, of course, about hopping on a bandwagon. For this edition of the column, I’ll teach you how to bandwagon hop and carry on a sports conversation where you camouflage the fact that you have no idea what you are talking about.

 

Step 1: Never go out on a limb.

Only make points that are unarguable. Don’t say anything controversial and never bring up a player who is anything less than an All-Star. The depth of my insight when someone asks me how the Pittsburgh Penguins-Philadelphia Flyers series is going to shake out is going to be, “Sidney Crosby is good as long as he doesn’t hurt himself.” If someone really presses me, I’ll say that they have a good coach and that Evgeni Malkin is also very good, but that’s it. Never specify why they are good. That allows someone to disagree with you.

 

Step 2: Stick to predictions that have to come true.

For example, my prediction is that Tim Thomas won’t play as well in the playoffs this year as he did last year. Considering that Thomas had one of the best post-seasons of all time last year, there’s almost no way I’ll be wrong. Another good one is, “There will be a fight in the Pens-Flyers series.”

 

Step 3: Find easy jokes.

It’s pretty common knowledge that the Washington Capitals rarely get past the first round of the playoffs even when they are a top seed. Bring this up with a fan of a rival team, and you can have a chuckle at their expense while you pray that they don’t ask you which defensive line is your favorite. “Hey, why do you always have Alex Ovechkin pay first when you’re out at the bar? Because he’s never around for the second round!”

 

Step 4: Figure out who on your team plays the best defense and say they are your favorite player.

This works across every sport. Everyone knows who the stars are, and it’s easy to see the tangible difference that offensive players make, so make yourself seem more knowledgeable in seven seconds by looking up who leads your team in defense. People will almost always assume you know what you are talking about. You can talk with New York Knicks fans about Iman Shumpert, San Franscisco 49ers fans about Patrick Willis or Baltimore Orioles fans about Matt Wieters. I’ll be leaning on Zdeno Chara and Adam McQuaid as talking points.

“Chara’s the reason we win games! If he’s not there, who neutralizes the other team’s stars?”

 

Step 5: When all else fails, read ESPN and regurgitate stats like you came up with them.

This one’s pretty straightforward. Let the experts figure out something that sounds impressive and then steal it. Only use this when it looks like you’re about to be exposed as a bandwagon fan.

“Did you know that the Bruins got 21 goals out of Mark Recchi, Michael Ryder and Nathan Horton last year? That’s gonna be tough to replace.”

Okay, if you think you have the steps down, go out there, put your “I’ve totally been watching this team all year” face on, and get yourself in fair-weather fan shape. Happy bandwagon season. Go Bruins.

 

Sam Sheehan ’12 actually loves Patrice Bergeron. He’s still on the team right? Talk sports with him at sam_sheehan@brown.edu or follow him on Twitter @SamSheehan.