As they make their first trip to post-season action since winning a second consecutive World Series title in 1993, it’s amusing to observe the resurgence of Toronto Blue Jays fever. The lone Canadian franchise in Major League Baseball, exhilarating play and a dominating record since the All-Star break has captured the attention of a nation.
There’s no denying it, I am without question a bandwagon Blue Jays fan. Growing up with three brothers and many friends who were baseball fanatics, osmosis equipped me with a general appreciation for the game. But at the core, my loyalties remain with hockey and golf.
On July 27th, I stayed overnight at my brother’s place before a golf outing in Toronto and arose early to find my nephew riveted to the Sportsnet morning news loop.
“The Jays just traded Reyes for Tulo,” Owen informed me enthusiastically as I joined him in front of the flat screen and became the first with whom he would share the news.
In an effort to feign a level of comprehension and acknowledge what was big news to the sports-crazy 13-year-old, I hastily recalled fragments of conversations I’d paid token attention to over the summer and responded cleverly: “That’s great news for the Jays, Owen, they could sure use some help on the mound.”
When it comes to professional sports, there are genuine fans and there are bandwagon fans. The latter can be further divided into two categories: those of us who readily acknowledge we are bandwagoneers; and those who masquerade as true fans. In either case, the support may be intense, but likely intermittent.
I began following the Jays this season out of curiosity over the hype surrounding the arrival of Troy Tulowitzki and David Price. Though I’ve not attended a live game, I’ve barely missed a televised contest since the trades. In fact, the last time I can remember such committed viewing of baseball games in their entirety, was in … well, 1993.
My dad is a classic example of a genuine sports fan, though his game is hockey. He immigrated to Canada six decades ago from Northern Ireland at the age of twenty-one and promptly adopted the Toronto Maple Leafs as his team. Every Saturday (and Wednesday) night through the 1960’s, he would painstakingly adjust the rabbit ears, Windex the screen, and tinker with assorted knobs until he was satisfied he’d delivered the finest black & white picture the old Zenith TV could muster.
Ever since the days of six teams in the NHL, and fewer helmets, the now 84-year-old patriarch has scarcely missed a Buds game in a bewildering demonstration of Leaf loyalty that’s far outweighed its rewards. He’s agonized over every crushing defeat and dashed playoff hope since the glory days, but as a true fan does, he finds new hope with each trade and every new season.
In Major League Baseball, faithful followers are engaged from Spring training, through the 162 game season, and into the Divisional and Conference titles of the October playoffs. They hope their team makes it all the way to the World Series, but they follow the action to its conclusion, either way.
Genuine fans know all the nuances of the game and usually have a long history of dogged support for their team. Though they celebrate the successes and feel the pain of slumps, they are often more moderate in their exuberance or despair than their ephemeral counterparts.
Authentic fans could also be forgiven if they became mildly frustrated with declining seat availability and soaring ticket prices, courtesy of fair-weather demand. But fickle followers are an important part of the equation. They bring a new dynamic to fandom. However short their stay, there is no disputing the intensity of their support.
Who cares if a bandwagon fan sporting a Josh Donaldson haircut needs on-the-fly lessons on the mysteries of the balk, or a mid-game synopsis on why Brett Cecil was pulled for Roberto Osuna in the ninth inning after pitching so well in the eighth? And, so what if an exuberant fan gets a bit confused by baseball jargon such as, can of corn, or giggles on hearing someone refer to a dinger or a backdoor slider?
The point is they are contributing mightily to the economic health of the organization with every new Jays jersey or cap they purchase.
Seldom has a seat on the baseball bandwagon been in higher demand than it is with the resounding success of the 2015 Toronto Blue Jays. Today they face off in post-season play for the first time in more than 20 years and hopefully they can stay on form under the weight of high expectations from the delirious masses.
Whatever the outcome, the Jays have certainly given their fans of all stripes a lot to cheer about.
LET’S GO BLUE JAYS!