Choosing a sports team is like making an investment. Only instead of investing money, we invest our emotions. (For purposes of this discussion I am generally not talking about those fans who inherit players or teams because of geographic or tribal reasons.) Jumping on a bandwagon is like investing in a strong stock. There are three situations that typically warrant investment: emerging stocks, safe investments, and investments with great potential. A sports example of a quickly emerging stock would be the 2011-2012 San Francisco 49ers. A safe stock would be the New England Patriots; a team that has proven itself a reliable winner over time. An example of an investment with great potential would be rooting for the Redskins immediately following the drafting of RGIII.
Our fanfare is our emotional currency. The earlier we invest in an emerging stock, the more we stand to gain. Those who invest once the stock has begun to peak gain less, but if the team is strong enough investors still benefit from investing their fanfare in a safe investment. This, after all, is better than losing. People that invest in established teams are who we usually think of when we use the term “bandwagon fans.” This accurately describes this decades New England Patriots fans, post 2012 Heat fans, and every single NY Yankees fan outside the tri-state area since 1923.
The investing analogy also helps explain the concept of “jumping off of the bandwagon.” If “bandwagon” most accurately describes those fans who invested late, once the stock already peaked, then it should not be surprising that those same fans are the first to dump their stock. They have nothing to gain by going down with the sinking ship, while those who invested earlier still have not technically lost anything from their original investment. Additionally, early-investor-fans’ emotional ties to the team are stronger because they can associate the positive emotions of climbing up the ranks with that team and its players. Both the early investor and late investor lose the same when the stock goes down, but the early investor would not have had those gains if not for the investment while the late investor looks at the team spitefully as having been the cause of their loss.
Then there are the venture capitalists fans. Venture capitalists survey the sports landscape searching for the next big thing to invest it in. Venture capitalist look for early potential. As fans, they want to say they were there first. Although, like real world venture capitalism, rarely do these investments pan out. Most startups fail, and most sports teams at the bottom of the barrel remain at the bottom of the barrel. Although, some sports junkies are better at this than others.
The best venture capitalists fans are devoted sports fans who are constantly doing research, gathering information about future investments, even if they don’t realize it. Their years of accumulated sports knowledge allows them to recognize patterns of individual or team behavior that lead to success like an expert chess player can see the board. They may see gaps of opportunity where others may not, such as a team on the brink of decline and another team poised to take its spot.
I think true sports fans have a healthy mix of investments, just like any savvy investor would. The common pattern I see among myself and friends is to invest safely in sports that we do not follow religiously and act as venture capitalists in the sports that we are experts in. I don’t know tennis or golf, so rooting for Roger Federer and Tiger Woods were no-brainers. I don’t love those sports enough to tune in unless I feel like I’m watching greatness. On the other hand, my buddy Timmy who played QB in college told me Drew Breeze was that deal before Breeze ever played a down of NFL football. Football is his expertise and he was awarded big dividends for making that call so early. (Coincidently, Timmy is now an investor). Sometimes it is best just to have friends that you can depend on to steer you in the right direction.