Opinion: Veteran fans will quiz you, as though arcane trivia can separate true fans from fair-weather counterparts. But this is sports, not Jeopardy!With the Toronto Raptors now just three wins away from their first NBA title, there’s never been a better time to join the fan base.Some would disagree, of course. Longtime Raptors fans, or fans of any team enjoying a relatively recent run of success, often bristle at the latecomers, the ones who only show up when things are going swell. To these folks, you can’t simply join the parade when a team is rolling. You have to earn your fandom with years of suffering and disappointment, soldiering on as the team works its way up, pledging allegiance, regardless of results. All others are bandwagon fans, doing sports the wrong way by only tuning in for the best parts.But that’s nonsense. You can do whatever you want, and considering how much fun Raptors fans are having right now, with Toronto drawing first blood in the NBA Finals on Thursday as thousands of Canadians lost their minds inside and outside of the arena, it’s only reasonable if you want to get in on the action. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know a single name on the roster. It doesn’t matter if you remember the Mighty Mouse era. It doesn’t matter if you refer to the Raptors as “the red team.” You are invited.
Yes, Drake got there before you. But that doesn’t mean you can’t come along for the Raptors’ ride.
Vaughn Ridley /
You don’t even have to educate yourself. Veteran fans will try to quiz you, as though arcane trivia questions can separate the true fans from their fair-weather counterparts. But this is sports, not Jeopardy! You can call yourself a fan of any team, at any time, and just like that, you are one. Welcome to the club. Some people know a lot about this team. You may not. But after big wins, you’ll find the confetti falls on informed and uninformed alike.Admittedly, a championship may mean more to someone who’s been with the Raptors through losing season after losing season. That’s a common argument. But how much more, really? We’re not talking about enlightenment here, or some other ideal that takes time to develop. We’re talking about sports. Delayed gratification may be nice, but so is the instant kind, where you decide that you want something, and get it right away. Anyone who claims that approach is somehow less enjoyable has clearly never tried it. Instant coffee is bad. Instant gratification is, as it happens, quite gratifying.Title runs aren’t even about fandom, really. They’re about the community. Veteran supporters may decry bandwagon-jumping, but that’s only because they wasted all that time cheering for a bad team. They resent you because you played it smart, side-stepping all the heartbreak that led to the present moment, off living your life without a care in the world, only to arrive at the exact same place as them: rooting for a team that has a genuine chance to win it all, sharing in this rare moment with your friends and peers, and partying with a city on the verge of something special. If anyone can just do that, why endure years of bad sports at all?Why, indeed. Serious sports fans will point to loyalty, as though it’s a virtue to forgive poor play, bad management, shoddy roster construction and indifferent ownership, among other issues, and pay for an unsatisfying product, night in and night out, in the hopes that it will all be worth it in the end. But it’s really not. It’s not cheating and it’s not against the rules to tune in when it’s finally worth tuning in. You don’t owe sports franchises anything, least of all unswerving allegiance. Professional sports teams are playthings for billionaires. They don’t need your money, and if you’re going to give it to them, let them earn it by building a team worth your time. They certainly aren’t giving you any money just because you’re local.Call me a bandwagon fan if you must. But I prefer the term sports hedonist. I’m here to maximize all the pleasure. I like my sports teams good and fun — and right now, the Raptors are both, so I’m in. There is no need to apologize if, like myself and many other Canadians, this is what it took to get your email@example.comFollow @harrisonmooneyCLICK HERE to report a typo.Is there more to this story? We’d like to hear from you about this or any other stories you think we should know about. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.