For many of us sports fans, we live and die by our favorite teams. A large portion of long suffering supporters of the Toronto Maple Leafs haven't witnessed a Stanley Cup victory in their lifetime. The team hasn't taken home hockey's ultimate prize since 1967 and they haven't had a sniff of a Cup Final appearance since. Most of Leafs Nation has long since accepted that every year will ultimately end in pain, but they continue to cheer on the blue and white, believing that one day they'll witness the one that doesn't. Fans of the Chicago Cubs, meanwhile, are entrenched in a 107-year World Series championship drought. The Cubs last appearance in the World Series came in 1945 and many hold a Billy Goat curse responsible for the team's lack of success since. Cheering for these perennial losers is not easy, yet fans of the Maple Leafs, Cubs and many other teams would never want to support any other team.
For these people, there are few things worse in all of sports than bandwagon fans. Bandwagon fans are nowhere to be seen when the team is struggling, but they come out in droves to cheer on a winner. This is often seen as disrespectful, disloyal and embarrassing. The belief is that to truly appreciate a team's success you have to have been there for their failures. You have to have followed the team closely for a long time and have grown to love them no matter what the result is. How can you care about a team winning a championship if your fandom is only as old as a house fly? Following a team is like a marriage; you're there for good times and bad, unless the team does something unforgivable enough for you to file for a divorce and seek something better.
Nevertheless, many teams have seen people jump on the bandwagon when things are going well and some gladly accept the insufferable fair weather fans. Here's a look at the 15 teams with the most bandwagon fans.
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14 San Francisco Giants
The San Francisco Giants have won the World Series titles in each of the last three even numbered years, so they're an easy choice for people looking for the convenience of cheering for a winner without any emotional attachment. People jumping on the Giants' bandwagon has been reflected in their attendance numbers. On average less than 38,000 spectators went to Giants games during their 2010 World Series winning season. The following year, that number jumped to a franchise record 41,819 fans per game and it hasn't dropped below 41,000 since.
13 Arizona Cardinals
While the narrative going around is that the Seahawks are the team filled with the most bandwagon fans, a recent study by Emory University put the Arizona Cardinals at the top of the NFL in that category. The conclusion being that Cardinals fans reaction to winning percentage is reflected in their attendance more than any other team. Many rival fans will also quickly point out that folks in Arizona didn't care very much about the Cardinals until Kurt Warner showed up to take them to a Super Bowl.
Many are quick to point the finger at Seattle, but the study explicitly says: "fans are most responsive to winning percentage in the NFL based on our statistical model of attendance."
The franchise has the longest championship drought in the NFL, with their last one coming in 1947 as the Chicago Cardinals. However the fans in Arizona only seemed to get passionate when the team showed success.
12 New Orleans Saints
The New Orleans Saints finished second to the Cardinals in the Emory University study of bandwagon fans and the Drew Brees led squad became a focal point for bandwagon fans when they won Super Bowl XLIV. Many people outside of New Orleans used the destruction in the city caused by Hurricane Katrina as a reason to rally behind the Saints and cheer them on against the Indianapolis Colts. Unlike most bandwagon cases this one is actually forgivable.
11 Atlanta Hawks
Atlanta is definitely not the most supportive of sports cities. They've lost two NHL teams and the Hawks have struggled to get fans to games for years. The team's 60-22 record in 2014-15 coincided with an increase in attendance and for the first time since 1997-98, the Hawks averaged more than 17,000 fans per game. After a March 2015 game against the Houston Rockets in which former Hawk and Atlanta native Josh Smith was constantly booed, Smith criticized Hawks fans saying, "I mean, those fans are fickle, very fickle and bandwagoners. It really doesn't mean anything to me."
11. Washington Capitals
The Washington Capitals on ice struggles prior to the 2004-05 lockout led to a drop in attendance and despite drafting Alexander Ovechkin in 2004, less than 14,000 spectators per game showed up in the two seasons following the lockout. It wasn't until the team started winning again that fans returned to cheer on the Capitals. In 2007-08, the Capitals reached the postseason for the first time since 2002-03 and the following season their average attendance jumped from 15,472 to 18,097 per game and the team's winning ways have kept it above 18,000 ever since.
10 Boston Red Sox
The Boston Red Sox once went 86 years between World Series titles, but they've now brought home three titles since 2004. They're a team that is always willing to spend money to build a winner and no matter how each season ends, they'll spend more money if they think it'll help them win more baseball games. While the Sox definitely have their share of die-hards who stuck with the team despite the drought, suffice it to say, they've acquired a lot of bandwagon fans since they ended the curse.
When the Red Sox are at the top of the sport it's easy for people to get behind stars like David Ortiz and proclaim their love of the Red Sox.
9 Winnipeg Jets
The original incarnation of the Winnipeg Jets suffered through financial troubles in the early 1990s leading to a search for a new owner and a new home for the team. Rather than show their support for the Jets and attempt to convince the league to keep the franchise in Winnipeg, many fans stayed home as attendance dipped to a little over 11,000 during the team's final season in Winnipeg in 1995-96, before relocating to Phoenix.
Fast forward to 2011 and the announcement that the Atlanta Thrashers were moving to Winnipeg was met with the insistence from many that their new team be named after the one they didn't support. The second version of the Winnipeg Jets was born and people quickly jumped to buy season tickets and fill the league's smallest arena. Many have proclaimed the Jets fans to be the best in the league for their loud and often obnoxious behavior. Once the luster of the new team wears off and the team's play drops off, we'll see who is left cheering.
8 "Canada's Team"
Every spring during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, when only one of the seven Canadian franchises remains in contention, people are quick to proclaim them "Canada's team". The idea being that everyone in Canada should cheer for them out of a desire to see the Stanley Cup return north of the border, disregarding that there are Canadian players on every team and that the whole concept is largely based on a petty hatred of our southern brethren.
Many casual hockey fans undoubtedly jump on board and cheer on the Great White North's last remaining hope, while diehard Toronto Maple Leafs fans point out that there is no way they will ever cheer for the Montreal Canadiens. That same logic can be applied to any Canadian team rivalry.
7 Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays went 22 years between playoff appearances, so it's not that surprising that fans lost interest in baseball in a hockey mad city like Toronto. In mid-July it looked like the Blue Jays could be headed towards another disappointing season, but the team made two blockbuster trades to bring in Troy Tulowitzki and David Price and immediately caught fire.
The Blue Jays started selling out games and broke Sportsnet television ratings records while many fans across the nation fell in love with the team in their run to the ALCS. Now in the offseason, many fans are up in arms over the loss of general manager Alex Anthopolous from a team they didn't care about six months ago.
6 Dallas Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys are a successful NFL franchise with a history of winning, including five Super Bowl titles. They have a long line of iconic players, like Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith. They were once dubbed "America's Team". When people are in search of a winning football team to cheer, many with no ties to the Texas city opt for the team with a giant star as their logo. Many within the Cowboys fanbase are even bandwagoners when it comes to their own players. For years, Cowboys fans blamed Tony Romo for their lack of postseason success, but with Romo injured this year, many have pointed to Romo's injury as the reason for Dallas's disappointing season. That's true, but it's hypocritical coming from a fanbase that trashed him for nearly a decade.
Then again, maybe it's the cheerleaders that bring in more fans.
5 Cinderella Teams
People love to cheer on an underdog, so teams like the 2003 Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, the 2004 Detroit Pistons, and the 2007 New York Giants are easy to root for. When a team that no one expected to succeed surprises everyone and makes a "Cinderella" run for a championship, people hop on the bandwagon and enjoy the ride in the hope of being a part of a David vs. Goliath like victory.
4 Chicago Blackhawks
The Blackhawks teams of the early 1990s featuring the likes of Jeremy Roenick, Chris Chelios, and Ed Belfour were well supported in Chicago, but when the team's play dropped off, the fans started to disappear. In 2006-07 attendance at Blackhawks games dipped below 13,000 per game for the first time in 25 years. Once the Blackhawks team was rebuilt around Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, fans quickly returned and they've averaged over 21,000 spectators per game since the 2008-09 season. The team's fanbase has even grown across North America.
Many who jumped on the team's bandwagon to see them win three Stanley Cup championships in six years like to pretend they've been there all along.
3 New York Yankees
The New York Yankees are team with a long history of great players, including Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, and Derek Jeter. They're also a team with 27 World Series titles, a willingness to outspend most other teams, and a belief that anything less than a World Series title in any season is a failure. When fans and celebrities alike are looking for a winning team to latch onto, it's not surprising that the Yankees are often at the top of their list.
2 Cleveland Cavaliers
During the Cleveland Cavaliers awful 2002-03 season nobody wanted to watch the team and it showed when a little more than 11,000 people attended their games. Once LeBron James showed up to turn the Cavaliers fortunes around, people quickly became fans and attendance numbers soared. During the Cavaliers 2006-07 season that ended with a trip to the NBA Finals, they set a franchise record for attendance numbers and then promptly broke that record the following season.
When James departed to join the Miami Heat and the team's play dropped off fans left with him and when he returned in the summer of 2014, the Cavalier's fans returned as well. You have to wonder how many Cavs fans are simply LeBron fans, as the Miami Heat fanbase suspiciously seemed to grow from 2010 to 2014. Making the situation more puzzling is that many Cavs fans were seen burning LeBron's jersey when he signed with Miami, yet jumped for joy when he returned.
1 Pittsburgh Penguins
Following the initial retirement of superstar Mario Lemieux, the Pittsburgh Penguins floundered through the late 1990s. The team filed for bankruptcy for the second time and was purchased by Lemieux. Attendance dropped and Jaromir Jagr was traded for financial purposes. By the end of the 2003-04 season the Penguins were last in league in attendance and there was speculation that the team might have to relocate. Enter Sidney Crosby and fans quickly flocked back to the Penguins. Attendance figures rose, the team won the Stanley Cup in 2009, and then opened a new arena in 2010-11 which consistently sells out games.
The Pittsburgh Penguins franchise is the healthiest it's ever been and Lemieux and co-owner Ron Burkle are exploring the possibility of selling the franchise, seeking $750 million - more than seven times the $107 million they paid for it. That's something that would've been unimaginable a decade ago when the Penguins were on the verge of extinction.
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