“I cheer for the Steelers through thick and thin. No matter what, I love my black and gold!”
That’s what you might say if you’re one of those die-hard Steelers fans who never gives up on your team. Of course, it’s been fairly easy to say that over the past 47 years or so, thanks to all of those playoff appearances, playoff wins and, obviously, Super Bowl titles.
Speaking of 47, that’s how old I am. As the rather dated profile on my BTSC account states, the first Steelers game I remember watching (at least with great angst, nerves and a feeling that it would be the end of the world if they lost) was Super Bowl XIV, when they took on the Los Angeles Rams in Pasadena, California.
Does it get any more “bandwagon fan” than that?
In my defense, I was 7, which meant I spent many previous years watching Mister Rogers and The Incredible Hulk and no time paying my dues during any lean seasons.
In fact, there were no lean years from the time of my birth all the way up through that aforementioned Super Bowl, which was the fourth one the Steelers won in my very short existence.
I mention all of this because of a Twitter tirade by Pittsburgh radio sports talk show juggernaut Mark Madden on Monday, where he ripped into bandwagon Penguins fans.
Madden questioned the hockey intelligence of these fans and, as old-time Penguins followers are often wont to do, bragged about how he paid his dues in the 1970s, when the team played at the old Civic Arena and was mostly awful.
The old arena was usually about a third to half full in those days, and if you listen to people like Madden, those folks were the greatest Penguins fans of all-time. They are the equivalent of hockey royalty. They should be able to carry around a laminated card that earns them discounts on purchases wherever they shop.
Anyway, I’m sure if long-time Penguins fans were granted the ability to go back in time, they’d realize that sitting in a mostly empty arena, watching hockey players not named Mario Lemieux stink it up on a regular basis probably wasn’t as glorious as they’re now remembering.
Seriously, how annoying is it when fans talk about paying their dues through bad times? How silly is it when they look down on those supposed bandwagon fans and even suggest their fandom isn’t as valuable?
How often do you hear old-time Steelers fans talk about the pre-Noll and pre-1972 days? Not very, and why? Because I’m pretty sure it wasn’t much fun sitting in half-empty Pitt Stadium in the 1960s, watching the Steelers lose week after week.
It would be foolish of me to act as if Penguins faithful are the only ones who complain about bandwagon fans (although, they do seem to be the most vocal). Many super-serious Steelers fans like to complain about that sort of thing, too. Heck, even old-time Pirates fans seemed to have a problem with all the new folks jumping on the wagon back in the mid-10s, when things were going really well.
Acknowledging that all super-duper serious fans complain about those that jump on the bandwagon, what’s wrong with that, really? Why does it bother you so much if Super Bowl XL was the catalyst for someone becoming a Steelers fan?
People become fans at various times and for various reasons, but if it happens after a team starts to have success, that doesn’t make you less of one.
And you certainly don’t deserve any extra credit for supporting your favorite team through the lean years.