Thursday, May 31, 2012

Hipster Bandwagoner

The number of things within our culture that confuse me is probably infinite, including those that are wholly true or even somewhat ostensibly reasonable.

One example is the fact that people in Cleveland in a general and overall sense are noticeably worse at driving than people in Cincinnati. Having lived in Cincinnati my whole life, visited and spent significant time in other areas around the country, and now residing in Cleveland over the past six weeks or so, this assessment appears quite obvious to me. And while it certainly seems plausible on the surface (the idea that one area would be better or worse than another area at a practice as varied as driving), how could one possibly explain why about 4 hours and 200-something miles of space and distance would create an immeasurable yet irrefutable chasm in adeptness at operating a motorized vehicle?

Another example is the rise of the hipster phase. At a mere glance, the entire notion somehow seems perfectly logical. But when you consider that by embracing anti-cool and anti-mainstream sensibilities hipsters somehow achieved cool and mainstream status, it’s quite confusing. Arcade Fire has been a good band since the Funeral album, something they proved further when Neon Bible was released. But it was The Suburbs that made them popular, which in a simplistic sense is what made them cool. However, if you liked Arcade Fire when they were releasing Funeral and Neon Bible, this made you a hipster because you liked them before they were cool…which in turn would now make you cool, because Arcade Fire eventually became cool. And yet, the very reason for Arcade Fire becoming cool (The Suburbs) is also the very same reason why a hipster can no longer like Arcade Fire, as doing so would make the aforementioned hipster intrinsically not cool…which, ironically enough, is exactly the sentiment hipsters embraced in the first place. Make sense? I didn’t think so.

What does make perfect sense is the idea of a bandwagon fan; the fact that bandwagoning is essentially the counterpoint to being a hipster only cements this accuracy. Being a bandwagoner gets such a bad rap in today’s society, which no doubt has a good deal of credence behind it – being a fan of the Yankees or Heat or Patriots or whoever just because they are good is kind of a cop out, and it removes some of the beauty from being a sports fan. But it also makes complete and perfect sense. This is why I don’t mind admitting my own allegiance to the cause, even if I was probably a bandwagoner before you were…

I’m a fan of the Oklahoma City Thunder, and I have very strong, respectable reasons for it: They’re a good team. They’re probably going to be a good team for the foreseeable future. And they’re a fun team to root for. All of which makes complete and perfect sense.

I became a fan of the Thunder a few seasons ago, their second as a franchise after leaving Seattle. The team had just drafted James Harden (who I had been a big fan of in college) and Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were both establishing themselves as up-and-comers.  They were coming off of a dreadful 23-win showing in the ’08-’09 season, but seemed poised to improve that number drastically, especially over the next few years.

Like most kids my age, I was a huge fan of the Chicago Bulls growing up, almost exclusively because of my adoration for Michael Jordan.  (Sure, I liked Pippen and Rodman, but only because they were playing with MJ; I would have rooted just as hard for Stalin and Mussolini. Also, Michael was so freaking good, the normal bandwagon rules didn’t even apply). But despite my strong and lifelong affinity for the game of basketball, I soon fell out of love with the NBA after Jordan retired (again), which at that time was a pretty bandwagoning move in and of itself. I started coming back around when I went to college (for a number of reasons), but I no longer had a team with which my loyalty resided.  Growing up in Cincinnati, there wasn’t a hometown gang to root for. I wasn’t going to pull for Cleveland because of the Bengals-Browns rivalry, and although Indianapolis was fairly close to Cincy, I felt no allegiance to the team based merely on location. For a while, I figured I’d simply continue as a fan of the game but with no specific team – what Chuck Klosterman would deem an NBA atheist, although I think it makes more sense to label it as an NBA agnostic.

But the more I became re-attached to the game, the more I was drawn to the Thunder. They were an exciting team to watch, Durant appeared poised to become a bona fide stud, and the ceiling on guys like Westbrook, Harden and Ibaka seemed pretty freaking high. And most importantly, you could see them developing and getting better with every game. If I was going to pick an NBA team to root for, wouldn’t it make sense to choose a good-but-not-yet-great team with a high probability to get better? It wouldn’t be quite as cheap or lame as simply latching on to the league’s top squad or merely hopping onboard with the Heat as soon as LeBron and Bosh teamed up with Wade, and it would have been even more deplorable had I sided with a crappy team. Why purposefully put myself through disappointment? So I did the most respectable thing anyone in my position could have done – I threw my support behind a sprightly bunch of engaging youngsters angling toward success on the wings of talent and potential.

It paid off. The Thunder are (I know it’s grammatically correct  to write “The Thunder is,” but in reference to a sports team made up of multiple members and components, we all know that just sounds stupid) one of the best teams in the league, Durant/Westbrook/Harden a threesome as formidable as any franchise can boast. And because of my now relatively well-established commitment, any triumphs the Thunder secure moving forward – whether it be playoff wins or championships or individual player accomplishments – are subsequently experienced by me, the fan. No, it won’t be the same for me as it is for the fans in OKC that were holding strong through that initial crapfest of a season, and it certainly won’t be as rewarding as it would be for any holdovers from the franchise’s time in Seattle (although there can’t be many of those). And even on my end, the Thunder will never hold nearly as special a place in my sports-loving heart as the Bengals or Reds or even the Ohio Bobcats; if a Bengals Super Bowl is winning the lottery, a Thunder title is finding 5 bucks on the sidewalk. That’s just the price you pay as a bandwagoner, regardless of how pure or pre-emptive or understandable one’s bandwagoning might be.

Yet my decision was somehow inherently less despicable than liking the Lakers or Celtics at the time, or the Heat soon after. And it certainly makes a hell of a lot more sense than anyone getting mad at the Thunder’s increasing popularity now that they are good, if only because you were on board  before anyone else. The term “bandwagon” is not altogether vile, just as being a bandwagon fan is not always and undeniably a scoff-worthy undertaking. I’m proud to be a Thunder fan, apropros of nothing.

And yes, I realize that at this moment, OKC is currently down 2-0 to the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals. I’m not too worried though. I have faith in my squad. Plus, I could always just start rooting for the Spurs.


Thanks for reading

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