“Real Fan?” “Bandwagoner?” Does It Matter?

The Internet is wonderful for sports. There is an endless amount of blogs and various sites that are excellent to read; everyday, I read at least three articles, particularly from Zach Lowe, Hardwood Paroxysm and many others in the basketblog (see what I did there?!?) universe, to combat my boredom waiting for my college classes to start. I thank everyone that reads my articles and everyone else’s articles on Daily Knicks, because it truly shows that guys and gals care about their beloved (and frowned upon at times) New York Knicks, and that they care about what I have to say about the team. Seriously, it means a lot to myself and everyone else on the site.

It’s commonplace to see people comment on articles, links to the certain articles on Facebook pages, tweets that contain the link to the article and wherever else. It’s also been said that you should avoid reading the comment section on articles and links to the articles, because, well, I’m about to get into that.

As fans know, the Knicks are struggling once again. This year, though, is a transition year with a brand spankin’ new coach in Derek Fisher, and while it hurts to see them struggle, what else did you expect? First and foremost, it’s the Knicks. I’m used to it by now. But here’s where the comment section part comes in:

I mentioned above that readers, as well as bloggers and writers alike, should think of the comment section as something oblivious, something that should be virtually non-existent to them after reading. But I break the rule all the time, because reading comments make me chuckle, because of how hilarious they can be. And, of course, there are times where I regret breaking the rule by reading the comments, because, you know how mindless they could be.

Lately, as well as for a long, long time, comments about being a “real” Knick fan, a “bandwagoner” Knick fan and several other comment variants are multiplying like cancer cells every time I read a comment section on Knicks-oriented sites and links. It’ll never stop, but I’m going to say this: Stop, in the name of levelheaded Knicks fans sake.

I literally can’t stand people that call themselves “real” Knicks fans. First off, I don’t even know what that means. Actually, I might have a clue; it might mean that the fan has been a die-hard of the team for many years and has never given up on them through thick and thin. It might have some secret meaning that has been shielded from me because I’ve legitimately asked people “what the heck does that mean?” And, not surprisingly, I never got a decent response; it’s just taking the easy way out without having any good reasoning.

Don’t get me wrong, though, I think we’ve all been elitists ourselves at one point in our lives, particularly in the area of sports and, most of the time for others, music. I was one of those people. Some of you that are reading this may still be an elitist at this very moment. For example, in music terms, there’s somebody that likes Nirvana. You ask him/her “what’s your favorite Nirvana song?” They say, “Smells Like Teen Spirit;” you scold until you run out of negative energy and say “wow, what a loser…you’re not a real Nirvana fan” or some other stuff that’s a lot worse that I can say, but I won’t.

In the area of sports, to stay on topic, with the Knicks, the insufferable (sorry, I don’t namedrop, but I have to now) New York Knicks Memes Facebook page (who has an account under the same name) posted a picture of Chris Duhon and asked who it is. There are a few problems with this:

  1. Out of all people, Chris Duhon was the guy to identify.
  2. Why would somebody want to remember Chris Duhon (same goes for Larry Hughes and many, many others)?
  3. The fan would be criticized for not being a “real” fan and would be considered a “bandwagoner” if him/her can’t identify, in this case, Chris Duhon (again, OF ALL PEOPLE).

It’s stuff like that that irks me. Certainly, tons of people jumped ship to the Heat when their Big Three assembled. Certainly, they did leave the American Airlines Arena before Ray Allen hit one of the most clutch threes in NBA playoff history. Absolutely, it was their loss that they missed the epic moment. Indeed, it was a big embarassment to their fanbase. But hey, as much as I despise the Heat, pre-LeBron and post-LeBron, don’t discount that they have had fans since the franchise’s inception in 1989. People called every Heat fan a “bandwagoner” while Lebron was with the Heat, acting as if every Heat fan was a bandwagoner. If you wore a LeBron James Heat jersey, you were definitely going to be called a bandwagoner. Same goes to franchises like the Lakers, one of my least favorite franchises in sports, that have had fans, although, I can’t stand them at all, for decades that probably get called out for being bandwagoners if they’re wearing a Kobe Bryant jersey. They’re insufferable, but saying everyone is a bandwagoner for wearing a popular player’s jersey is just uncalled for. It even happens when Knick fans wear Carmelo Anthony jerseys, too.

On a large scale, I make references that barely anyone understands; if you know/knew me in real life, you would understand. Or if you follow me on Twitter you would also understand (no shameless plug intended). I don’t do it for pure ignorance; it’s who I am. Sometimes, the references are endless, like JFK’s eternal flame…it’ll never stop, no matter what the topic of interest is, sports, music, movies, etc. For example, in the halcyon days of the 2012-13 season, where the Knicks posted whopping three point shooting numbers using small ball lineups, I constantly called them “The Bomb Squad 2.0,” due to their ceaseless use of the three pointer.

But here’s the thing, I don’t make references on purpose to lambast people for not knowing who was in the original Bomb Squad; I just have the tendency to make such references. If a Knick fan doesn’t know who a terrible Knicks player is, then so what? You don’t have to blatantly disparage someone for not knowing Chris Duhon or Sergio Rodriguez or *insert random player from Knicks purgatory (probably from the Isiah-led Knicks) here* or not being a fan of when they were good or if you disagree with someone on a certain aspect, like saying Carmelo Anthony isn’t a top 10 player or anything along those lines. On that note, let me bring up Linsanity.

As a Knick fan, Linsanity was something immensely special. In all seriousness, I don’t think I ever witnessed a sporting phenomenon so gargantuan blow up in my face. The way it happened, the countless amount of puns, the way it took the NBA, country and world by storm, it was pretty much the basketball version of Fernandomania. Who didn’t want to be a part of the Jeremy Lin bandwagon during the breakout phase? It was a very fun time that I’ll never forget.

As a result of Linsanity, people that had little to no interest in basketball became fans of the Knicks and, more importantly, fans of NBA basketball in general. I couldn’t give two craps about the “real” fan aspect during a time of when the Knicks were in dire need of a point guard that wasn’t an injured, decrepit Baron Davis. And then, when Lin left, (I’m assuming) fans of Lin and the Knicks shifted over to Houston, because their basketball hero went elsewhere, prompting people calling Knick fans some of the worst fans in the league. But, however, Emory University’s sports marketing analytics department disagree based off of the field of finances, at least.

Back in 2013, two Emory University professors named Mike Lewis and Manish Tripathi ranked Knicks fans as the best fans in the league during the 2012-13 season, the same year in which they won 54 regular season games and eventually lost to the Pacers in the Eastern Conference semis. Lewis and Tripathi explaining their findings:

These rankings are largely based on consumer surveys or opinion.  In contrast, our method uses statistical models of team revenue results to measure which fan base best votes with their wallets.  Basically, what we do is estimate a statistical model of team box office revenues as a function of the team’s winning percentage, team payroll, market population, arena capacity, number of all-stars, and other factors that capture the quality of the team’s product and revenue potential in a given year. Home Revenue = f(win%, Payroll, Market Population, etc…)

Then, the two go on to talk about their “fan equity” principle:

We then compare team’s actual home revenue with predictions from our model to discern teams that out- or under-perform.*  We call this quantity “Fan Equity.”

Fan Equity = Reported Home Revenue – Predicted Home Revenue

This past offseason, Lewis and Tripathi did more series of analyses on 2013-14 NBA season fan quality. Both have also written fan quality research on MLB, NFL and NHL fans as well over the past two years. For the NBA fan quality bit, they based it off of crazy statistical equations and modeling, which also used their “Fan Equity” principle, again. In layman’s terms, fan loyalty to a certain team. Last season, the Knicks ranked 1st out of all 30 teams last season, with the Lakers, Celtics, Bulls and Heat following suit in the top 5 and the year before that. Here’s the snippet (full article here):

We rank the Knicks 1st, the Lakers 2nd, the Celtics 3rd, the Bulls 4th and the Heat 5th. The Knicks finish is largely driven by their exceptional pricing power. The Knicks sell out while charging the highest prices in the league.

Interesting. The fact that Knick fans would do pretty much anything to go to a game, no matter what the circumstance, actually doesn’t surprise me, despite James Dolan’s sinister reign. The team that we love has perhaps the worst ownership in the NBA, and while it’s debatable, sports period, people still decide to lift the Knicks into the NBA’s top 5 team attendances spending exorbitant prices on tickets. Even during the harrowing Isiah Thomas years, MSG attendance still managed to stay in the top 10 (8th in 2006-07 and 10th in 2007-08, respectively). No wonder why the Garden is nicknamed the Mecca…

The research’s Twitter personality chart revealed nice details. The Knicks have a “surprisingly average fanbase.” There is a disclaimer, where it says the data is only based on Twitter opinions, so that could very well be different in a real life setting. But what we could assume from the research is that the heftiest and most volatile sports market in the United States, where athletes are essentially preyed on by the media, has a stable fanbase, although, when you listen to New York sports talk radio, that’s a totally different story.

The other and final section of the research I want to bring up is their bandwagon fan section or fan sensitivity to winning. The Knicks are ranked 24th. with the Pistons, Sixers, Pacers, Blazers and Kings as the top 5. It seems as if Knick fans are some of the most dedicated to this study. Even throughout the absolute worst times to be a fan, they still went to games. I’m a Met, Jet and Islander fan, so I understand the pain, too.

No matter what fanbase you encounter, there’s always going to be the elitists, the annoying, the uninformed and any kind of fan you can imagine. It’s been said that Knick fans are regarded some of the smartest NBA fans you’ll talk to, contrary to a false popular belief that they’re some of the worst fans in the league. Don’t be one of those people and make the fanbase look bad.

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