Jump on the Band Wagon!

A bandwagon fan is a phrase used among sports fans and sports writers to describe a fan that only roots for popular or successful sports teams. This kind of fan is typically despised by fans who consider themselves to be die-hard fans.

In sports, bandwagons fan support their team only when they are winning. They will often “jump” on or off the “bandwagon” of teams depending on the their most recent success. Bandwagon fans will often leave a game before completion because their team is losing. Bandwagon fans will cheer for another team if their team is not doing well – just to cheer for a winning team. Bandwagon fans will only support their team when they are successful, but will claim they have always supported the team.

However, just because a sports team wins frequently does not mean the team will have bandwagon fans. A team must not only win but must also have dynamic and popular players on the team for a successful bandwagon to begin rolling. This is what is called the bandwagon effect. This effect results in people doing (or believing) things because so many other people are doing (or believing) the same thing.

60370_1612026063526_1140087_nI have never been accused of being a bandwagon fan when it comes to sports teams. I live and die with my teams – Purdue and The Minnesota Twins.  There is certainly evidence of bandwagon fans all around – faded jerseys, claims of allegience, March Madness will do that to folks.

Which bandwagon have you jumped on/off?  Why do we call it a bandwagon anyway?

Literally, a bandwagon is a wagon that carries the band in a parade or circus. The phrase “jump on the bandwagon” was first used in American politics in 1848 as a result of Dan Rice. Dan Rice was the first truly great American clown, as well as the first clown star of the circus. Dan Rice was born in New York City in 1823. He made his first appearance as a circus clown in Galena, Illinois in 1844 at $15 a week. Gradually his popularity grew and it became so great that he was able to buy his own shows, both wagon and riverboat. He is often regarded as a forerunner of Will Rogers. By 1862 he was earning over $50,000 a year (over a million dollars in today’s terms). Rice and President Lincoln were good friends and Rice was often referred to as the president’s court jester.

In 1848, he campaigned for Zachary Taylor for president. Rice used his own circus bandwagon for Taylor’s appearances, gaining great attention by way of the music. He would invite Taylor to ride on the circus bandwagon in the circus parades. As Taylor’s campaign became more successful, more politicians sought a seat on the bandwagon, hoping Taylor’s popularity would benefit them as well. People would comment, “Look who is on Taylor’s bandwagon,” inspiring the phrase “jump on the bandwagon.”

By the 1900 presidential campaign, bandwagons had become a standard fixture of campaigns, and ‘jump on the bandwagon’ was now being used as a derogatory term, implying that people were associating themselves with something without considering what they had associated themselves with. And as they current saying goes, “now you know the rest of the story.”

Perhaps Palm Sunday was the first bandwagon:

The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna!” 

 “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

 “Blessed is the King of Israel!” 

Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it, as it is written, “Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.”  

Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. Many people, because they had heard that he had given this miraculous sign, went out to meet him. 

So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!”                John 12:12-19 (NIV) 

Who knew that a donkey could carry that many people? And yet, by the end of this week, we will ask, “Where did they all go?” The bandwagon will be empty by week’s end and our wagon leader will walk the streets alone.

As John wrote about Palm Sunday, it seemed the whole world was following Jesus.  That would not be the case later in the week when the crowd would turn and yell, “Crucify!”

So as you gather with friends and cheer on the team of choice, consider for a moment the choices you make as part of the crowd.  And then ask yourself,  “Where you will be when the cries of Hosanna turn to shouts of Crucify?”

I know where I want to be, but the illusion of victory is hard to resist.

See you Sunday, I’ll be in the parade waving palms.


I am a United Methodist Pastor and have the privilege of serving as the Senior Pastor for the church of my childhood. I preach in a place I once was an acolyte. I love to preach, but more importantly I love to teach. I firmly believe that Faith Matters and should affect how we live. This blog is a place where I come to share the randomness that is life and faith ... and the intersection of the two.

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