Monday, June 2

Of bandwagons and splinters for lack of conviction

There are actual bandwagons, and the notion of jumping on a bandwagon seems to date back to an election in 1848 when a circus performer and clown used his bandwagon to attract attention to his campaign. When the clown/candidate started to be successful, others sought to get a seat on his bandwagon to be associated with his success. I don't know if that's really true--I could spend more time researching it but I'm too busy laughing about the potential genesis of the phrase, especially in light of today's political circuses in which we have candidates/clowns running for office.

But I was actually thinking of sports bandwagons. For example, the recent Game 7 between the Chicago Blackhawks and the LA Kings. I'm not really a hockey fan. I sort of have an idea of what could be happening on the ice but don't recognize most fouls when they happen. I suppose the most important thing is cheering for "your" team when they have a power play opportunity and when they get a goal. So yes, for Game 7, I climbed aboard the Blackhawks bandwagon. Why? They were down 3-0 and made an impressive comeback to force the seventh and deciding game.

I acknowledge, however, I'm a fickle fan. The Blackhawks lost in OT on what looked to me like a cheap chip shot goal, but a goal is a goal so the Kings move on. And now? Well, I don't really care. Yep, sliding off the hockey bandwagon and picking up a few splinters, I'll wager. Next sport?

I was watching the NCAA Men's Lacrosse Championship game between Notre Dame and Duke. Why? It was on. I really don't know much about lacrosse, but I was hooked. Who to root for? Well, Duke. I'm a Duke basketball fan, ergo, I'll be a Duke lacrosse fan. You're expecting better rationale? Get real.

I really was hooked. I was fascinated by the game--the skill, the speed, the endurance required of those players. Duke took a commanding lead but Notre Dame came back hard after the half. But Duke on its heels and it was an incredible play of speed and deft touch that won the game for Duke. I'm still on the lacrosse bandwagon, and I want more lacrosse.

The past few days I was watching the Women's College World Series. I tend to favor the SEC because I grew up with the SEC but I'm also a Ducks fan. I watched the Kentucky-Baylor game while working on a project. I stopped working on my project in the 6th inning. Down 7-0, the Baylor Bears were 1 run shy of the mercy run rule when they did their weird water buffalo rallying thing and started their comeback. They put a few runs on the board and got their heads back in the game. Baylor held Kentucky at the top of the 7th and put 4 more runs on the board to tie the game at the end of the 7th. Un-freaking-believable. Who knew softball could be so exciting? Baylor is out of it after losing the next day to Alabama; the Ducks are gone after losing to the apparently unstoppable Florida Gators. So best of 3 series is back in the SEC between Florida and Alabama, two schools I refuse to cheer for on general principle. Pshaw. But it could be an interesting match-up, so maybe I'll watch. I like softball, so that wasn't really climbing on a bandwagon as much as paying attention; I may be rationalizing here.

My point? We climb up on bandwagons when something seems successful, fun, exciting. When it's a new shiny that captures our attention. But most of us are fickle because we don't join the party until it is a party. Unlike Cubs fans who are Cubs fans. Period. Unlike true believers in whatever they choose to believe, whether their team or group or organization is being successful, having fun, or generating excitement.

Theodore Roosevelt wrote in his Letters (1899, published 1951), "When I once became sure of one majority they tumbled over each other to get aboard the band wagon." And just as easily and quickly as people tumble each other to get aboard, they'll tumble over each other to get off the bandwagon when things are no longer successful, fun, or exciting.

Too few of us seem to be individuals of conviction. Thomas Carlyle wrote "Conviction is worthless unless it is converted into conduct." But it's easier to hide our beliefs, to shelter our convictions in case we are the minority, in case we might be mocked or ridiculed, in case we might not hold the popular position. Then we deserve to get splinters in our butts.

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