Sydney and the Art of Bandwagoning

Sydney faces its biggest bandwagoning conundrum in a generation, and boy it’s a doozy.

Let me start by defending the practice of joining a bandwagon: supporting a club or team when they are successful, and dumping them when they are not. Bandwagoning, or being a Johnny Good-Times, is a product of the sporting environment in which we find ourselves.

Indeed, in the Emerald city where we are spoilt when it comes to sporting options, we’ve perfected the art of bandwagoning. There are so many sport viewing opportunities, whether it be rugby league, rugby union, AFL, the A League, the NBL or netball, that there simply isn’t enough time to watch it all. So we pick and choose. It’s not a matter of being flakey. It’s about time management.

In Sydney, there are two teams that lend themselves to the practice of bandwagoning more than anyone else – and this year they’re winning. A lot.

First there is the team formerly known as South Melbourne, the Sydney Swans, who have won twelve games on the trot. They are now short odds to win the flag, and are also being described in various quarters as “the most exciting team in Australian sports”.

Everyone is getting on board with the good times. But if you live in Sydney and haven’t caught a Swans game, it’s cool. The finals are still months’ away. In fact, you could probably wait until the day before Grand Final to hop on board the bandwagon, because the Swans are just so darned accommodating.

I like to imagine the Swans bandwagon as a big ol’ jalopy with plush leather bench seats, loads of leg room and swing music blaring through its speakers. There’s plenty of people inside, and it’s so packed that some people are even hitching a ride by standing on the running boards of the exterior of the ride. These people are also dancing and waving their hands in the air in jubilation.

Despite the closed quarters of the jalopy, everyone bar none is having a grand, old time. It’s kind of like a scene out of the Great Gatsby. There’s a lot of movement, loud music, smiling and alcohol is being consumed like it was moonshine during the prohibition-era.

"Are you having a good time, old sport?!"
“Are you having a good time, old sport?!”

But I also see the Swans bandwagon as equal parts Noah’s Ark. It’s a very big boat, that’s for sure. But just when you think there’s no way it can’t take on any more animals, old Noah manages to find an Queen-sized bedroom with an ensuite for the two latest stragglers. Because everyone can and must fit on.

My point is, the Sydney Swans bandwagon is not only very roomy, but it is also very welcoming. The people on board are warm, hospitable and gregarious to a fault. All you need to do is buy a scarf, show up, yell out the word “Ball” intermittently during the match, murmur along to the club song after a win, and it’s like you had been a member of the Swans family for decades.

In contrast, the NSW’s other perennial good times pals, the Waratahs – who have won their last seven and booked a home finals berth – have a bandwagon that while roomy, is much less accommodating.

It’s easy to join the Waratah bandwagon. You can buy a ticket to the game and wear your Tahs’ scarf. But unless you went to a prestigious GPS school and have property in the Southern Highlands, you’ll never truly be accepted onto this bandwagon. You will always be an outsider.

Unlike most teams, ones support for the Waratahs is not measured by years’ of dedication. It’s measured by where  your father works, who your mother plays tennis with, or which French ski resort you holiday at. Somewhat perversely, wearing a Waratahs jersey to a match will not elicit looks of approval from other stadium-goers. But wearing a tattered Kings School 1996 Rugby Tour jumper will.

Wearing an old high school blazer will also ensure approval from your peers
Wearing an old high school blazer will also ensure approval from your peers

None of this will stop Sydneysiders embracing both teams. And nor should it.

Sin City loves a winner and we have a proud history of getting behind success stories, and then dropping them when things turn south (see: Sydney Kings).

It’s time to take the shame out of bandwagoning. Let’s face it, modern sport has essentially become a bunch of TV shows. You tune in to watch your favourite sport, and when it bores you, you change channels. The economy that has been built up around modern sports encourages, and expects, people to switch teams and codes at the drop of a hat.

So let’s embrace the badwagon. Jump on board and support a winning team. Toast their successes and sing the team song. But when they lose, jump back off and ignore their existence yet again – until they start winning again, of course.

The question is, which team to support? With time a precious commodity in the digital age/Asian century, most Sydneysiders can only choose one extra team? Will it be the Swans or the Tahs? The footy or the rah-rahs? Having to listen to Eddie McGuire or Peter Fitzsimons?

It’s a tough decision, but Sydney has faced this conumdrum before. I trust we will make the right choice.


By Ben Shine


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