I’m grateful for and proud of growing up in Miami. Being a fan of all the sports teams Miami has to offer is something that I have devoted myself to. The Dolphins, the Marlins, the Heat, or the Hurricanes –win or lose– are the teams I have always been loyal to.
However, one thing that’s disappointed me for years about this city that I call home, is that I see this city trapped in what I consider the “black hole” of sports fandom.
The Bandwagon Effect.
This past baseball season, the Miami Marlins recorded the lowest attendance numbers in Major League Baseball History since 2004, drawing only 10,013 fans per game. It doesn’t stop there. In a game back in April, only 6,960 fans attended a game which was lower than the first home game of the Marlins minor league affiliate team.
A team that just a few years ago had a ballpark built to seat 36,742 fans struggled for an entire 162-game season to bring in half of that number. Now, don’t get me wrong. It’s tough to watch a team with one of the worst records in the MLB, but I’ve always felt that win or lose, you have to go out there and support your team.
That’s where the bandwagon effect comes in. A bandwagon fan is someone who only supports teams when they are winning. The same fans who will drop a team once they start losing and move on to another winning team. Many “bandwagons” don’t know much about sports because they are constantly hopping from team to team.
This is an epidemic that has consumed Miami professional sports teams over a few years and something that I feel has destroyed the integrity of sports here in my city.
It isn’t just the Marlins.
According to Statista, the Miami Heat’s yearly attendance numbers have decreased since 2014. They went from about 808,000 total fans have attended games in 2014 to 785,250 in 2018.
In 2014, LeBron James left for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Heat legend, Dwyane Wade, departed in 2016. The loss of such players contributed to a fall in performance for the team. So much so that Miami missed the playoffs in 2017. Overall, the Heat went from making the NBA Finals from 2011 to 2014 to barely reaching the playoffs in 2018.
Miami is marred by sports fans who only seem to be interested when someone is winning. As soon as the going gets rough, the numbers show that fans lose interest.
The Hurricanes are a team that have been experiencing a lot of popularity lately. This is partly because the football team is back to its winning ways. After experiencing an average paid attendance of about 45,000 fans from 2011 to 2015, the team had seen an explosion of support in 2017 when the average paid attendance sky-rocketed to about 58,500 fans per game. This was the highest average attendance for the Hurricanes football team since 2004. Now, in 2018 the hype for the U continues.
“Miami is an event city,” said Cam J. Underwood of SB Nation, in a November 2017 article. “Miami is getting back to the kind of performance we all expect, and South Florida supports winners.”
In other words, this city is more worried about any sports event receiving hype and not about what it means to attend these games to support your team. Worst of all, this lack of loyalty towards Miami sports teams disappoints members of the sports organizations, and at times, athletes as well.
“We’re not happy with the number of people in here,” said Miami Marlins CEO, Derek Jeter, in an interview with the Sun Sentinel back in May. “Bottom line is we want more people to come here.”
This worries me because it destroys the integrity of being a sports fan. I feel sports fans are supposed to be there for their teams no matter what. Filling up seats at stadiums and arenas doesn’t go unnoticed by those teams. The truth is that when fans are showing up to back up a team, the athletes appreciate it. How many times do you hear at the end of games athletes reminding everybody just how important it is that fans showed up?
Miami lacks the fan bases that teams like the Chicago Cubs or the Boston Celtics have held for so long. The Cubs didn’t win a World Series for 108 years and they still had sold out games.
The clock is ticking in Miami. I fear if the people of this city continue to mirror the characteristics of a sports “bandwagon” fan base, then athletes won’t want to play here anymore or players for other teams won’t want to come.
What if there will never be fan loyalty here in Miami? It could even cause us to lose these teams. Sports history has shown us that cities where sports teams are not receiving much support, eventually lose those teams. The Montreal Expos of the MLB experienced something like that when they were moved to Washington or when the Vancouver Grizzlies of the NBA lost their franchise to Memphis.
But there is still hope.
“The point is people like to live in the present and are at heart pessimistic. You can’t change that, but us young fans can engage with these ‘bandwagon’ fans and discuss with them the importance of sticking with our sports teams here,” said Miami sports super-fan and FIU Biology student, Kevin Tomey. “The young people need devote themselves to changing the sports culture here in Miami and establishing fan bases built off of loyalty and not just hype.”
Like Tomey, I still feel that young fans can do something about this decline in loyalty here in Miami.
The hope I have lies within my generation. Generation Z is the next wave of sports fans and we are the ones who can establish the foundation for loyalty to sports teams here in the 305. Gen Z is the first generation to have come of age with all of Miami’s sports teams having been established. Especially the Marlins and the Heat, who were created in 1991 and 1988; respectively. It is up to Miami’s youth to instill fan loyalty in the sports culture here.
So, I challenge the youth in Miami to start fighting back against this Bandwagon Effect.
But it needs to start now before it’s too late.
Find more statistics at Statista