Don’t Fear the Bandwagon: A Fan’s Appreciation of the Playoffs

I will confess: I have missed the last two weeks of the playoffs. I was in Europe where local sports stations couldn’t care less about the NBA or NHL. So while watching cycling highlights (which were surprisingly interesting), I was scouring the interwebs to read about the Los Angeles Clippers imploding, Steph Curry (and those bedroom eyes) taking a horrific tumble, and the rise of the NBA playoffs’ real star, Riley Curry.

Every major team sport has a playoff season (welcome to the party, college football), and in that brief time every fan becomes a fiend for the sport. Suddenly, an entire community of us gets jonesing for the spectacular, the brave, the dramatic, and the unexpected.

It got me thinking back to the Clippers’ epic series against the Spurs. During Game 7, I was at a little boy’s first birthday party. It was lovely — pinatas, streamers, goodie bags, little one year olds running around high on cake and sugar and the excitement of being one. But the most memorable moments of the evening came during those last six minutes between the Clippers and the Spurs. I even remember exactly how I watched: leaning on a couch devouring my second slice of cake.

Here’s the thing; no one in that room was truly a Spurs or Clippers fan, not really. Some liked the Spurs but, being in a quaint LA suburb, most people there bled purple and gold. But that didn’t matter. Sides were taken anyway, and for all sorts of reasons. Whether it was loving the appeal of a defending champion, or rooting for the underdog, underachieving Clip show, this was a room full of dads AND moms holding their kids while cheering on blocked shots and bemoaning fouls.

But that’s the joy of the playoffs. Whether or not your team makes it, suddenly you are a fan. Part of the appeal of the playoffs is simply that they’re short. Unlike the slog of regular season games shown at random times. During the playoffs you get a more manageable set of teams to choose from. There’s also consistency. The same teams play each other in a best of 7 series. This gives the casual, agnostic fan just enough time to figure out who everyone all is and pick a side. For this brief glimmer of time you can be a good-natured bandwagoneer.

Didn't know my neighbors were all Rangers fans until last night. -- Ed.
Didn’t know all my neighbors were Rangers fans until last night. — Ed.

As I watched Golden State win the Western Conference Finals this week I had a twinge of sadness. Not because I wanted the Rockets to win, but because it is during the playoffs one remembers why they are forever in love with “the game.” The Warriors have shown an insane amount of perseverance (there was BLOOD dripping out of Klay Thompson’s ear). And Lebron James is going to his 5th straight finals with essentially last season’s Knicks (they couldn’t have done this while in a Knicks jersey? Thanks Shump).

So whether your team made it, or if you are an agnostic with a newly adopted team, just for a few months, the playoffs will make you a fanatic.

Added bonus: two months of Riley Curry. C’mon, who could resist?

LATA PANDYA | @LataPandya

Lata Pandya is an award-winning TV and radio journalist. Currently she works as a producer on the Los Angeles-based public television news magazine show SoCal Connected. She freelances with several news organizations in the LA Area. Lata holds an undergraduate degree from University of California, Santa Barbara and a graduate degree from the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California. She is known to be notorious about watching sports  while researching public policy stories. Lata is a 2015 Dat Winning fellow.

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