The Identity Crisis of an NFL Bandwagon in 2017

As a guy who has lived his whole life on the Kentucky-Ohio northeastern border, it’s been difficult to choose my professional sports teams. Since I began seriously following sports in high school, my allegiances have progressively shifted away from the Cincinnati teams, which have always been my family’s and friend’s default.  As the 2017 season approached, I knew it was time to separate entirely from a Bengals team caught in a cycle of Marvin Lewis stagnation.  I was going to get it right in 2017.   I began research to determine which team(s) to place my bets on.

The Tennessee Titans were the obvious choice—Nashville is only a few hours from where I attend school and the Titans seemed to have a legitimate chance at winning the AFC South and making a playoff run.   I had concerns after their home loss to the Raiders in Week 1, but their blowout victory at Jacksonville and subsequent win over the Seahawks convinced me that we were on the right track.  Then we traveled to Houston, where Deshaun Watson absolutely shredded the Titans for five touchdowns on 307 yards while MY quarterback, Marcus Mariota, threw for 96 yards and two interceptions.  Never close—a 57-14 Houston annihilation.  I reverted to panic mode: was Deshaun Watson the truth, or was it time to admit the Titans were a garbage franchise?  In retrospect, I think I knew in my heart that it was probably both, but I refused to throw in the towel at that point.  To be sure, every team has its anomalies; I somehow convinced myself that the Titans were actually a good team—that they would return in Week 5 and all would be okay.   Wrong.   Tennessee traveled to Miami and lost 16-10 to Jay Cutler.  The Titans would enter Week 6 with losses to Oakland, Houston and Miami, and I would enter Week 6 on a new bandwagon.  Looking back now, my only regret is that I didn’t jump ship sooner.

But it wasn’t too late.  There was a team in the NFC East.  I could give myself a fresh start—a new conference, a new division, and a new quarterback.  That’s right, I turned to the Philadelphia Eagles, who were coming off a massacre of Arizona to make it to 4-1 on the season with a quarterback already under consideration for 2017 MVP.  Eagles fandom was smooth-sailing: to my knowledge, it was the first time a football team of which I am a fan has ever won nine straight games. Citing Carson Wentz’s stats was a sure-fire way to silence the haters and losers (of which there are many).   What’s more, Wentz single-handedly kept one of my fantasy teams in playoff contention.   Despite a loss at Seattle in Week 13, I was convinced that with Wentz at the helm, we could beat whichever sorry-ass clowns the AFC sent to the Super Bowl (yes, including Tom Brady).  But my world turned upside down the moment Wentz hit the ground in L.A. in Week 14.   Torn ACL. Devastating.   I had to switch allegiances, and quickly.    The 9-3 Rams were enticing, as favorites to win the NFC West with a top-5 defense with a young quarterback- coach combination which appeared to control its own destiny.  There was, however, another team in the NFC: the New Orleans Saints were at 9-4 with a Super Bowl-winning quarterback in Brees, two potential Pro Bowl running backs, a WR in Michael Thomas whom I would have to rely on in two fantasy playoffs, and Sean Payton at the helm of a revived offense.  I hoped to be rooting for a Super Bowl-bound team and thus decided to go with the experience: in one of the most challenging decisions with which I’ve ever been burdened, I boarded the Saints’ bandwagon over that of the Nick Foles-led Eagles (though the Eagles weren’t a bandwagon by any measure at that point).   Besides my initial endorsement of the Titans, this was the second-worst decision I made this season.  In wake of the Saints’ demoralizing loss in the divisional round of the playoffs, I had to make one last-ditch effort to get the 2017 season correct.

I knew it was time to embrace success.  If you don’t embrace success, what do you embrace?    Tom Brady was an easy call.  I became a Patriots fan for the third time in as many playoffs since 2015.  I view it as poetic justice that I became a fan of the team which had just embarrassed my original team (Titans) to an extent which made Tennessee fire its head coach.  Even more poetic justice will be dealt when the Patriots decimate my second bandwagon team, Philadelphia.  And in hindsight, I made a good run this year.   I mean, all four of the teams I rooted for made the playoffs.  Two of them are in the Super Bowl, and one lost on a past-due miracle by Minnesota in the NFC Championship.  It’s a weird chain of events, too, that after the Vikings beat my Saints on said miracle, my Eagles crushed the Vikings for a Super Bowl bid against my current team.  It’s almost like my teams have been looking out for each other.  But now, it’s time for Brady/Bellichick to complete the chain by stomping Philly into the ground, confirming that my proficiency in selecting bandwagons is unparalleled and that 2017 was a net victory for me.  Roll Pats.

-Admin Tam (@tomhall2323)

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