(First published in Barhopper – May 2005)
In the late 80s and early 90s, the Bays were bad, really bad. In a vain attempt to create a more competitive franchise, sports writers combined the records of Green Bay and Tampa Bay. The result was Grampa Bay. The effort failed by virtue of elementary mathematics. One piece of crap plus another piece of crap equals one really big turd. Grampa Bay was one of the worst teams in football. Grampa North performed so poorly in Green Bay, that he hosted three games a year in Milwaukee to boost attendance. Despite its recent success, Grampa South still boasts the NFL’s all-time worst winning percentage. [.384] Cometary impact killed the dinosaurs but it would have spared fans of Grampa. They simply did not exist.
If all you know is failure, then change is good. In the mid 1990s, fortunes turned for Old Man Bay. Grampa North acquired a fellow named Favre and by 1994 it was a consistently good football team. Grampa South became a defensive juggernaut. Both franchises won a Super Bowl. Suddenly Old Man Bay had a legion of “loyal” fans. Grampa North stopped playing games in County Stadium, Milwaukee. Suddenly fans were willing to drive one-hundred and ten miles north up I-43. Grampa South moved into a pirate ship and fans actually filled the stadium.
If you dig deep inside the closet of a Grampa fan, then you’re sure to find a Joe Montana jersey on a hanger in the back. The 49ers had a legion of “loyal” fans throughout the 1980s. A large fan base shifted from Dallas to San Francisco soon after Montana hit Clark in the back of the end zone. By the mid-nineties, the 49ers had lost a lot luster and fans needed to jump another train. Brett Favre’s number 4 became the biggest selling jersey in the country.
The trend of jumping someone else’s train appears to be a predominately NFC phenomenon. While Grampa Bay experienced an explosion of new fans, the same cannot be said of recent AFC Super Bowl winners. It took two championships until Tom Brady’s jersey finally cracked the top-ten. Of the ten best selling jerseys last year, eight represented teams that compete in the NFC.
Bandwagon fans lead a lonely life. They cannot possibly have friends to hold them accountable. If I showed up one Sunday in a new Grampa Bay jersey, my friends would give me so much crap that I’d be forced to seek therapy the following Monday. Switching loyalties is not simple. After five years of talking smack about the Niners, you just can’t start hyping the Giants. The neighbors are going to spot you in the driveway swapping out that Cowboys license plate for a new one that announces your allegiance to the Rams. “Hey, what happened to all your Troy Aikman bobble head dolls?”
The author and his wife suffer annually with the New York Jets in section 325 146 at the (New) Meadowlands. The only Joe jersey he’s ever owned was Namath’s number 12