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Toronto Blue Jays bandwagon makes complete sense, says expert

Is anyone surprised that the Toronto Blue Jays all of a sudden have a massive fan following? Eric Simons isn't. He explains the psychology that drives the bandwagon.

Journalist and author explains the rationale that drives fickle fans

Baseball fans battle with Kansas City Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer to catch a pop foul hit by Toronto Blue Jays left fielder Danny Valencia. (USA Today Sports)

Is anyone surprised that the Toronto Blue Jays all of a sudden have a massive fan following? Eric Simons isn't.

"It's totally predictable, and what's funny is it seems so totally rational," said the journalist and author of The Secret Lives of Sports Fans: the Science of Sports Obsession.

On Thursday, the Jays won their 11th straight game to maintain not only their position atop the American League East standings, but also their growing flock of bandwagoners

The rationale that drives fickle fans

When it comes to sports, spectators have difficulty distinguishing between the team and themselves, said Simons. 

"You hear people grumble all the time ... 'We won, we lost.' You didn't win. You didn't lose. You sat on your couch and did nothing at all," Simons said.

Because of this confusion, a winning team presents a kind of get-rich-quick opportunity for fickle fans. They can sit comfortably on the sidelines, waiting for a team to hit its stride before investing emotionally, Simons said.

"When the team wins, you get increased self-esteem. You have this confirmation of your identity. You get increased pride. All these benefits as if you had won personally, even when you didn't," he said.

What drives the die-hard fans

At the other end of the spectrum, we have loyal fans, whose devotion through thick and thin reveals that humans aspire to more than just happiness, Simons said.

"You're willing to put up with quite a bit of loss and pain in order to have that love, to have that connection."

But as social creatures, we've also developed a keen ability to detect who's doing the real work, and who's not, Simons said.

"If you're an invested fan in this team, you've put in the 'work,' you've felt legitimate emotional pain, and now you're going to get your reward, so you're sensitive to the freeloaders," he said.

To hear the full interview with Eric Simons, listen to the audio labelled: The psychology of sports bandwagoners.