For a lot of people, this is what professional sports represent. A fun diversion that they don't really invest themselves into heavily. These people aren't fanatics; they're casual observers who only stand up and take notice when something big is happening (like a deep playoff run).
I can't get that worked up about that type of "observer" (to call them fans is an insult to real fans). Now if someone I knew who'd been a Devil fan for years suddenly decided to switch allegiances to the Rangers because of what they've done this season...THAT person I'd have absolutely no use for as a sports fan.
What you hope for is that a percentage of these observer-types might decide to take the next step and slowly but surely educate themselves on the finer points of the game, choose a team, and stick with them instead of going with the hot hand. But no matter what, there will always be observer, go with the lead-horse types.
The diehard fan lives and dies with their team. There have been more downs for my side since 20 years ago. We are the ones who endured miserable teams and embarrassing losses. Something you and the older Devil fan can relate to. As you stated in the part I bolded, there'll always be that casual fan who jumps on board. They'll buy the hat, t-shirt and support the team. It happens in every sport. A team has success and suddenly you see more people wearing jerseys, etc. I think Mike Vaccaro summed it up perfectly in his column. Appropriated entitled, Everybody hop aboard: Rangers bandwagon transcends hockey. Here is the part I identify with.
Look, the core Rangers fans will shake their heads at this, and it might bother them a bit, and there may even be cause for this to aggravate them a lot. Fans suffer far more often than they savor, they spill blood a lot more regularly than they sip champagne, and by rights that faith should be rewarded a hundred times over when a beautiful ride like this Rangers ride falls out of the sky for them.
And here’s the thing: They know who they are, and they can identify one another pretty easily, the ones who fight through the snow because they have upper-level tickets to see a Garden game in January, the ones who stay up past 1 a.m. on work nights to see overtime and the shootout from Calgary or Edmonton, the ones who knew enough to instantly embrace Martin St. Louis, the ones prescient enough to have added a Dominic Moore sweater to their collection even before Wednesday’s game-winner.
Is the bandwagon type annoying? Absolutely. I have been tagged in silly posts on Facebook with We Want The Cup. In the world of social media, it is what it is. I identify more with the fans on Twitter. Most of your hardcore fans are on there who love not just their team but enjoy the sport. They'll watch no matter what. They know how great the Blackhawks and Kings are and understand how challenging it'll be. The West is miles ahead of the East. In our conference, only one team was a favorite. The Bruins. The Canadiens knocked them out doing us a favor. That wouldn't have been a favorable match-up. Out of the top four in the East, three hailed from the poorly named Atlantic including the Lightning, who lost Bishop and any chance they had. Montreal made quick work of them. The Pens were a favorite only due to the big names. But anyone who saw them knew they were fragile. The Islanders pushed them last year and the Jackets did but didn't have enough experience to pull it off. Montreal was the second best team left. They were the toughest one the Rangers went through. They proved it despite losing Price. The Canadiens should be good for years.
DR brought up a good point about the SCF. There aren't many upsets. I didn't view the '95 Devils over the Wings as one because they had the experience of losing a classic ECF. Underdog? Yes. But shocking? No. I never understood why so many took Detroit without blinking an eye. They showed no respect for that Devil team. The Rangers will be a decided underdog. I'm fine with that. It's either the pulverizing Kings or the defending champion Hawks. The two last Cup winners. It's a big step up. They are great teams with super talent. Tonight's game is a pick 'em. On the point of a team coming out of nowhere to win, the 2012 Kings weren't expected to but it all came together following the trade for Carter. If you think about it, that SCF wasn't expected. How many had it? In terms of who the favorite was, I think it was LA.