Written by David Vogel Tuesday, 17 January 2012 15:42
My grandma likes to tell a story from her childhood years in Mountain Lake, Minn., about her mother feeding hobos.
Apparently once the bums got to town, they would find their way to my great-grandmother’s backdoor, where she would always oblige them with a meal.
The train-jumping vagabonds, it turns out, had developed a universal system of coded symbols that they would leave behind to alert other hobos to important information. A square missing its top line, for example, meant it was safe to camp in that location, while a triangle with hands signified the homeowner had a gun.
Apparently passing-through bums had left a series of marks directing others to my great-grandmother’s house, as their presence was a frequent occurrence.
That said, last weekend I felt like a new hobo with bad directions.
On Saturday, a truly historic event occurred: wife Hanna and I intentionally sat down—without the presence of influencing friends or family—at 7 p.m. to watch a football game.
Neither one of us are much into football. First, it just seems kind of silly. Seriously, grown men are getting paid millions to run around with a ball and knock each other down.
Not to mention, if I wanted to see outfits with gaudy color combinations and shoulder pads, I’d just pull out the church pictorial directory from 1991.
Yet there we were, a couple of newbie football fans ready to watch the big game: fresh inductees into the Tim Tebow fan club.
That’s right: we were in it for Tebow.
By chance, we happened to see the Broncos’ exciting over-time victory from their previous game, with the winning pass—is that the right technical jargon you football fans use?—soaring in from Tebow. We’d been hearing about Tebow for months, and now we wanted to see him in action.
But as anyone who is keeping up with football knows, Saturday’s game wasn’t nearly as exciting as we had hoped.
I should have been prepared for that. I’ve jumped on several fast-moving bandwagons in my day—Furbies, Giga Pets and high school algebra, for example—and they all fizzled on me just as I got on board.
The phrase “jump on the bandwagon” actually has a very literal historic origin, I might add.
The term was first coined in 1848 when a popular circus clown—his name was Dan Rice, if you must know—used his parade bandwagon and its lively music to draw attention to his campaign to elect Zachary Taylor president.
When the campaign became more successful, other politicians wanted to get seats on his bandwagon, hoping they, too, could be associated with his success. By 1900, the phrase “jump on the bandwagon” gained a negative connotation, as it implied people were only associating themselves with success no matter what that association was.
(Incidentally, Rice also helped originate the phrases “one horse show” and “the greatest show on earth.”)
As you may have guessed, Hanna’s and my Tebow bandwagon experience didn’t last long, as the Broncos—what’s that technical jargon you football fans have for it?—bit it hard.
It just goes to show that if you blindly follow the path others have laid, you’re liable to get bummed out.