Admitting you don’t like sports can be dangerous. Such an admission can hurt you at work when your boss really wants to talk about the BIG game. Some women and no doubt many men won’t date a guy who is clueless about football or that game with the round ball and the net. Worse, you’ll embarrass your kids when their friends’ parents want to get together and talk about their balls.
Heck, David Emanuel isn’t even my real name. I don’t want to get outed for the heresy I’m spewing here.
Recently, I’ve begun to admit out loud that I’m not really a sports guy. But that’s only because I’m in my forties and less worried about having my sexuality questioned or not fitting in with the crowd that wasn’t going to invite me to Saturday’s party anyway. Back in my day, I followed ten simple rules to disguise my contempt for all of America’s favorite past times.
- Scan the sports highlights every other day – This hurts, but it is not so hard once you get used to it. Spend less than a minute skimming ESPN headlines. Know who played and who lost. Guys know these things and they expect you to have them down. You don’t have to get all the details right or even understand exactly what happened. Just know enough that you can nod in the right places.
- Learn the basic rules – If you live in America, this probably isn’t too hard. Society beats this crap into us. You got to know about the four downs in football, the nine innings in baseball, and which shot scores one, two, or three points in that game with the net. Know the simple facts comprising each sport. But don’t worry about soccer and hockey. Nobody understands those rules. Even way up north where I live, I’m pretty sure hockey dads are just making shit up.
- Clap and groan with the crowd – When watching “the game” at a party, follow along with what everyone else is doing. Basically, they clap and cheer during some moments and yell and cuss during others. Practice so you are about a half second behind the leaders. Don’t ever try to get out front and anticipate whether you should clap or groan next. It’s actually super complicated. These guys could probably cure cancer or end world hunger if they focused their minds away from “the game.”
- Find the high-five guy or gal and sit next to them – At most parties, there will be a loud guy or girl who stands half way up every five minutes for a round of high fives. Everyone finds this person annoying. If you sit next to them, you will have many advantages. For one, folks won’t notice you over this clown’s antics. Two, he or she will be telling you how you should feel about every moment in “the game.” It’s a beautiful gift. You could probably read a book in the loudmouth’s shadow and no one would notice.
- Complain only in the most basic ways – If you want to go beyond cheering and groaning, keep it simple. Learn the buzz sentences. “Bad call.” “What were they thinking?” “Are you kidding me?” Keep your complaints simple and do not let anything sophisticated creep in. Everyone else actually knows what off sides means. Use it wrong, and they will smell blood.
- Answer questions with more questions – Occasionally, someone will engage you in a conversation about one of these games. When possible, respond to their questions with more questions. For example, if they ask “Did you watch the Packers game?” you might say “Yeah, what did you think?” or the even more simplistic and eloquent “yeah, you?” Most likely, they will keep talking and you can just nod along until they leave.
- Bite your lower lip a lot – When most guys dance, they basically swing their arms, step side to side, and bite down on their lower lip. They’re not doing it all sexy like Anastasia Steele. It’s more like they’re working on a really bad poop. The same thing happens when guys watch sports, so go ahead and clamp your teeth down. It means you fit in. Or maybe that you understand their pain and are just as uncomfortable with yourself as they are. Heck, everyone might really just have to poop. Honestly, I don’t know what biting your lower lip means. Just do it.
- Buy a shirt with a team name and/or mascot on it – If you wear one of these shirts, people will nod or occasionally say something really rude to you. Don’t get upset. Apparently, it is appropriate to tell someone with a different shirt on that they should go and have sex with themselves. These altercations rarely break down into actual warfare. Except in Los Angeles. Don’t do this in Los Angeles.
I could actually get behind this team.
- Choose a team – People are going to ask what team you like. Pick one. It is probably best to choose either the team where you now live or the one you grew up around. If you want to be really sneaky, align yourself with a team that doesn’t exist anymore. I like to say I supported the L.A. Rams but could care less about Saint Louis. Importantly, don’t choose a team that hasn’t existed during your lifespan. Telling folks you are a Brooklyn Dodgers fan is just going to confuse them and make you look like a smart-ass historian or something equally undesirable.
(Note: I’m convinced this is what is happening with the pervasive love of soccer among hipsters. Since no one really understands soccer, they can latch on to a European soccer club and protect themselves from the abuse of the jockier masses. In then end though, I don’t think this is much different than their obsession with Doctor Who.)
- Pick a sport you can almost stand – If possible, know a little more about a sport that doesn’t bore you as much as the others. I actually like mixed martial arts. That’s the sport where two people enter a cage and beat each other up. There are no balls in the Octagon, so it fits my minimum standards. Most of the fighters have interesting stories that they tell you before the fight. And big matches only happen every now and then, so it’s not hard to keep up. Choose a sport based on whatever criteria you can stomach. Talking about it might give your street cred when the sports you know nothing about come up.
And then (newly added rule for mature sports haters only)
- Decide you don’t care – I am starting to admit the truth in slow increments. Every time I tell someone I don’t like sports, a pound of weight flies off my shoulders. A book angel gets her wings. Somewhere a newborn infant giggles. Or maybe a young boy overhears me and worries a little less about his future.