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How to Talk to People: Sports Fan Edition

I am not the easiest person to have a sports discussion with if you do not care about the topic as much as me. Learn from my shortcomings.

Sports Betting at a Las Vegas Casino by Baishampayan Ghose is under CC BY-SA 2.0

How to Talk to People: Sports Fan Edition


Estimated Reading Time: 5 Minutes

If you’re a die-hard sports fan, you typically have conversations with three of the following types of people:

  • Fellow die-hard fans of your favorite teams
  • Die-hards fans who hate your favorite teams
  • Fans of your favorite teams who don’t care or follow it nearly as much as you

Now conversations with the first group are easy and fun. Typically, you share similar opinions and spend most of the time talking about good memories.

Conversations with the second group also can be easy because you both know at some point the conversation will reach a point where neither of you will back down and a simple “Nomar was better than Jeter” or “The Patriots are cheaters” or “Canada wishes they could banish the Maple Leafs” will end the argument (in fisticuffs or otherwise).

The conversations with the third group can be trickier as these are typically people in your life you like and who like you, but there’s a limit to where these conversations can go. Obviously, they are making an effort to talk to you about something you care about that is not as important to them. This is super nice of them. They didn’t have to do that. There are literally so many other things they could have done with their time besides that. There are SIX seasons of “Schitt’s Creek” that everyone should watch.

And yet…

I’m not a perfect man. I burp aloud often and I spend at least 1 minute per month reconfirming in my head whether or not dragons ever existed.

I also can’t just let things go. I’m a corrector. It sucks. I hate it. The people who love me, hate it.

But this personality fault rears its ugly head most when I am having a conversation with someone who doesn’t care about sports as much as I do and says something perfectly fine, that is also incorrect or just plain off, and I have to address it.

So let me walk you through a few examples of what could be said, what I would say and what you should say instead so if you’re ever in a similar situation you can see how to handle it. As always, do as I say, not as I do.

Scenario 1 – The unbelievable record

The situation

A co-worker has engaged you in a cordial conversation about baseball. The co-worker expressed a general knowledge of the sport and its players, but then in all seriousness says, “David Ortiz was a beast though. Did he hit .500 that year?”

What I would say

“Well, no. No player in history has ever come close to that. In fact, no one has even hit .400 since Ted Williams hit .406 in 1941.”

What you should say

“Oh man, he had a great year. What a player!”

The lesson

What did me saying that accomplish? Was it necessary? No. Be better. You don’t need to tell them they were wrong; you also don’t need to confirm they’re right in that David Ortiz had at one time shattered an unbreakable record.

Scenario 2 – The historical miscue

The situation

A friend is talking to you about a recent sports documentary on TV, and mentions, “Yeah, I didn’t know the Dodgers were from Brooklyn and then moved to Los Angeles.”

What I would say

“What? You really didn’t know that? But Jackie Robinson debuted on the Brooklyn Dodgers, it was a big thing. Ebbets Field? Nothing?”

What you should say

“Crazy, right? And the San Francisco Giants used to be the New York Giants too!”

The lesson

History is difficult. Also, you shouldn’t be judged by your knowledge of historical events of something you’re clearly not invested in. And, let’s not ignore the subtle undertone of me acting like I am some kind of Civil Rights leader because I know what team Jackie Robinson first played for. My parents should be ashamed.

Scenario 3 – The clock is winding down

The situation

You’re in a group setting and your team is losing. A part of your collective gathering says your favorite team should do something that would put the best player in a position to succeed, and openly wonders why that isn’t happening more.

What I would say

“They’re not doing that because…”

What you should say

“Damn right, let’s go team! We’re still in this!”

The lesson

It does not matter how I finished my sentence because whatever came out of my mouth simply equals, “I’m an asshole and screw you for trying to voice an opinion during a sporting contest between people we do not know.” If you really can’t bring yourself to completely ignore this kind of statement, then there are beers to chug, wings to eat and bathrooms to go quietly scream in until it leaves your system.

Scenario 4 – The Casual GM

The situation

It’s the holidays and your successful relative with a passing interest in sports brings up an offseason decision for your team and lays out a “fool-proof solution”. They utter the inevitable, “Here’s what I would do…”

Now it’s not Costanza level GM skills, but it’s close enough and in no way addresses a myriad of reasons of why this plan is impossible/not allowed under league rules.

What I would say

“There’s just no way that would work with the salary cap. You’re talking about trading draft picks, who make no salary, for guys who make $20 million each. Is this the type of math being done at your company? Because if so, that stock is about to go in the fucking toilet. Also, thank you for the gift card. It was very thoughtful.”

What you should say

“Sure, that could work. Hey, is that the turkey timer?”

The lesson

You spend maybe 5 hours total with your relatives a year at this point. And the gift card probably covers the latest release of Madden so just humor them. Maybe a 2nd round pick for LeBron could work, you don’t know.

Scenario 5 – Monday Morning Quarterbacking the GOAT

The situation

Anyone in your life questions an in-game or personnel decision made by Bill Belichick.

What I would say

Nothing. The cops would show up before I was done and had time to say anything.

What you should say

“I think he’s earned the right to not be second-guessed by amateurs.”

The lesson

Have some respect for a man with eight Super Bowl rings. There are some things even I won’t tell you to let slide.

Terry is from Massachusetts and is a passionate fan of the Patriots, Celtics, Red Sox and Bruins. He also will admit he only pays attention to Syracuse basketball when they're good. If there's a Twitter trade rumor even remotely associated with one of his teams, he's likely fallen for it. Finally, he believes 100% that if the Celtics had beaten the Heat in the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals they would have swept the Thunder in the Finals.

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