Advice for Awkward People

Dear Jade,

I did it. I made it through Super Bowl Sunday. It took a lot of nodding vacantly, yelling because everyone else is, and shoving my mouth full of guac to avoid making conversation. But I made it through with my social status relatively intact. I even got a reputation as a champion guac eater out of it! But it doesn't really matter. The relentless sports season calendar marches on, and I'll be facing baseball season soon enough. (shudders)

See, the thing is, I am absolutely hopeless when it comes to sports. Football, soccer, basketball, hockey … you name it, I don’t get it. I’ve had the rules explained a hundred times. God, I even played soccer growing up. I still have absolutely no idea what’s going on on the field. I can’t even spot the ball 90 percent of the time. And don’t even get me started on hockey. I’m not convinced anyone knows where the puck is or what’s going on till a fight breaks out.

In the past, my abysmal understanding of sports didn’t matter. But now that I’m at college, it’s coming back to bite me. Friends ask me out to sports bars to “watch the game.” (What game? What sport are they even talking about? What is the code that clues me in to which game is “the” game?) The boyfriend wants to stay in on Sunday to watch football. And then there are the dreaded high holy days of sports: the World Cup, the World Series, and, of course, the Super Bowl. Sports are suddenly everywhere in my life! This is the kind of thing I came to Carnegie Mellon to avoid! How do I fake my way through these social events? I don’t want people to know I don’t know what’s going on and feel like they need to teach me for the thousandth time or, worse, think I’m bored and not invite me next time. I love the chips and dip too much for that!

Please teach me how to be a pretend Sports fan.

Sadly People Overly React to Sports


First of all I'd like to say: CELEBRITY SHOT! I'm standing in for Sarah this week, but I'm sure I'll be able to help you out. I understand your troubles. It can be hard to be out of the loop when everyone seems to be fluent in a lingo that you have no idea about (pretty much me whenever someone talks about baseball). But, there are ways to overcome these troubles!

My boyfriend experienced a similar issue. Everyone would ask him about football and to deter attention, he used to say that his favorite team was the worst and arguably most hated team in the NFL, the Cleveland Browns. After a while, he started to acquire an actual interest in this team. It did kind of backfire in his case, because he ended up being an actual fan of the actual worst team in the NFL, but I think that's the whole reason it worked. He picked the worst team and so no one ever wanted to talk to him about football.

Try finding an unpopular team from each sport, and when you say that's your team, everyone will be so filled with disgust that they'll never ask you about sports again! They'll still invite you to watch parties because they'll be able to see that you clearly have an interest in sports.

But you should also maybe try giving sports an honest try. My dad always said that one good thing about sports is that they could make an awkward conversation a lot less awkward. Say you see a recruiter at EncompassCMU wearing a Steelers hat. Mention their performance this season and you've already got an icebreaker! For some reason, people think that other people who like the same sports teams as them must be good people, so the recruiter will automatically think you're trustworthy and that you have a good sense of judgment.

Sports can also be genuinely fun to engage in if you love smack talk and making fun of other people's opinions. I'd really give it a try sometime because you might be surprised how exciting you find sports when you end up rooting for a team that you've invested a lot of years in.

Jade Crockem (in for Sarah Gutekunst as she looks after her two hamsters)