So I find myself considering opening day today as the Cincinnati Reds are preparing to take the field and Major League Baseball kicks off for 2015. In all honesty, it’s been years since this kind of thing even came close to my radar. During that time, I could barely tell you what season of sport we were in but there was a time when it was a part of my life.
Many years back, I was in a relationship that was filled with sporting events and I’ll admit I cared a lot. In college I was part of a student group that had free center court tickets for every UK basketball game. I traveled for years with a boat racing series. I’ve done races at the Kentucky Speedway and I’ve pulled for losing teams.
Now, I never really cared enough to hang week to week, but when we got to the big moments like the Super Bowl, the World Series, March Madness, the Stanley Cup, the Gold Cup or the Dayton 500 (a couple examples), I was right there for the gatherings and the parties cheering on my sports team of choice. It was fun, but I would never define myself as a “sports guy”. My sports were always much more of the D-20, pen, paper and epic storytelling kind. It just engaged my noggin more than bashing heads together over a ball and I liked that.
That said, there was always an expectation, especially in the business world that I be a sports guy. Time and again I would run into the stray individual who would want to use sports as a soft entry to casual conversation. “So did you catch the cats last night?” was the kind of thing I would hear a lot especially when working at the University of Kentucky for over 18 years. For a very long time I would simply launch into a “I’m not really that kind of guy” explanation, but I got tired of it. Over time, I got a little more devious with it.
What did I do? Okay, I’m going to drop a life hack for the non-sports-folks out there.
You simply need to listen. Listen when NPR or your local news injects a fact or two into your life. It’s always there at the edge of our collective consciousness and most non-sports-types go all Charlie Brown adult-mumble-voice in their head and blur it out like the words are incomprehensible unless you focus. Life hack… Listen and commit two, exactly two, facts to memory.
It’s all you need. With those two facts you are set. When the “bro” or “bro-ess” conversations come up, you can feel like a sports pro by dropping those two facts subtly into the discussion. Knowing one major play and one result is all you need. When they ask if you caught the game all you have to say is “yeah, how about that crazy foul” and “at least they pulled it out in the end”. With that you’ve said enough. From there the true sports fan will run with it and all you need do is nod, smile, listen and suddenly your feeling like a pro sports ball kinda person.
I know that sounds cynical, but I playfully did it for years. It was a fun game to play and I would usually end up explaining how I wasn’t that big into sports, but it was like a private challenge to see how much this non-sports guy could roll with the sports conversation. Usually the enthusiasm of the other individual was a bit infectious and I ended up learning a thing or two I didn’t know before. It was fun.
Now, please understand I’m not adverse to sports. In fact, thanks to a celebration Ginny and I shared with our good friends Kristen and Aaron, I found myself really digging into professional Football last year. To explain, they were watching the FX series “The League” and kicked to us the idea that it might be fun to do a fantasy football league gathering together a group of non-sports folks to play. What followed was a blast. Not just because we got increasingly into the games but as this group of non-sports-folks evolved we all became more and more knowledgeable about the players (after researching them to try and win the league). It got competitive. It got infectious. There were smack talk videos. It was too fun and I find myself counting down (157 days) to the first game of the 2015 season and the official draft (146 days) of our latest league.
Ginny found herself downtown today for the Reds opening day celebrations. We’ve found that twitter during the Superbowl is a blast. We’ve cheered on teams during the NCAA Tournament. Let’s not even talk about soccer. The World Cup last year was more fun (rolling in a mix of local pubs in OTR) than I can describe and sharing it with Aaron (an authentic German), Kristen and all their friends just made it all the better.
Suddenly, I give a damn about sports. Who saw this coming? Not me but I’m willing to hang on for the ride because I’ve discovered it isn’t if you win or lose. It isn’t about the teams. It’s about the people you cook the food with and tip of the beer glass beside that matter.