How to fake sports knowledge

Beth Rozacky

     The world of sports can be a confusing place for the athletically challenged and sport-illiterate. Every day they are surrounded by strange displays of athletic talent, confusing rules and indecipherable jargon. However, Bowl Season presents a particular challenge to this set of people. This month-long funfest of football is one of the most viewed and carefully followed events in the nation; catching extensive airtime on network TV and ESPN. Not only is the Bowl Season a merchandising dream for corporate sponsors, it is also a family affair; bringing everyone together for some quality time in front of the television (and alienating the unfortunate few who can’t decipher sporting events).  So, if you are among the unfortunate few this January, you can either hide away in the kitchen (again) or, you can join in and spend some quality time with your favorite people.  You don’t have to know what’s going on to have a good time and, though aficionado level knowledge may be beyond you, it’s easy enough to fake.

1. Be there:

     The best way to show your interest is to show up. Simply being around the TV with the rest of your family can make you look like a willing participant. Find a spot near the couch for maximum viewing capabilities and prepare yourself for pre-game. Be sure to get your snacks and sodas at this time, as you will not be able to leave during the game without drawing suspicion. At this point you should put on your “game face” and look as excited as possible for the upcoming game.

2. Become a fan:

     Rooting for a team is an essential part of looking like you know what’s going on. Pay attention to whom everyone else is cheering for and join in (if your family is divided on the subject, just choose your favorite jersey color). You can use the commentators on the screen to find out the name of your new favorite team and what color they are wearing. If you happen to hear a name or two being repeated on the screen, remember it and save it for later. If you feel exceptionally daring, you can dress up in team colors and explore the wonders of face paint.

3. Pay attention:

     Keep your eyes focused resolutely on the screen at all times and notice which players seem to be making the most plays. Try and find out who is supposed to be doing what and match up titles to players. Here are some of the biggies: The quarterback is the throwing guy, the running backs are the running guys, offense runs around trying to score and defense hits people. Clue in to what the sportscasters are saying and try to pick up a few of the rules. Touchdowns and first downs are good, fouls are bad, and everybody disagrees with the old guy in the black and white polo shirt.

4. Point out the obvious:

     Trying to say something like, “if we score more, we can win,” and “that guy hit him!” is useful when talk erupts between plays. Casually interject your obvious statements into the mix and try to stay involved. When all else fails, just make stuff up. Wild accusations and outrageous statements can make you sound like any dedicated fan. Try to make general statements about the game or the teams playing. It is best to either bad-mouth the other team or to extol the virtues of the team you’re cheering for. Talking about individual players can also work for the same purposes. Pointing out how “Johnson’s got no arm”, or how, “Brown should’ve caught that” makes you look, not only knowledgeable, but observant as well.

5. Learn on the fly:

     Take note of what your more intelligent relatives are saying. The biggest fans in the room will probably have the most relevant comments and are a veritable fountain of great sports knowledge. Also, your Uncle So-and-so is probably more than willing to teach you about the game. When you get confused about why things are happening, ask your questions in hushed tones. This way, only one person in the room will know about your lack of comprehension. Keeping up the appearance of an impassioned sports fan is very important, so try asking out of the corners of your mouth using minimal eye contact.

6. Yell at the Screen:

     One of the greatest traditions to be born from football viewing is the ability to scream wildly at those who are bigger, stronger and faster than you. Any respectable, easy-chair coach will take every opportunity to inform others how they would have done things. As such, general disagreement with any call made on the field will make you fit right in with any set of fans. When you hear the beginnings of guttural rumblings rising from those around you, feel free to join in. Even if you don’t know what everyone is mad about, an incredulous comment like “come on!” is always applicable. Have popcorn at the ready so you can throw it at the screen in disgust.

7. Celebrate:

     Something exciting is bound to happen, so be prepared to join in when cheering erupts from the peanut gallery. Giving and receiving multiple high-fives and fist-bumps is essential to a well-rounded football experience. When the word “touchdown” is heard, it is perfectly acceptable to do an elaborate victory dance or shout exultations to the heavens. However, be sure it is your chosen team that has scored; if not, the results could be embarrassing.

8. Enjoy Yourself:

     This is one you won’t need to fake. If you’re bonding with your family and friends and possibly learning a little more about sports, you’re in a good place. It’s alright to let that smile stay on your face long after the clock runs out.