The Secret to Talking Sports with Any Man
After watching the first Eagles football Sunday of the season this year, I got home and turned on the late afternoon game. I opened up the Twitter app on my phone, and I checked in with my online sports community. A few minutes later, my phone rang. My brother wanted to rehash the Eagles win. We were unsettled. Having to overcome a 17 point halftime deficit against the hapless Jacksonville Jaguars gave us pause. We spoke for an hour or two when my brother realized he needed to take his dogs out for a walk. My brother and I talk and text on football Sundays religiously. It’s become tradition for us to meet a couple times a year to catch a baseball game or a football game. Neither of us can ever shut up about players and stats and fantasy.
The secret to talking to men about sports is talking to men about sports.
Then, again, as Men’s Health magazine has recently shown us, there’s another secret to talking to men about sports. The magazine recently published and deleted an article titled “The Secret to Talking Sports with Any Woman.” According to Teresa Sabga, who was bylined on the piece, women would rather not hear about Dominic Moore’s scoring record. They would prefer “hearing about how he supported his wife’s battle with cancer.” It was not a suggestion. It was a statement that women are somehow incapable of being real sports fans. “She sees the game differently than you.” The Men’s Health Twitter account proclaimed.
How do you talk to that man about sports?
Last season, a good friend of mine and I met up to watch the Cowboys play the Eagles in a disastrous (for me) home game. She and I were raised to be fans of our respective teams, and discovered miraculously that day that we could watch a game together as friends and still come out of the other side as friends. The game was disastrous. The Eagles lost the game 17-3. Still, what I remember most about that game is not Nick Foles’s head injury or Matt Barkey’s 3 picks. No. I remember the man sitting on the other side of me at the bar.
“You know a lot about sports for a girl,” he said. He seemed genuinely surprised that I knew the names of the players on the team. This is the sort of thing I’ve been hearing most of my adult life. It seems every single time I go out to a bar to watch a game, somebody uses that exact sentence when they speak to me. “You know a lot about sports for a girl.” Every. Single. Time.
In most cases, I like to imagine that I can turn any conversation with an ignorant person into a teaching opportunity. I want to make sure that people are aware of how their words show me that they are misogynist or racist or heteronormative. I’m not sure if it was the Eagles miserable performance that day, but instead of sarcastically spewing back at him “You know a very little about sports for a dude,” I asked this man, who had earlier proclaimed he was a Cowboys fan, “Are you from New Jersey?”
Cowboys fans from New Jersey are a hated group for Eagles fans who are my age. Cowboys fans from New Jersey are representative of fair-weather fans of a team that won over and over again the 1990s. Cowboys fans from New Jersey use excuses like “my uncle was a Cowboys fan when I was growing up” as a way to weasel out being truly loyal to their hometown teams. Cowboys fans from New Jersey are the ones who actually believe that “the Cowboys are America’s team.”
“How did you know?” He responded. I laughed at him.
The secret to talking to that man about sports is this: recognizing that he is not a real sports fans. He is the ones trying to look good by rooting for teams that always win. He is the one trying to prove his masculinity by using sports knowledge as some justification for it. He is the one who cares more about looking like a sports fan than about the game itself.
If you really love sports, then you have to assume that anyone else can love it, too. You cannot assume that another human being (of any gender) is somehow inherently incapable of loving it, too, without showing the rest of the world that you really don’t love sports. For anyone who actually loves sports, everyone else might as well be a Cowboys fan from New Jersey.