Here are some handy rules for sports n00bs to take away with them to their next viewing.
A while back, I was oblivious when it came to sports. It was just one of those things people got irrationally caught up in and excited about, I thought, like 5am sales or the iPhone craze. Good for you if it made you happy, but I didn’t get it, and I didn’t think I ever would. I was fine with indifference and mild confusion. I was happy. I had never become emotional over an inanimate object like a ball.
And then a friend of mine introduced me to ice hockey, of all sports, and I fell head first into the world of staying up late to watch until overtime, getting obsessive over a team, and suddenly I found myself caring far too much about a group of men I would never meet, who spent their time hitting a puck around the ice and spitting their teeth out. It was quite the introduction. I jumped cluelessly into the deep end, and here is a list of the lessons I’ve learnt as a brand new fan to watching sports on TV.
It’s 100% acceptable to yell at the TV
When you do this, you are showing your enthusiasm and excitement and support. It’s encouraged. It’s not like when you shout at the TV screen during an episode of Game of Thrones because people are being horrible to your beloved Sansa Stark, or when you “aw” at a pitch only dogs can hear because there are cute animals being tiny and fluffy, or when you re-enact the desperate “no!” moment from every drama, because your favourite just got brutally murdered. When there’s sport on, no one points out that the people you’re shouting at can’t hear you through the television screen. Instead of looking at you like they’re unsure if they should ever leave you on your own anymore, they join in.
You’re part of the team
OK, so you’re not out there playing. You’re not even in the stands. In fact, you’ve never once picked up a football/cricket bat/basket ball/hockey puck in your life. You’re still struggling to pick up the rules as you watch. And yet it’s “we”, always – we’re winning, we’re losing, we’re being absolutely screwed over by the ref. We put up a good fight. We’ve got, say, Danny Care playing for us today. (In fairness, I sure do wish I had Danny Care playing for me.)
Sports fans are a welcoming bunch
Ask one question, they’ll tell you their team’s history. Ask about one player, you’ll get an analysis of their performance to date, a cataloguing of strengths and weaknesses the coaches themselves would probably be grateful for. The casual fan is as valued, in their own way, as the fanatics. In sports, it’s the more the merrier.
(This is true, of course, unless you happen to be a girl and surrounded by arseholes. The hidden lesson is that in this case, you should be prepared to answer any question with in depth, essay-length responses citing both historical and contemporary facts and figures to prove that you are indeed a Real Fan, whatever that may be.)
Nobody has any time for your “well, I’m sure they’re trying” lines
No one wants to hear that actually, that player isn’t bad, really, because look, they play the sport professionally, and they just wouldn’t let someone who was that terrible get to that level. Turns out it’s not the taking part that counts. The school sports days lied.
Daytime alcohol consumption is encouraged
A midday (or even midnight – time zones and live sports are not good friends) beer is acceptable when you’re watching sports, rather than it being a sign of studenthood, unemployment or your burgeoning potential alcohol problem. If anything, it’s actively encouraged. It’s part of the experience for a lot of fans. Grab a cold one and settle in for the rollercoaster of will they/won’t they win it. And if it goes into overtime, brace yourself. You’re probably going to need more than one.
No one expects over-investment at first
And it’s OK. You get used to it, at least until the next time.
Featured image: MGM/UA Entertainment Company
Inset images: The Weinstein Company; Warner Bros; Dreamworks