7 Tips to Help You Master Sports Conversations When You’re Not a Fan

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Some things in life are unavoidable. We all know about death and taxes, but being stuck with sports-obsessed friends and family when you’re not a fan is another one of life’s inevitabilities.

Because we’re deep in the heart of football season (I know it seems like it’s always football season), we thought it might be time for some quick pointers to help you navigate all those viewing parties and other social interactions that center around game broadcasts. Here are seven tips to help you save face the next time you wind up in a sports-crazed conversation.

1. Do a Little Homework

You can’t get something for nothing, and faking sports knowledge is no exception. But before you get too worried about a torturous cram session, relax. You don’t have to learn everything, just a few key points like the difference between a Ute and a Trojan to impress your uncle who’s a fan of the Pac-12 (a group of universities in the Western US that play sports against each other). It also helps to learn the names of a player or two and at least one key fact about big events like the Super Bowl.

2. Follow the Leader

One of the best ways to fake it during a game is to pick another member of the group from whom you can take your cues. Find someone who seems to know what’s going on and watch for clues about when to cheer or when to talk some smack about the ref. One word of warning: don’t pick the odd man out who’s rooting for the other team—you may not know enough to defend your unpopular devotion.

3. Comment about the “D”

“D,” in sports lingo, means defense. Almost every single game in the world comes down to whether the defense was strong or not. To make sure you use the term correctly, stay tuned in to the person you’re copying (see tip number two). As soon as you hear them say anything positive about the defense, it’s time to act. Throw out “That was some strong D,” and then drop the mic before you head to the other room to refresh your drink.

4. Use Technology

If you can’t manage to follow tip number one before you get stuck in a sports conversation, you can still fumble your way through. Using the magic of smartphones and the omniscient power of Google, you can find out what things like “Deflategate” and “stinger” mean. Pretend to check your email or answer a text, then sneak in some valuable talking points on the sly.

5. Avoid Team Clothing

It’s tempting to throw on a T-shirt or other team-themed clothing item to try and blend in, but if you’re not a real fan, donning a hat or jersey could be risky. You never know what the team or player you’re representing might mean to the sports fanatics you’re trying to impress. If you choose the wrong way to show your fake team pride, you could unintentionally cause confrontation.

6. Remain Neutral

Avoid the urge to start talking trash along with your buddies. Instead of jumping on the negative bandwagon when you hear a derogatory comment, it’s better to simply nod or shake your head. A few murmured words of disbelief will further your quest for sports cred more than a blurted-out insult that may take the trash talk further than you—or anyone else in the room—intended.

7. Learn One Go-To Fact

A sure way to navigate a tête-à-tête about sports is to share some really cool, totally obscure sports trivia. Whether it’s a killer story or a little-known fact, commit it to memory and share it every time you find yourself trapped with an athletics-obsessed family member. Even if you’re not up-to-date on the latest amazing play or most recent off-the-field scandal, at least you’ll have one little nugget that you can use to impress. Just remember not to repeat it to the same people over and over again.

Surviving in a world full of sports fans can be a challenge, but hopefully these tips will help you navigate this foreign land like a pro. Let us know in the comments which tip you’re ready to put into action before this week’s big game.

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