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Confession: I Don’t Know Who Won the World Series

6 November 2009 Lies and Entertainment 21,652 views 14 CommentsPrint This Post Print This Post Email This Post Email This Post

I have a difficult confession to make. I can’t tell you who won the World Series this week. I can’t even tell you who played in the World Series. Please don’t judge me too harshly, but, I don’t care either.

It’s difficult to be a man in America and know nothing about sports. I can’t tell you the name of more than two or three baseball players and I have to think to remember the name of the football team in the city where I live. It’s not for lack of trying, like everyone else I’m exposed to sports 24/7 and couldn’t shut it out if I wanted to. For me, all sports facts slide off my brain as if the were coated in WD-40 and my brain was greased Teflon. I can’t even force them in when I try.

I know it’s not genetic. I have an uncle who was an NFL quarterback with a Superbowl ring. I even played Little League for six years as a kid. I mentioned that to someone the other day and they asked if I was ever on a good team. Their assumption, I guess, was that if I had been on a good team I would remember it. I honestly couldn’t remember if we were any good or not, mere minutes after each game I wouldn’t have been able to tell you if we had won or lost. I am an aberration, a sports hating mutant doomed to walk the Earth completely unable to communicate with a large portion of the US population.

Years ago, I noticed a female boss listening to a book on tape with a pained look on her face. When I asked her what it was, she told me it was a tape made for women executives who wanted to participate in conversations about golf with their male counterparts. It included vocabulary and anecdotes that you could slip into conversation. It was like a book given to a German spy in WWII to help him pass himself off as an American.

I could never answer a question about the World Series. So in every movie I watch where a group of GIs corner the outsider and pepper him with questions, I’d die. For the record, I’m not a spy, I just can’t follow sports. But, that doesn’t stop people from treating me like a spy when they find out.

In fact, a Sports Illustrated writer I talked to could barely hide his disgust with me when I admitted I didn’t know how Seattle’s football season was going. It wasn’t even derision in his voice, it was distaste and a drop of hatred. I’ve had discussions stop when I approached coworkers talking about who is going to make it to the finals. My dry cleaner rolled his eyes at me when I wouldn’t let a professional basketball player skip ahead of me in line to drop off his laundry. When I pointed out that I was there first, he looked to the player who shrugged and nodded his approval for me to be served. Since then, my dry cleaner has treated me as if I’m a little slow and my collars definitely aren’t as starchy as they used to be.

Here are a few phrases I use to pass undetected when I’m forced to talk sports during a business lunch, or when I’m having my car towed and the driver is making innocent small talk.

“I used to like the Yankees, before it was all about the money.”

“I only follow college basketball.”

“I only follow professional basketball.”

“I’ve got the game recorded. Don’t spoil it for me.”

“Oof, I can’t talk about that. I lost a ton of money. It’s too painful.”

“Did you see him when he hosted Saturday Night Live? Why do they even let sports guys host?”

“Golf is something I love to play, but I can’t watch it on TV.”

“<insert sport here> is too commercial now. Soon they’ll be slapping logos on their <insert piece of sporting equipment>.”

“Professional boxing is all fixed. Who needs it?”

I have also found that instead of speaking in sentences it works just as well to make growling and whooping noises. This not only stops the conversation but can also inspire the other person to communicate in a series of grunts.

These don’t work for long if your knowledge is as paper-thin as mine, so use them carefully. Don’t try to pass yourself off as one of them if a long conversation is in the works, admit your failings up front.

If you suffer the same affliction, please leave your suggestions in the comments below. If we work together, we can all participate in “guy talk” without fear.

David Wahl

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14 Comments »

  1. Wow.

    Stereotype much?

  2. I had the same affliction for my whole life. I’m right there with you on the horrors of little league–only for me it was teeball. they don’t even throw the ball at you, and I still struggled. How’s the football season going? I suffered through my city’s superbowl championship.

    Then I started dating a girl who couldn’t miss the game on Sundays. I had to be bludgeoned over the head to sit in the room. Slowly, I came to appreciate the beer and snacks that often accompanied the game. And somehow I also started picking up on football.

    Now I’m sucked in. Go Ravens. And hey, the snacks help.

  3. How about responding to sports-related conversation openers with

    “I don’t really follow [whatever sport he’s talking about]. But did you see that [insert odd sport, like rugby, or jai lai]. I played in college, so I still love to watch the games.”

    Then you can have a long conversation about the sport and make everything up.

  4. There are no sports besides women’s flat-track roller derby. Except perhaps women’s banked-track roller derby, but I haven’t yet seen it played.

  5. John: Constantly. Mostly about myself!

    MJ: The love of the right person might change me. But, my wife is in the fashion industry which means instead of watching the World Series, we went to see September issue. Plus, snacks!

    Luckier: An awesome ploy. I tried to pretend I was into snooker for a while, but it was kind of like pretending you have a girlfriend in Canada.

  6. C’mon man – grow a pair! Sports is your passage to being American. So just pick one – even its kickball.

    But when it comes to golf – I’m right there with you. Anytime they have an open discussion about golf and they turn to me to contribute to the convo — I say, “I’m an underprivileged minority – we don’t do that shit in the hood.”

    It ends it.

  7. How did you survive growing up in Columbus, where the ghost of Woody Hayes will never die?

    Who is your uncle?

  8. This post speaks to my heart. Really, it does. I grew up in an isolated, over-intellectual, PBS-on-TV only household where sports was what others did because math was too hard or something. It was pretty snobbish, I will admit.

    Most of my friends in school were fellow geeks, and sports was what abusive jocks did. Our football team was pathetic, and the only good sports team we had was women’s field hockey, and the school didn’t give them any publicity out of shame of not having a top football team.

    As an adult, I never found much in common with any sports. I didn’t get it. Like, the entire concept seemed horribly flawed. Why invest so much effort into supporting a team that does not even know you exist as an individual? I could understand local sports, because hey, you knew the guy and he won! But NFL? And 30% of the news was dedicated to sports. I hated sports because they always pre-empted any favorite TV shows I had, or ran long, and “we now return to the best show ever, already half over.” If at all. I figured I’d only get into sports if it was run like a lotto of sorts: if your team wins, you don’t have to pay taxes that year, or you got money, discounted groceries, free gas… something. Who cares who wins the NFL? I saw so many sports scandals, they reminded me of those abusive jocks I grew up with. That guy took drugs and beat up his girlfriend? Wow, that sounds familiar…

    Yet I had problems with small talk. I am a systems administrator, and I am aware if I talk shop (“So, I was compiling the new build from source, and damn if it required static libraries I didn’t have, and the dependency hell lasted for hours…”) I will bore most people. They won’t even know what I am talking about. But sports was like the opposite for me. “You see the Chargers won the golden wicket? What do you think of Don Crackleback, they can’t get anything right with that guy. He fumbled the 40-goal post net grid foul cross pennant wicket blue green white play 30 45 yards score RBL FBI LSMFT…” I mean complete gibberish. And I stand there, and have to say, “I am sorry, I don’t follow hockeyball,” and look like a moron.

    I have also tried the following lines:
    – “I only follow roller derby. Go Cherry Blossom Bombshells!”
    – “Sports became too commercialized. I got jaded and disillusioned. My childhood dreams shattered, I really can’t talk about sports without getting angry.”
    – “I travel most of the time out of the country. I don’t get to follow the local teams. I don’t have a local team. I don’t even know where home is… just a place I call ‘my apartment’ where I store my stuff between trips.”
    – “As I work for one of the organizations you spoke of, I am not allowed to comment on anything, lest I violate an NDA with the sports league or get misconstrued as a an official statement of our PR’s favoritism.”
    – “Que?”
    – “I am more interested in what YOU think about it.” (that never fails)

  9. Geoff, women’s flat-track roller derby is too commercial now. Soon they’ll be slapping logos on their skates. So I don’t really follow women’s flat-track roller derby. But did you see that Croatian Bilzi match between Loas and Bali Unitied? Especially during the second period when Habika took down Rachana: that was classic! I played in college, so I still love to watch the games!

  10. @Josh: I’m sorry, I only follow professional commenters.

  11. hey david: really funny and accurate article. i relate 100%. i live in LA and when the lakers or dodgers are playing, I feel like I’m in the twilight zone. Except to me, I don’t consider it an affliction. I really am glad I grew out of following sports (as well as playing video games) when I was like 12 years old. it’s kind of a substitute for following things that really matter in your life.

  12. Gee, I didn’t even know they played the world series this week. So I couldn’t tell you who played or won either. I have the same affliction, but my automatic shut-off valve on my brain is even more sensitive than David Wahl’s. Half the time, I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT SPORT SEASON IT IS! Growing up, it seemed like baseball was in the spring. Football is during Thanksgiving day. That’s about all I know. I don’t even try to pretend. I simply say I don’t follow…(fill in blank). If I am lucky they don’t start asking me questions about some other sport. Then I have to confess I don’t follow any sports at all. I am sometimes scorned, shunned, and looked at in disbelief. Polite people just smile with half of their mouth. Great article by David Wahl!

    -Scott Pahlow

  13. @ //David Wahl (author) : Fair enough. Just (please) stop beginning sentences with “but,” and grouping all lovers of sports into some sort of primitive male grope-fest. You’ve done so much better in other posts.

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