The holidays are a time when we surround ourselves with people we rarely see. How do you, a voracious reader, talk to these people? Sure, you’re pretty adept at throwing out a well-timed Dickens reference, and you’re the only one who has read that YA series your niece is now into, but what about when the conversation turns away from books? What if it turns to…sports? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.
Sports Are Just Fantasy Narratives
Sports are not just about one game, or even one season; they are an expansive epic that travels back years, if not decades. And like a fan of an epic fantasy series, they expect you to be familiar with all the names of past kings, the allegiances that have shifted, and the betrayals that cost their heroes everything. Just imagine they’re talking about elves, and suddenly it all makes more sense.
Learn One Good Sports Story
Sports have many great stories with outsized characters. Satchel Paige, who dominated both the Negro Leagues and Major Leagues (once it was integrated) would tell his outfielders to sit down, as he was about to strike out yet another player. Jim Thorpe, who played professional baseball and football, won two gold medals in the Olympics wearing shoes he in found in the garbage when other athletes attempted to sabotage him by stealing his shoes. Michelle Wie could hit a golf ball 100 yards at age four. Just find out all the details about one sports story, and then launch into it with a “That reminds me of…” whenever someone brings up sports.
Claim To Avoid “The Controversy”
Sports can be wonderful. They are also often horrible. The pantheon of professional athletes is littered with criminals, domestic abusers, child abusers, and outright racists. Professional team owners will often cover up such horrors, or provide an extremely light punishment. One major football team still plays under a name that is a racial slur. So, when someone brings a particular team or player, just say “I don’t want to talk about the controversy.” Odds are good that there IS a controversy about that team or player, and the sports fan will quiet down.
Don’t Worry About It
Sports is just another fandom, complete with cosplayers and in-jokes. You aren’t obligated to know about it any more than your sports-fan family members are obligated to know the cast of the current season of Doctor Who. You shouldn’t not feel bad for not joining in, especially when can you talk for hours to your niece about Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give.