Allow me to tell you the story of me and sports. Don’t worry, it won’t take very long. From an early age, my mother decided to shape her only son into a “man” through gifts of over-sized Redskins winter apparel. I could live with that because it was infinitely better than the bow ties forced upon me in earlier years. Something that was harder to accept was being enlisted in an actual sport. This isn’t recorded in any record books, but it’s true: I was the most apathetic defense soccer player in the history of the game. As halfheartedly as Daria plays volleyball, I did my best to be as unhelpful as possible. But that didn’t stop a hurtling ball from finding the side of my head. Stars! Just like in the cartoons! If I was a fictional being in a Hollywood movie, this would have been the part of the story where I became impassioned and fueled by the pain and made some memorable winning play or something. What actually happened is I cried a lot and the coach took me to the sidelines and then did that thing jocks do in movies where they rally an unwilling person into doing something they don’t actually want to do. “YOU GOT THIS! YOU’RE FINE! YOU READY TO GO BACK IN THERE???” I’m not exactly sure what I said, considering the head injury, but it was something in the neighborhood of: Hell no. That was the last day of my illustrious sporting career.
Since then, sports don’t come up that often. Well, until recently, that is, with the SF Giants being the best team in the whole wide world and winning two World Series in three years. On both of those occasions, I took the “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” approach and sacrificed myself to the sporty gods. And you know what, it wasn’t terrible. And now our very own 49ers are heading to the Super Bowl to face off with my hometown team the Baltimore Ravens (I win either way!). So what’s a non-sports fan to do?
Here are a few tips on how to successfully pretend you care about sports for one day (and maybe even have some fun while you’re at it):
1. Do your homework.
No one likes a dunce. So do some light studying on the rules of the game and who the major players are. You’ll actually find out interesting conversation topics like the fact that the coaches of the rival teams this year are brothers (Shakespearean drama!) or the irony of a 49er player saying rude things about gay people while a Ravens player plans to use the Super Bowl to promote gay marriage and anti-bullying. Another good way to up your interest level if you’re a girl or gay boy is to go through both teams’ rosters and pick your next boyfriend. As anyone who has crushed on their high school math teacher knows, love can make any subject interesting.
2. Do find your people.
Life is too short to surround yourself with people that don’t get you so find out where your kindred spirits hang out. If you like to be in the middle of the action and aren’t afraid of potential riots/arson/bus mutilation/people over-exercising their right to fist pump out of sunroofs of moving vehicles, Mission dive bars are the place for you. If you enjoy reliving your college years, head to the Marina. If you don’t like strangers, invite yourself over to a friend’s house. And if you’re gay and aren’t opposed to a celebratory kiss, check out Hi Tops in the Castro.
3. Do respect the high holiday and mind your manners.
I’m not sure if Emily Post ever touched on the topic of talking loudly over an important televised event, but I bet she would have been against it. So don’t be a chatterbox during pivotal plays. Just because you don’t care doesn’t mean that others don’t. This is called manners. You wouldn’t want someone to go on and on about how they just can’t figure out why so-and-so never called them back while you’re watching reruns of Full House, now would you?
4. Do wear the right colors.
Dressing up is fun (see: Halloween and Quinceañeras, Rocky Horror shows and raves). So get in the mood by putting together an ensemble that is appropriate for the occasion. You don’t have to go so far as to wear a jersey or hat, but at least get the colors right. This way, no one spills a beer on you when you unintentionally show up in the rival team’s color palette. (Friendly advice: the 49ers wear a combination of red, white, black, and gold).
5. Do find the silver lining!
If you really can’t find a way to enjoy the sport, I suggest exercising mind over matter. One option is to think of the positive: it’s not that often that a whole city is brought together in solidarity, so revel in the high-fives from strangers and exaggerated San Francisco pride. Plan B is to convince yourself that the game of helmeted giants hurling themselves at each other is actually just a pre and after party for the real event: a BEYONCE concert! Fresh off her controversial Inauguration performance, the Queen B is set to grace the halftime show and remind us that perfection does exist and we should all try just a little bit harder.
So put your shiver-inducing sports memories behind you and let these tips guide you to surviving and maybe even enjoying America’s biggest and baddest sporting event. In the words of my former coach: “YOU GOT THIS!”