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5 Ways to Keep Sports in Your Conversations (without sporting events)

A week ago I was preparing to write an article about using sports conversations to maintain connections while offices started working remotely and “social distancing” was in the initial stages in Washington. As the week progressed the article changed. I started thinking about what sports looked like without fans, and how that could change conversations.

It became clear those social distancing measures weren’t going to be enough when the NBA and NHL suspended their seasons, so I made new notes about following sports other than the "Big 4" to get your sports fix. 

Then the sports calendar emptied. Sports came to a complete stop.

The health and safety of everyone involved made it a necessary step. So, this week there are no games, outcomes or upcoming events to talk about. The storylines are pretty narrow and limited.  

So why am I still talking about sports? It’s simple.

Sports fandom doesn’t stop just because sports are on hold.

Sports are still a way for people to connect, which is something people will crave even more right now, but the conversations won’t sound the same. It’s something I mentioned in a column written by Jerry Brewer in The Washington Post

“Sports fans need to shift their conversation strategies to minimize the effect of losing live sporting events, or they’ll also lose strength in some of their connections and friendships,” said Jen Mueller, a Seattle-based reporter for Root Sports Northwest who is also the founder of “Talk Sporty To Me,” which helps people engage through sports conversation. “More than half of all Americans identify as sports fans in yearly surveys. Sports is-slash-was the only DVR-proof material on TV, and sports conversations provide more access to different groups of people than just about any other topic because sports fans talk to other sports fans regardless of age, experience, gender, race or level of fandom. Losing live sporting events means millions of sports fans no longer have a daily go-to conversation starter and connection point.” 

Shifting your conversation strategy means thinking about topics other than the final outcome of games. It means getting curious about someone’s “why” for being a fan, thinking about future events, re-living some of your favorite sports events, and – as always - being intentional with your small talk strategies.

5 ways to keep sports in your conversations

  1. Current headlines. There will still be daily headlines, including free agency news from the NFL, mock drafts, predictions for upcoming seasons and player profiles. The content will look different (and some would say boring) without game recaps and highlights.
  2. Go online. Take a page from the Phoenix Suns who decided to play out their season virtually on NBA 2K and stream it via Twitch for fans. If you’re a gamer, get a few friends together – virtually – and start your own season. (Even if you’re not a gamer, you’ve probably got time to learn now.)
  3. Ask why. If you’ve never asked your sports-loving colleagues or friends why they’re a fan, now is a good time to do that. Sports fans have a story behind their favorite team and player. There’s a reason they are connected to a specific fan base. Say something like, “I’ve never thought to ask this before, why are you a Texas Rangers fan?” or “I know you’re a Chicago Cubs fan, but you grew up on the West Coast. How did you become a Cubs fan?”
  4. Relive the “good old days.” If watching an actual game is the only way to satisfy your sports craving, turn to the classics. ESPN replays classic games on one of it’s channels, and you can expect more sports networks to dive into the video vaults for games, documentaries and features.
  5. Turn to sports movies. It’s not the same as a sporting event, but there are plenty of classic sports movies to watch. Revisit a favorite or watch one you’ve been meaning to get around to. You could also create a Top 10 list and start a group email asking for thoughts, opinions and feedback on your rankings. There’s no right or wrong (although if Varsity Blues isn’t on that list, you’re missing out) but there are fun debates and conversations to be had with sports-loving colleagues and friends.

Sparking a sports conversation without live sporting events requires a little creativity and maybe a little getting used to, but it’s still a way to connect with people who don’t stop being sports fans just because the sports calendar did.

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