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 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.
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.