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Already a Sports Fan? Here's what you need to know about talking sports

It’s interesting the assumptions we make about sports fans. From what we think a sports fan looks like to how they should sound in a conversation. To me, the most interesting assumption is that sports fans don’t need any help in talking about sports.

Just because you know sports doesn’t mean you’re using it to your advantage – or in a way that won’t alienate others at work.

I frequently see articles or resources on how to talk sports if you’re not a sports fan. Heck, I’ve been quoted in those articles, written books and created resources around that. There’s an assumption that if you’re already a fan you don’t need help talking about sports, but there are things you’re missing. 

As a lifelong sports fan and a 22-year sports broadcasting veteran I talk sports for a living and spend a lot of time around people who enjoy sports and talk sports. For as much as I enjoy those conversations, most of the sports fans I encounter have a very narrow view of sports talk.

If stats, scores and outcomes drive all or most of your sports conversations you’re tapping into just a fraction of what sports talk could be and potentially missing opportunities to leverage your fandom at work and in business settings.

Just because you’re a fan doesn’t mean you’re using it to your advantage. Here are a few things you might be missing:

  1. Sports fandom is part of your personal brand. You’re not just describing a game you’re providing insight on how you see the world. There are multiple angles to every sports story and there are many different ways to tell the same story. Be intentional about the words you choose and how it points back to your personal brand.

Saying the refs blew it, the coach is an idiot, the star player is an over-paid loser are options when talking about disappointing outcomes – ones I’d think twice about describing games like that in a business setting because it doesn’t send a very good message about how you’d react when things go poorly at work.


  1. Sports fans talk to other sports fans. I see many sports fans overlooking the true power of sports to gain access, strike up conversations and build relationships. Not every fan talks about stats, scores and outcomes and not every person in your office is a sports fan, so what’s in it for them? I’d suggest using sports to connect on non-sports topics like travel or restaurants.

Questions like Have you ever visited Boston when you’re talking about a Red Sox game or “When was the last time you were in LA?” when mentioning the score of a Lakers game can lead to follow up questions about a recent work trip or upcoming vacation. The options and versatility of being able to easily transition from sports to another topics, common or shared experiences increase the likelihood the conversation will flow smoothly and help you make a real connection that produces follow up opportunities.


  1. Specific examples work better than tired cliches and metaphors. Sports cliches aren’t meaningful. They’re overused and often misused, creating confusion instead of connections. Be specific and intentional when you introduce sports into business conversations. Don’t extol the value of “teamwork.” Give a recent example of teamwork in action, why it worked in sports and the specific takeaway. For example, if you’re in a hockey-crazed city and you could talk about chemistry line mates need to be successful and how familiarity and anticipation results in teamwork that gets results. Use that as a jumping off point to introduce a team building event or to spark a conversation about things you can do to improve chemistry and anticipation in your office.

Here’s another example, time management is always a talking point during a football game. If it’s an issue in your office use an example of poor clock management in a game to spur feedback on the length of meetings and the number of meetings that you team is dealing with. It’s a different setting but the same concept of clock management.


  1. No one likes a jerk. Don’t piss off a sports fan by making fun of their team. A little good-natured ribbing is okay. Being an absolute jerk is not. Just a guess, but I doubt you like when someone points out your disappointments, work related and otherwise. It might not seem like a big deal to poke fun of your colleague’s favorite team, but when you consistently do that, especially in public settings, you’re an inconsiderate jerk. It’s poor form in business, friendships and when dealing with a sports fan.

You might think it’s all in good fun to talk about the horrible front office decisions and stupid trades made by your colleague’s favorite team, but when fans are invested and identify with a certain team or player, you’re likely to cross a line and damage relationships.


  1. More is not better. Sports fans can get enthusiastic when talking about their favorite sport, team or player. (Fan is short for fanatic after all.) But when talking sports at work, fans should develop an internal clock and be able to read the room enough to recognize that longer sports conversations and more sports talk can be counterproductive. Pay attention to who’s participating versus silently seething. Be respectful of colleagues. A couple minutes of small talk on any topic is appropriate 10, 15, 20 minutes is not. 

Talking sports at work is different than talking sports at a game, tailgate or sports bar. Don’t treat your workplace like a sports bar. Use sports small talk as an entry point into conversations and a way to connect but refrain from holding court, sparking debates or hijacking conversations that should be focused on work.

Making a few adjustments to the way you talk sports at work can greatly increase the acceptance your colleagues have of your sports fandom and encourage others to join in.


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