Sports brings communities together in ways other interests can't. That's the real value of sports conversations and sports small talk.
Sports allows you to connect with people from all different backgrounds, young and old, male and female... but only if you include everyone in your conversations.
It's easy to make assumptions about what you think sports fans look like. Men, for example. I bet you're more likely to assume men are sports fans. Which also means you're more likely to exclude women from sports conversations. As a woman who has worked in sports broadcasting for more than 20 years I know that's not that's not the case. I also know that when I'm excluded from a sports conversation based on my gender I get irritated and I'm not interested in connecting or building relationships. Not a big deal if we just meet in passing, but much bigger deal if you want to work with me, or if you're a server at a restaurant and would like a tip.
I shouldn't have to tell you I work in sports for you to include me in a sports conversation. Sports should be your go-to conversation starter with everyone. Don't assume you know what a sports fan looks like. Don't exclude people from a conversation before giving them a chance to contribute. It's not only part of being a good and polite conversationalist, it's how you use sports to your advantage.
If you're still building your sports knowledge base and your comfort level in talking sports make sure you know how to define your area of expertise and introduce additional topics into a sports conversation.