Our Blog Posts will help you reach your full potential in becoming a confident conversationalist. New topics each week.
This post was originally written as a guest blog for Alumna House, a company redefining women's game day apparel. The baseball box score and game were taken from early in the 2022 MLB season, but the overall strategy is the same all season long.
You’re a fan, but you only caught part of the game or maybe you didn’t watch it at all. I get it. Life is busy and even if you love watching baseball sometimes you just can’t fit it into your hectic schedule.
Just because you didn’t watch a game doesn’t mean you can’t talk about the game like a pro. Trust me, I am one. I’ve worked in sports broadcasting for 22 years and spent the last 15 years on the Seattle Mariners television broadcast team. I watch sports for a living, but even I don’t have time to watch every game in its entirety or see every highlight. Sometimes a quick glance at a box score is all I need to figure out what happened.
A baseball box score is packed with...
I understand the reaction. I know it can seem annoying. Fans (and I know you don’t want to call them that) who only become fans after a team gets good. Fans who don’t understand the pain of losing seasons, unmet expectations and disappointment or the angst that goes along with being a life-long fan. It’s tempting to write off bandwagon fans and believe they’re not “real fans.”
Wrong. There’s no right or wrong way to be a fan. You were new to sports once too. Everyone starts somewhere. And sometimes the winning team, the team that’s making the most headlines, the team that’s being talked about most, is the easiest place to start. You can’t blame a fan for buying into the hype created by winning team and engaged fanbase.
Here’s what you can do, help newcomers grow their fandom and move past being bandwagon fans into more interested, engaged fans.
“What’s your favorite season?”
Today I’m borrowing a little inspiration from a scene in Schitt’s Creek.
Of course, Moira Rose answered the question with “Awards Season.” My answer would have something to do with my favorite sports season.
I’ll admit it’s a more interesting conversation starter than I initially thought when I laughed out loud at the scene. There are two things here: If you’re not specific with your small talk question you will potentially get a random answer and sometimes you need to think outside the box to spark a conversation.
With that in mind, here are a few sports topics you can use in striking up small talk conversations this week.
There’s no one way to be a sports fan. There’s no time requirement you to have to meet to be considered a fan.
If sports seems less important to you because of world events or maybe life in general, it’s okay. It does not make you a bad fan. It could mean you’re less invested, but you always get to choose your level of sports interest and engagement. It’s okay if it changes. There will be ebbs and flows in your fandom. Cut yourself some slack in how you characterize yourself as a fan.
If you find yourself thinking you're a "bad" fan consider these questions:
Adjust the time spent consuming sports or sports news based on your answers.
Sports is supposed to be fun an “add-on” to everything else going on in your life. Sports can be a distraction or an escape from everything else....
If you’re already a baseball fan you know the Major League Baseball season is 162 games. That’s just the regular season. It doesn’t count Spring Training games or playoff games. If you’re thinking, “Wow! That’s a lot of games.” You’re right – and that works to your advantage whether you’re a fan a not.
More importantly the baseball schedule works to your advantage regardless as to if you watch the games. Here’s what I want you to be thinking about – connection points and relationship building.
Before we go any further, let me back up a second and set the stage for this type of gameplan. I’ve been part of the Seattle Mariners television broadcast for 15 seasons. It is my job to be at, or watch, most of the Mariners baseball games throughout the year. Baseball is part of my job.
I’m all for more people watching baseball, but I also know it’s not necessary to watch every single game. You can...
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.
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 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...
Sports is always my go-to conversation starter. Even if I don’t know if I’m talking to a sports fan. I know that uncertainty can make some fans uncomfortable, but sports is truly one of the most efficient ways to spark small talk because the answer doesn’t matter nearly as much as the clarity it provides.
If I lead with “Did you see the game last night?” I know I’m going to get one of two answers, and quite honestly I don’t care which one it is. If the answer is “Yes” I know I can follow up with another sports question or a question about the game. If the answer is “No” I can ask something like, “What did you have going on last night?” And now I’m into a conversation without playing 20 questions or asking a handful of questions while trying to find something meaningful. Using sports as a starting point made it easier to make a connection and have a productive exchange.
I’m a firm believer in preparing for little conversations like small talk because a.) I want my interactions to be productive b.) I don’t want them to be awkward, especially if I’m trying to build a relationship.
Preparation can range from doing a little research on people I’ll encounter, identifying success statements I can use in response to “How are you?” and having a few general questions in my back pocket to start a sports conversation. Here are some examples:
They’re canned questions that can get a timely response. I think of these as really generic questions and while I typically advocate for asking specific questions that get you closer to your conversation goal, these questions work just fine at starting a conversation.
BUT… your goal probably isn’t just to...
A sporting event is just that – an event. There’s always more going on than the game itself and that introduces additional conversation topics outside of the stats, scores and outcome.
Sports conversations don’t have to focus on the game itself. You can choose to talk about the experience of watching a game.
The Super Bowl is a great example. You could talk about the teams and players or you could talk about the food, commercials, halftime entertainment, location, parties you’ll attend and who you’ll be watching it with.
There are few events as big as the Super Bowl during the year, but these potential conversation topics exist in every game. You could choose to talk about what you ate a game, or restaurants near the stadium you like to visit. Talking about the vibe in the building or the friends who went to the game with you is an option too. If you watched a game on TV, the location of the game could lead to conversations about travel or personal...