My fiance and I are heading down to Louisiana where I am going to meet her father and brother for the first time. I have been warned that they are huge sports fans. They played football in high school and they watch whatever sport is on TV whenever possible. I would like to fit in, and make a good impression but I am the world’s crappiest athlete and I just don’t get sports. What do I do?
Thanks in advance,
Martin – Lowell, MA
Thanks for your letter. The responsible advice to give you here is to fess up, be who you are and let them learn to love you. But, while responsible, that advice is crap and it will not help you fit in with a Louisiana football family. You would be quietly accepted but basically thought of as another one of the girls. So, let’s take a different approach with:
The Non-Athlete’s Guide to Acceptance in a Family of Athletes
Step 1: Start a conversation with an esoteric fact
You don’t need to know everything about sports to be considered knowledgeable. If you know one thing that only an insane sports fanatic with time on his hands would know, you will instantly earn credibility. In fact, if that same fact can inspire volatile emotions, you’re even better off. For instance, these guys are probably big fans of the Louisiana State University Football team. So start a sports conversation by mentioning the fact that Ya’el Lofton, the Coordinator of Football Operations, was a big fan of Nick Saban’s (former head coach) and thinks that the fans have gotten carried away with their hatred of him. This statement will either cause your future in-laws to get really angry about Nick Saban, or it will inspire them to defend their old coach. All you have to do at this point is listen and agree.
Step 2: Know your area, be vague and ask questions
Now that you have established yourself as a learned sports expert, it will be time to answer some questions about sports. The important thing to know here is that sports is 10% history and 90% opinion. The natural questions that you will be asked are which teams and players you like most. The only question you will need to have an answer for is the team one. So go to the Internet, find out which sports teams are in your area and claim them to be your favorite. After that all answers should be vague and non-commital, say things like, “that’s a tough one”, “sort of”, “hmm” and the like. Then immediately follow your answer with the same question and agree with his answer. For Example:
Brother-in-law: Which team is your favorite?
You: The Red Sox
Brother-in-law: Do you like that Pedroia guy?
You: Meh. What do you think of him?
Brother-in-law: Pretty good for a guy of that size.
You: I guess that’s true.
Step 3: Talk like you a sports guy
Okay, so you’re established as a learned sports guy who can answer questions. Now it’s time to show that you can talk like a jock. This is much easier than you might think. All you need is to add three basic words to your vocabulary and use them a lot. The words are dominant, clutch and key.
Use “dominant” for anything that is awesome:
Mrs. Bladiblah these are dominant brownies!
Use “clutch” for anything that saves the day:
Bringing the beer to this barbecue was clutch, Mr. So-and-so.
Use “key” to reflect upon a moment that made something good.
It was a bit bumpy but pretty good all in all, the in-flight movie was key.
Step 4: Discuss a fake injury
You’ve shown that you can talk the talk, but eventually you will be asked to walk the walk, (play a sport). Before this happens, make sure to tell your “injury story.” The story should be gruesome and must involve the tearing of at least one of your ligaments. Something like this:
“I wish I could still play, but my knee is ruined. Two jerks clipped it in a soccer game and tore my ACL, PCL and MCL. I can walk on it okay now but if I ever want to play ball again, the doc says I’m going to need surgery. Pisses me off.”
Then, if they decide to play, get up to “try” and then, after you are outside for a while, make a grimace and stretch your “ruined” leg. Then hop up and down a couple of times and shake your head. Tell the guys that you are sorry “but it just doesn’t feel right today” and sit down on the sideline and look depressed.
Step 5: Competitive Non-Athletic Gaming
Now comes the most important part, at the heart of sports is competition, so it is key to prove that you are competitive. But since your “horrific injury” won’t allow you to play a sport, suggest that the family play a board game, video game, darts or anything else competitive that you can do well. Play the game and try really hard to win while remembering to look like it’s killing you inside a little bit when things are going poorly. If you lose, be a good sport but be visibly upset about the loss. If you win, make it look like the only thing containing your happiness is good sportsmanship. Over time, when you actually marry this girl and the family starts to love you, feel free to get more visibly emotional about the board games- heck, get borderline over-competitive. Apologize for it but do it, it will seal your manliness in the eyes of your new father-in-law.
If you follow these simple steps you will never be looked at as the family sissy and you will only need to maintain a basic understanding of sports to do so.
I sincerely hope this helps,