Being dragged to the Big Game? Give yourself a sporting chance by adhering to the following Constant: You don’t have to know the rules of the game; you just have to know the rules of watching it.
Let’s say you’re not really into sports, but in a weak moment you gave into the urging of your friends to “get in the spirit of things,” and go along with the group to some game, match, or tilt, that apparently has everybody in Sportsdom all worked up; try to display an enthusiasm that goes at least a little beyond tepid. Come on, if you’re going to watch a sport, try to be one.
Following a few simple precepts will make you one of the gang, and increase your stock with clients; in-laws; and neighbors, including the appealing one who kind of edged away from you at the block party when you quoted Keats.
I. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Don’t try to dredge up anything from your nodding acquaintance with a particular sport, while you try to drop it seamlessly into the mix; when you’re sitting courtside at a Lakers game, don’t say, “I think Magic Jackson is due for a good game. Oh, it’s Johnson, and he’s retired? Same with Shaquille McNeal? Huh, I guess I missed the news last night.”
II. Dress right. With each sport, it’s de rigueur to show up in the same garb that the players wear. If it’s golf, you’ll wear long polyester checked pants—perhaps maroon, plus white shoes—the only other place you could wear that outfit is Miami Beach. If you’re a woman, attractive two-sizes-too-small, fashionable signature skirts can be had in any clubhouse pro shop—at a price only a pro could afford.
And yes, if it’s a hockey game, fans will be sporting voluminous team jerseys with a favorite player’s number on it. Just ask the sales kid in the mall to tell you whose jersey is the most popular (make sure he’s on the home team—Google the rest of the info on him later). By the way, that billowing monstrosity costs about two hundred bucks.
SPORT BY SPORT
TENNIS: Absolutely no loud talking during the action. In fact, just about the only thing the Chair Umpire says is, “Quiet please.” Cheer at the end of a great point. Between points, it’s okay to yell out something like “Go Serena” (only if she’s playing). Adventuresome fans may try calling out Anastasia Pavlyzcuchenkova’s name. You keep quiet.
Unlike most other sports, you can’t go to the concession stands and then assume you can immediately return to your place during the action. You can only reenter when the players change sides. And yes, you really do have to go back in and watch the rest of the match.
GOLF: Another “Silence is Golden” spectator sport. In fact, they have people whose major function is to hold up signs that read, “Silence” before a player is about to putt. If you’re watching around the tee on one of the holes, it is a good thing to cheer when the ball is hit hard and true and it’s discernable that the ball will drop in the middle of the fairway and roll another twenty yards to the hole. You keep quiet. You lost track of the ball the minute it left the tee.
BASKETBALL: Here you don’t have to sit on your hands; you’re encouraged to wave them in front of an opposing player and shout clever insults to distract him from making a free throw.
BASEBALL: If you’ve never played it or watched it before, it’s too late to teach you any of the endless rules of the game. So, again, just follow the crowd’s lead. If a foul ball looks like it’s heading for you, by all means try to catch it; you may be the lucky one to snare it. When the fans around you try to shame you into giving the ball to the cute little kid in the row behind you, just smile, wave the ball in the air, and put it your pocket, saying to the crowd, “It’s for my nephew. He’s in the hospital.” (That’ll teach that “little angel” behind you not to kick the back of your seat.)
FOOTBALL: The rule is: Use the restroom before the game. That’s it.
Let the games begin—and end…hopefully before you’ve aged too noticeably.