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Monthly Archives: February 2013

smalltalk

A good game-time sports comment can be either of two types. The first is well-informed, accurately describes the situation at hand, and in the best-case scenario places an instant in a game within its broader context at the individual, team, league, or sport level. I hear these occasionally and have no idea what they mean and so can’t reproduce one here. At the Super Bowl party I attended somebody referred to a rookie quarterback saying something stupid at a press conference. Comments like that.

The second kind of comment is the kind you and I are likely to make. It should function sort of like the score in a movie — if it’s really good, you won’t even notice it’s there. It should also, to switch up metaphors for a second, be designed roughly like a horoscope entry, to wit: vague enough to apply to virtually any situation, but seemingly specific enough to establish you as paying attention. It is vitally important to achieve the proper balance and, when in doubt, err on the vague side: I can’t help you if you get challenged to clarify. Caveat bullshitter.

A good way to generate generic nonfalsifiable commentary on the spot is to listen to the announcers and/or the men in the room. Like television chefs, they have to fill silence with patter even when there’s nothing going on which, for a game like football or a recipe like risotto, is like 80 percent of the time. This patter is actually where you need to tune in, though. This is where they say things like, “Ultimately, this is a team game played by individuals,” or “If he’s not covered, he’s open.” Now clearly, you can’t repeat such a remark verbatim during the game in which it is said, but if you have a pen or smart phone handy you can remember it for the next game, in which it will be equally meaningless/applicable.

But otherwise, here is a preliminary list of phrases you can use, which was developed in consultation with actual men. The site will be updated frequently with generic nonfalsifiable sports commentary (GNSC).

  • (Pre-game) “You never know till game time.”
  • “It is what it is.”
  • “It isn’t what it’s not.”
  • “We’ll have to see what happens to know what is going to happen.”
  • “At any point in the game, it’s all mental.”
  • (Pre-game) “It all depends on which team shows up.” (Note ambiguity of referent; could indicate the inconsistency of one team or a comparison between the two teams.)
  • (Football) “It’ll be interesting to see how those [defenses/offenses] match up.”
  • “Looks like we got a game on our hands.”
  • If you get the sense someone did something right, say: “That’s the play you gotta make.” If you get the sense someone screwed something up, say the same thing with a slightly different intonation: “That’s the play you gotta MAKE,” thereby emphasizing that the needed play was not, in fact, made.
  • Alternatively, and even less falsifiably, you could say: “That was a play.” Pretty much always true, unless said mid-play. Pay attention to whether people are actually playing before you speak.

The fact that sports don’t matter makes it all the more baffling how widely and passionately they are treated as if they do. Pro sports players often make millions a year. Congress often spends millions investigating them for steroid use. Individual games spark insane, sometimes violent, displays of emotion from otherwise strong, silent types — and not just in Philadelphia.

I love men very, very much, and I like to think I get them for the most part. Indeed, I am often mistaken for a sports fan; I think this is because I am vulgar and aggressive and fond of beer. These qualities of mine make me all the sadder that I somehow, despite years of trying, can’t seem to care about sports. Other people talk about sports and I see gorgeous, endless vistas of easy shit-talking opening up before my eyes — and yet it is as if I am wearing an electric dog collar of apathy that shocks me with the knowledge that sports do not matter every time I try to leave my own sensible yard and venture into the irrational world of sports fandom.

Still, I’ve had tantalizing glimpses of what life might be like if I could bring myself to care. All the small talk I could make just by finding out where someone is from. “Oh, Chicago? The bench is strong this year, huh? What do you think of that one draft pick? His stats are quite something, but you never know till game time, do ya.” All the consequence-free, non-personal abuse I could heap on my friends just because of their arbitrary allegiances and my equally arbitrary scorn for the same. All the conversations happening around me that I could understand.

Welp, it wasn’t meant to be. But here’s the thing. It’s come to my attention that one doesn’t have to speak very much in order to participate in sports conversations. And participating in sports conversations, in turn, sort of neutralizes the apathy-dog collar. I say “sort of” because it doesn’t actually take away the apathy, but it does make it sting enough less to get one admittance to those lush small talk meadows, in which to then frolick, or something. This is important because you know who likes sports? Powerful men like sports. You know how you get good jobs? You make small talk with powerful men. You know how you make small talk with powerful men? Say a couple of key sports phrases, then agree with all the commentary they generate. I can virtually guarantee they will not ask you for your opinion, and they will give you enough cues that if you say what they said to you in slightly different words back to them, they will think you are a genius.

I learned both of those things by talking to powerful men. The breakthrough came when it somehow occurred to me to refer to Derek Jeter (Yankees, baseball, yawn) as “Jeets” in the presence of a man because I’d heard some other man do it. The man on the receiving end of my baseball knowledge (which I had thereby exhausted) remarked “You know your baseball!” and proceeded to say a lot of things about baseball, to all of which I assented knowingly, without knowing anything.

So the aim of this blog is to provide those kind of shortcuts. Because sports are boring, but they are everywhere. And just because you have to pretend to care about them sometimes doesn’t mean you have to find out about them. I aim to provide three main services, in no particular order and at no particular frequency: Flag in the briefest way possible the big sports-related news of any given week (the Super Bowl was last Sunday, fyi. The Ravens won. They are from Baltimore. Fella named Ray Lewis is famous among them, implicated in shady things, old.) in no more words than are absolutely necessary to decode the conversations you are likely to encounter about it; to supply general, nonfalsifiable remarks to make (e.g. “You know, they made some plays, and they messed some up”) should you find yourself actually having to watch a game; and to highlight interesting/absurd stories that are tangentially related to sports (like, what’s the deal with soccer hooliganism in Egypt? How come people die over sports games?).

Meanwhile, an accompanying twitter feed will supply one reasonable sports opinion per day, per the plea of Randall Munroe, author of this handy cheat sheet:

(Source: xkcd.com.)

And that should be enough to get you small talkin.