The last of my 15 Things is this: you're never alone if you follow sports. I think I have to amend that one, though. You're never alone if you follow sports, and you don't have a TV at home. If you have a TV at home, you might be alone if you follow sports. The never alone part has something to do with sports bars. Now that there is an enormous TV with cable in The Annex, right around the corner, it is sometimes tempting to go watch UNC hoops over there. (Why UNC? See here.) And that is an entirely different experience than watching it at Rivalries, with Matty the bartender remembering what I like to drink and Big Ted yelling at the TV and sometimes Frankie showing up to talk statistics. I don't really want to watch sports alone, even if it's right around the corner, and even if the TV is big.
Even when those guys aren't there someone always strikes up a conversation with me. Maybe it's because I'm a chick, alone in a sports bar. Maybe people aren't as friendly to men. But even when I'm not talking to Matty or Ted or Frankie, someone wants to talk. Once it was a handsome pilot. Once it was a handsome bartender, in Chicago, who was nice to me even though I was rooting against Illinois. Yes, those two were trying to pick me up. But that's not always the case. A couple of weeks ago it was the guys at the next table, watching football on a different screen. Sometimes it's people rooting for the other team, and we have a little back-and-forth.
This wasn't true when I started going to watch the games. I didn't know how to sit at a bar, alone, without feeling self-conscious. I didn't know how to make friendly conversation. I didn't know very much about basketball. I was too embarrassed to ask basic questions. Now I do it all the time. People are nice. People want to talk.
And sports gives you a nice universe of shared experience. It's accessible to everybody. You have it in common. It's not complicated. You can build a bond with people without getting personal. There are very few things like this. It is not fraught with any kind of accidental peril, no landmines like asking someone what they do (oops, just laid off, now what do I say?) or about their family (wife just diagnosed with cancer, ack) or any of that stuff. You can talk about the hot new freshman and whether he's like Sean May or not so much, and about how their defensive game has improved over the year.
I used to think these kind of conversations were false. But I don't think so anymore. You build trust over time, and through shared experience. This is one way. And you can fly across the country and still find someone to sit next to and watch a game with. If you do not watch sports, you should. There's a whole world of people you'll have access to. Don't be such an intellectual snoot.
Of course, my interest in watching sports is entirely limited to college basketball. I understand there is some kind of football sporting event happening today. Couldn't care less. And those people who get excited about baseball? Please. How boring. I am considering developing an interest in hockey, because I like the hockey coaches at the college and would like to be at least moderately fluent in the language of their game. But I can never see the puck. I have to squint at the TV. It all moves too fast. And the players are brutes. So college basketball is the only sport worth watching. But it really is worth watching. Just so you don't root for Duke.