So you’ve been invited over to watch The Game, but you’re not a sports fan. Don’t worry, you can still have a great time at a sports party if you’re not a fan. If you understand the rules. Like whatever match you’re about to watch, the sport of watching sports has points, rules, fouls, even penalties so egregious that you could be tossed out for them. But don’t worry, we’ve got the rulebook you’re looking for.
First of all, show up at least a half hour before game time so you can get to know everyone. And so you can get some nachos before they’re gone. Also because there will be no pleasantries exchanged once the game has started. Don’t take this personally. It’s not you, it’s game frenzy; a condition that creates tunnel vision and removes personal volume control. Remember: you’re at a game party with a bunch of sports fans. You’re hanging out with them, and it’s their rules.
Secondly, remember your basic p’s and q’s and bring something to the party. This tells everyone that even if you’re not a fan, you’re there to have a good time. Don’t be all Guy Fieri about it either; you can never go wrong with (at least) 12 cans of domestic beer or several bags of potato chips. Or both. That’s a great first impression.
While getting to know everyone, it’s very important that you don’t pretend to be an expert. Resist the urge to parrot somebody else’s soundbite or headline as your own opinion. Especially if you’re unfamiliar with the loyalties of The House. (Defined by the host and usually two to three of their loudest friends; every House has it’s own specific opinion on the hometeam, as unique as a fingerprint and sensitive as a hair-trigger.) So if you recycle some sport writer’s opinion that the new quarterback is gonna “tie the room together” and the House thinks he’s an overpaid bum, now you’ve branded yourself against the House. Fact: among the fiercely loyal, there are no casual opinions. Don’t make any statements you’re not willing to fight for.
The flipside of this is don’t ask too many questions. Nothing annoys a fan quicker than having to explain everything. This isn’t a classroom, it’s the war room. You don’t know the rules? Google it. If you’re genuinely confused about something during gameplay, okay then you can ask. But only adorable kids, old people and girls with big boobs get to ask “which color are we rooting for?” Dig?
If the House’s team is playing well or winning handily, then spirits will be high. High fives will fly. Nachos will get destroyed. All you need to do then is follow the cardinal rule of sports watching and never disrupt the viewing of the game. Do not block anyone’s view. Don’t beg for attention during the game. Texting is fine, phone calls are not. Conversation is for commercials. And if you’re getting up for another beer, always ask the room who wants another. That’s just polite.
If the House team is struggling with the lead or starting to lose, things get trickier. Fact: one cannot soar to high highs without also falling to low lows, and if the House team begins to lose you’re going to feel the temperature of the room drop to a low, chilly hostility. When the cheers turn to jeers, your best bet is to go with the flow. Everyone’s angry? Then you’re angry too. That ref made a stupid call? He’s a fucking moron. The new quarterback isn’t playing well? Send him back to Jacksonville. The host just kicked a hole in his wall? Smash that beer bottle over your head.
If the House’s team is losing terribly, then your job becomes keep your head down and don’t draw attention to yourself. Many sports fans are superstitious by nature, and even the most level-headed person can be thrown off by high emotions and a few gallons of beer. Anything can and will be blamed for the team’s performance, including the outcome of the coin toss or the attendance of a non-fan at the party. Fact: you do not want a roomful of angry sports fans blaming you for their misery. That’s a lot like being the dinner guest at the end of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. If that happens, run. But don’t worry, it probably won’t.
When the game is over, don’t leave too quickly. Take a few minutes to celebrate or commiserate with the group. Offer to clean up a little. If you have to drive, make sure that you’re sober. But don’t hang out too long, and especially if it’s during football season, do not stay for another game. An entire day spent watching sports may sound enjoyable, but it’s really for die-hards only. The non-sports fan will eventually lose interest and want to move on with their day. Hopefully you’re sober and can leave right away when that happens. If you’re not, then you’re stuck. Overstaying your welcome risks turning a fun activity into an annoying distraction. Quit while you’re ahead and go out on top.