Not sure if you’ve noticed, but in Australia, sport is bloody everywhere. In pubs, in news headlines and in every second conversation.
I absolutely do not watch sport – every family has one of me, the black sheep, if you will. At most, I’ve caught a glimpse of a game here or there when someone else has put it on and I can’t physically leave the room.
While I’ve definitely painted the picture of being very unsporty, the truth is I’m actually super active. I love to play sports and, if I may toot my own horn (which I absolutely can because you’re not here to stop me) I’m usually quite good at them. I’ve just never particularly cared to keep up with OTHER people playing.
Most of the time, I’m totally ok with this. Then there are the other times that us non-sporties get left out of big conversations because they’re all about the sportsball and we have nothing to add.
Well, I’m sick of it. Not sick enough to actually start watching, but sick enough to try and cheat the system.
The final straw for me was back when the tennis Australian Open was on – apparently, it was a pretty big deal, seeing as it dominated every convo and even I absolutely knew it was happening.
Dealing with a severe case of FOMO, I started trialling a few tactics for those of us who do not watch sports to still look like we’re experts without having to keep up with who’s winning.
Some worked, some not so much, but here’s a tried and true cheat sheet for your next attempt.
Attempt 1: The Parents
Right in the middle of the tennis festivities, Dad’s birthday dinner came up. This is significant because Mum has always been a huge tennis fan – her whole side of the family, in fact, are true fanatics. So I figured it was the perfect opportunity to integrate myself into the inevitable Aussie Open convo.
The Plan: Use common phrases like ‘backhand’, ‘forehand’, ‘serve’ – you know, basically the stuff you kind of just end up knowing without ever being intimately involved in the sport.
What Happened: As suspected, the tennis came up. Mum was directing her comments to my brother, the other tennis fan in my fam. I honestly can’t even tell you the name of the player they were talking about but I jumped in with a ‘oh yeah he has a killer backhand’ anyway.
I was met with about 30 seconds of stunned silence before everyone burst into laughter at my expense.
Key Learnings: Know your audience. When the people you’re talking to have known you for 29 years and you never once tried to join in any type of sports talk, there is no way to trick them into thinking you suddenly know what you’re on about.
Attempt 2: The Hot Date
Ok so it wasn’t actually a date – I just needed a fun heading – but it was a phone call with the guy I’ve been dating for a while. While he’s never spoken about tennis specifically before, I know that in general, he’s just a sports nut who almost certainly would be watching a big tennis comp.
The Plan: While he absolutely knows I give zero effs about soccer, tennis has not yet been broached. So I decided to bring it up and then rely on the gossip I know surrounding certain players – you know, the stuff that makes headlines.
What Happened: A simple ‘have you been watching the tennis’ worked perfectly as a segue. He started talking about the most recent game he’d watched, which luckily for me included Nick Kyrgios who I think we can all agree has a significant amount of tea to choose from.
The one key phrase that truly worked in this particular conversation was ‘looks like he’s taken a moment out of his tantrums to play the sport’. If I’m honest, I have no idea if he’s still throwing tantrums on the court or not, but the point is it WORKED.
Key Learnings: Fan or not, everyone loves a little tea and showing you know ANYTHING about a player automatically helps set you up to be seen as a sports fan.
P.S. I did confess what I was doing and now he will never trust me again. It’s fine, it’s not like trust is important in relationships.
Attempt 3: The DM Slide
Social media is a perfect way to identify who cares about the Aussie Open without you having to start the conversation. Case and point when my coworker posted an Instastory of him watching a game.
The Plan: Having this convo online instead of face-to-face gives you time to consider your response and, therefore, increase your chances of sounding legit.
What Happened: A very quick google of who played the night before brought up Rafael Nadal’s name (see, considered response) and I rolled with it. Please see below.
Key Learnings: Online is absolutely the place to start to gain your confidence. I mean, ‘serving up some juice’? What IS that? I tell you what it is, it’s me confusing not only the correct term for ‘deuce’, but also having no idea what it means. It still worked though, and you can always sign off with a simple ‘like’ of their last comment.
Side note – I have no idea if Nadal is a sweetheart or not, just a lot of people seem to be showing him love in their Instastories – so it also defs works to just go with popular opinion.
Attempt 4: The IRL Coworker
At this point, I was feeling a little cocky and sure that I could bluff my way through any tennis-related convo. So when my coworker put Ash Barty’s final game of the Open on, I had no qualms giving my new-found skills a go.
The Plan: Open up the convo with ‘who’s playing’ and just wing it from there – I’ve learned enough by now, right?
What Happened: In short, I messed it RIGHT up. Don’t get me wrong, the initial question worked a charm and I was IN. Except when my coworker answered with a simple ‘Ash’ – admittedly OBVIOUSLY Ash Barty who I also absolutely know from news headlines – I blanked HARD.
For some reason I could not recall the full name under pressure and therefore spent so long trying to think of a reply that wasn’t gendered and out myself as a fraud that all I could come up with was ‘ok’. Said coworker (fairly) gave me a look that cried ‘are you ok?’ and carried on with her viewing/working. It was a damn mess, if I’m honest.
Key Learnings: ALWAYS have a few key questions ready to go in case of an absolute brain fart. In hindsight, the obvious thing to say was ‘who’s winning’. Yet, in the moment, I fell to pieces – frankly, this is the same reason you don’t want me on your trivia team.
Halfa later and a bunch of coworkers were literally crowded around the screen sighing in that way people do when they care about sports and their fave person isn’t winning. Having already outed myself as someone who does not care about sports I was stuck sitting alone, working, while they got to have fun team bonding.
Attempt 5: The Work Chat
I don’t know how your office works, but we have a company-wide chat. Now, this is obviously a foolish place to actually try and join in a sports conversation because literally the whole office can see and you’re very likely to be called out. If you can pull off an interaction though, you’ve gone and convinced everyone you’re totally with it.
The Plan: Keep it very simple and offer a reaction only. Do. Not. Add. Details.
What Happened: I simply followed the sad emoji react that two brave souls had used before me. Are they also tennis newbs? Perhaps, but we could never suspect because of their flawless interaction.
Key Learnings: Emoji reactions are absolutely your best friend. They show you care enough to respond and therefore ABSOLUTELY know tennis, but perhaps are simply too busy and important to be able to reply in full.
I’m just saying, the Olympics are back this year, so I highly recommend you start practicing now. You’re welcome.