The Athletically Challenged Students’ Guide to All Sporting Events: Surviving and Participating and Everything in Between


By: Danielle Matta

There are two types of people in this world: those who are innate athletes and able to actually flex their non-inflatable muscles and compare calf sizes with one another, and those who can do neither and if they try they hurt themselves. It’s not a bad thing—some people are sporty and others are not; There are kids who are just as talented in theatre, art, academics, and playing video games as the star high school football player is at playing football.
But sports are a large part of American culture. They are the American pastime, a part of the American dream, or something like that. So what do you do if you spent all night watching reruns of Friends or working on Algebra homework when the rest of the student body was busy buzzing about last night’s revolutionary game, and you have no clue what went on? Worse yet, what do you actually DO at a game, and how can you appear to be a Captain of All Things Sporty and not embarrass yourself in front of hardcore fans?
Never fear, dear fellow challenged athlete, because you have just stumbled (something you are all too familiar with), upon a guide that will improve your social standing amongst buff jocks and allow you to embrace your inner sportsman without even trying. Follow these simple rules, tested and performed by thousands of undercover non-athletes, and no one will be able to tell the difference between you and the aggressive guy who’s screaming out strategy and covered in face paint.
Your preparation for a game is just as important as actually participating during a game. This is your chance for any last-minute research, including knowing what you are going to wear and mentally readying yourself for a potential 2 hours of sport exposure. Sporting events can be taxing—they require long hours on your feet and being bored and hopelessly clueless, as well as having to constantly wipe other people’s angry spit off your face from all the screaming. You are going to want to make sure that when you leave the house before that game, you are not only ready to return half-deaf and without a voice, but that you will make the whole experience easier on yourself by DRESSING PROPERLY. Seriously, that weather app on your phone that you never use? LOOK at that. Because when you show up in a really cute pair of shorts or awesome new t-shirt and it ends up dropping to 38 degrees that night, you will wish you had at least brought a pair of gloves. Going along with that, almost every sporting event has some sort of dress code…meaning that there really isn’t one, other than the fact that you should probably wear some sort of spirit wear or at least the color of that certain game. The point is not fashion, but truly how ridiculous one can look in a single, solitary color while also being able to fight off the elements. It’s a strange world, the sports one, but a practical one.
This is the big leagues. Being able to put off the impression to all your fellow classmates that you are in fact a devoted and wise fan is truly a masterful skill. At the same time, you don’t want your friends to start thinking you really ARE the sports guy with all the answers, so you have to find the perfect balance between blending in with the crowd and not making a fool of yourself amongst 70 students.
Although everyone has their own personal techniques, there are some common factors that really are necessary to pull off the whole façade:
Hop on the Bandwagon- You are just another generation Y teen feeling the pressure of, well, peer pressure. Don’t let sporting games stop your urge to do whatever the person next to you does. If one person hoots or hollers, you should probably hoot or holler. If a whole bunch of people hoot, you should be an owl. Even when in 9 cases out of 10 you will have no idea in this whole sweet world what part of the game brought on such a reaction, it is safe to say that as long as you are quick to spot chanting or whooping trends (and aren’t shouting “YEAH!” 8 seconds after everyone else, resulting in blank stares) and follow along, your secret is safe. Plus, look around. There is at least a guaranteed half of the crowd there frantically scanning the field or getting whip lash from trying to see what everyone else is doing too. It goes back to the greatest philosophy: If the fans at a sporting event told you to jump off a bridge, would you? Of course you would!
Be a Copy-Cat- Even if you are cheering at all the appropriate times, there is no way you will fool anyone if you don’t pick up some sporting lingo and shout it randomly. Since you are probably not really watching the game, eavesdrop on the conversations near you. Only tune in on the aggressive-sports-mutter, and ignore the gossip, otherwise you’ll be accidently shouting, “JESSIE IS CHEATING ON BOBBY BOY,” which not only will result in many odd and possibly shocked looks, but also a beating from Bobby Boy. Listen out for other kids explaining game rules or mumbling insults at the other team. Once you’ve heard a phrase you feel comfortable enough to repeat, turn to the person next to you and let it loose. They will be so impressed they will crown you Best Fan Ever right then and there, or at least mentally categorize you as someone who is Not Completely an Idiot. Be careful what you copy, though. Saying something too complex or specific will make others ask questions, and then you may be tempted to actually try and explain your comment…a recipe for disaster, no doubt.
Always Blame the Ref- This may or may not work in your favor, but it seems that enough hardcore sports fans do it already, so what harm could it do? Shouting things like “That dang-um ref!” and “He’s been paid off!” will only really get you in trouble if you are standing next to the referee’s son or spouse. Or, of course, if the ref called an action that helped your team. Use this one wisely, and you may get some appreciative grunts or head-nods, which is all we can ever ask for in this life.
Don’t just take this guide’s word for it though. Three sophomore girls– Becca McHale, Shannon Romutis, and Jenny Samios– have sound advice for anyone still struggling to be accepted within the sporting event fanclub.
McHale says, “Go with friends and dress up really spirited like you know what’s happening. Then ask around and find out who’s playing so that you can just shout out obscenities about the other team until you win.”
“I’m a pro at this,” says Romutis. “You always make sure you’re not right in the middle of the crowd, because then it will be obvious when you have no idea what you’re doing.”
And finally, Jenny says to, “Eat lots of food,” to help ease the pain, and to go through the mental checklist: “That person has the ball. He’s on our team. Good.”
Indeed, that is good. Never forget: worst comes to worst, you can always not go to the game and say you did, and then look up the scores online once it’s finished. Who wants to be spat on that much anyway?