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Geeks and Sports

© January 2008 Anthony Lawrence

A healthy percentage of techie types are uninterested in Sports - that's sports with the big "S", as in professional Baseball, Basketball, Soccer, Hockey and Football. A few will express some interest in the Olympics, especially for the individual events where a team isn't involved. Some may even like to play sports, getting together now and then for a game of hoops or softball or whatever.

But the rabid fascination with the Super Bowl, the Series and all that is usually missing from technical people. Getting excited about "your" team when in fact it is nothing but a corporation hiring and firing like every other corporation makes no sense. Why not root for IBM's earnings against Microsoft's, and earnestly discuss Apple's likely earnings this quarter if Steve Jobs gets a cold?

Yet we have to associate with the great masses, and that means being regularly greeted by "Did you catch the game last night?" or "Whadda 'bout dem Sox, huh?". Most of us mumble something and will try to avoid being definitive: we really don't want to be pushed to the point of saying "I don't follow sports, sorry". It's not because we're ashamed or feel we should be tracking these teams, it's because of the incredulous looks that will follow such an announcement. Your typical sports fan finds it incomprehensible that you, a fellow human being, have no interest in sports. He may excuse it if you are female, but certainly not if you are male.

In fact, his disbelief may cause him to refuse to accept what you actually said. If he asked about Football, and you were goaded and pushed into the mumbled "I don't follow sports" admission, he may interpret that as "I don't follow Football" and press on with "So, is it Hoops you like? Hockey?". It may take speaking slowly and firmly to finally convince him that you don't follow any of it, and he won't be happy with that: you'll be viewed with deep suspicion from that moment on.

Some of us lie. My father was like that. He knew no more about professional sports than he did about nuclear physics, but if approached with a hearty "How about that game?" he'd enthusiastically respond, "That was great, wasn't it?". Often he had no idea whether the "game" being referred to was Football, Baseball or anything else, but he felt a social responsibility to respond cheerfully. I know other people who have privately confided that they do the same thing, either from politeness or to avoid the inevitable further questioning ("How can you NOT like sports??").

I'm tempted to try another approach. For example, the next time someone mentions the Super Bowl, I intend to answer with "Well, I'm looking forward to the Quaternaries in Vegas - that ought to be an incredible game!". I tried this out on my sister (not a big sports fan, but her husband is). The expressions on her face were wonderful - a dead pause, a quiver of disbelief, then an explosive "The what???". It ought to be even better with a real fan.

Some other thoughts (pick the one most appropriate):

"I think the hepatitis thing is going to hurt their chances"

"The game was better when they used real balls"

"The game was better when they used real human heads"

"They need more women players" (unless it's a women's sport, in which case they need more men..)

"I think the referees need to be robots"

"I have it on Betamax"

"Nobody ever played Football better than Mickey Mantle"

"Sure, but their fourth quarter earnings are way down"

"The problem with (x) is that they don't grok object oriented play"

"Oh, man, there were dangling pointers all over that field!"

"Their problem is that they don't use Macs"

Or, if you want to be a bit less confrontational:

"I haven't had enough coffee yet to talk about it"

"It's all so depressing right now" (especially good if "your" team won)

"I had an emergency appendectomy - stupid wife made me go to the hospital and I missed the whole game!"

"No, my dog died"

"I was busy at Church. Are you saved?"

I'm sure others can come up with more fun responses, right?

Got something to add? Send me email.

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Thu Jan 24 17:34:12 2008: 3521   MikeHostetler

Imagine, if you will, that you live in a sports-crazy city or state. Kinda like Boston with the Red Sox or with the Patriots. But worse.

I have lived my entire life in Nebraska and I couldn't give one lick about Nebraska football. Yet it's in the news most of the year (they even talk about Spring practice!). I don't even think I own a NE Football shirt and I find the game time a good time to go shopping (cuz the stores are dead).

But I have yet to get used to the reaction when I say "I don't really follow football" or "I don't watch the games."

Part of the problem is that I'm a geek, but I also have two brothers that are sports maniacs and have been all my life. When you are on the fence about something but are surrounded by people who are solidly on one side, you eventually fall off to the other side -- just because you are sick of it. I know a lot about sports (I can talk the talk) but I really have no knowledge about who's good and who's not.

Great post, Tony!

Thu Jan 24 17:43:24 2008: 3522   TonyLawrence

Worse than Boston?.. owww..

A few years ago the Patriots threatened to move to Connecticut.. that was the first and only time I said "Go Pats!" :-)

Fri Feb 1 22:59:37 2008: 3577   BigDumbDinosaur

"Whadda 'bout dem Sox, huh?"

Which Sox? <Grin>

Seriously, this story describes me quite well. I have little interest in sports and really didn't think much about it when our local football "heroes," the Chicago Bears, went to the Superbowl last year (which turned out to be the toilet bowl for them). As far as I'm concerned, all these over-paid athletes represent nothing important. I especially laugh when I see some famous athlete on TV hawking some product as though he's an expert. Most athletes I've known didn't know squat about much of anything except how to toss a ball or tackle an opposing lineman. Their physical abilities were their sole meal ticket. Someone to look up to? Hardly! My idea of someone to look up to is the fireman who fearlessly rescues an old lady from a burning building or a researcher trying to figure out why people get cancer, not some steroid-user with the brains of a gorilla.

Mon Feb 4 14:30:24 2008: 3587   BigDumbDInosaur

Well, things didn't go as planned on Super Sunday. The Giants won the Super Bowl, and the Patriots' game went down the toilet bowl. So much for the odds. <Grin>


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