I went to Louisiana State University for graduate school, so, with the LSU Tigers perennially in the hunt for the national collegiate football championship, I've had a number of conversations with others that involve phrases such as "Your team looked great out there" and "Sorry your guys lost."
My team? My guys?
From what I've gathered, there's an assumption that if you attended a school, you avidly follow that school's sports (At least the schools that are considered powers in a particular major sport. My undergrad school, Old Dominion, was national champion in sailing while I was there, but no one seems to care about that).
While I was at LSU, I went to one football game. I didn't even watch them on television because I was usually doing school work. I could hear my wife screaming at the game on the TV in the other room, but I was generally cooped up in our apartment's study/spare bedroom/place where the computer was. And if I'm completely honest, I didn't really care.
Of course, part of that may be because I didn't really grow up around football (or any kind of sports fandom really). My father watched college basketball very occasionally (usually on a tiny TV in his study away from the rest of us), but that was it. He didn't (and still doesn't to my knowledge) care about any professional team in any sport. I went to a small high school that didn't have a football team, and while I was at ODU, they didn't have a football team either (They did have a stadium, though, remaining from their beginnings as a satellite campus of The College of William & Mary. I also saw some t-shirts around campus that read "Old Dominion Football: Undefeated," which was true then. Now they have a real team with an actual win-loss record. But I digress...).
With no football (or big time sports) background before I moved to Baton Rouge to attend LSU, I had no idea what I was walking into. Shortly after the semester started, I tried to go to the library on campus on a Saturday. I couldn't get near the place and had no idea why. When I asked someone, they looked at me like I was a complete idiot. It was GAME DAY! Why the hell would I be trying to go the library on GAME DAY? Whoops. Silly me.
I graduated from LSU over a decade ago and moved over 1500 miles away, but apparently I'm supposed to feel as attached to the football team as a student who is currently at the university...not that I was all that attached even when I was a student. Yes, it's nice to hear that the school is doing well and getting good press its success, but I don't know anyone involved with the football team. The students playing on it now were maybe in elementary school when I graduated. Again, it's nice that they're performing well, but how are they "my team" in any way, shape, or form?
At least I went to LSU, though. My brother has adopted a team as his own from a school that he didn't even attend. Yes, he happens to live in the same state as their campus, but he's far more involved with them than I am with a school that I actually attended. I guess it's just a sports fan gene that I'm missing or something.
As I live in Baltimore, a city that is currently home to the NFL champions, football-related conversations are exceptionally common in my workplace and in social situations. In order to talk to people, create collegial relationships, and find something resembling common ground, I’ve found it helpful to at least have a basic knowledge of what’s happening in the football universe. So while I don’t actually care, thanks to the Internet and a halfway decent ability to remember what I’ve read, I can fake my way through most conversations.
Honestly, I’ve found it to be quite valuable, so if any of you are in a similar situation, here are the list of sites I use to get myself in the know each week during football season:
My first stop is Yahoo’s NFL Page. Here you can find the scores for all of the games and a basic description of what happened. The recap articles are brief and cover the highlights, so you'll know the major events.
Then on Monday morning, Sports Illustrated’s site posts Monday Morning Quarterback (MMQB) by Peter King. He goes a little bit deeper into some of the major events, but what I find most useful is his list of the best 15 teams each week (and why) as well as the best players and worst players.
Finally around 1PM Eastern on Tuesdays, ESPN.com posts Tuesday Morning Quarterback (TMQ) by Gregg Easterbrook. This column is very long, but it's about a lot more than football. He'll cover the major events from the games and give interesting strategy insights, but he also talks about science, science fiction, economic issues, and any number of things. It's funny, varied, and incredibly informative.
Between those sites, you should be able to fake your way through any football conversation. As a side note, there’s an episode of "The IT Crowd," a British sitcom about the employees in the IT department of a large corporation, where the characters find a website that allows them to fake their way through football (soccer here) conversations with unfortunate results. Therefore, I take no responsibility for how you use the information on these sites. If you get involved with any gangs of criminals, you’re on your own.
- Alan Decker (@CmdrAJD on Twitter)