How to get into sports (even if you can’t tell a face-off from a free throw!)

A year ago, I was about the farthest thing you could find from a sports fan. I grew up watching the Super Bowl, the Daytona 500, the Olympics … and that was about it. I danced, did color guard, and swam, but never felt like I had anything to gain from watching most popular sports. However, over the course of 2017 I discovered a love for watching sports. Whether it was March Madness over appetizers, gymnastics meets during spring break, or NHL playoffs from a dorm room, I learned to love watching and talking about all kinds of sports.

 

A year ago I knew absolutely nothing about sports. These days I'm one of the most die hard hockey fans you'll ever meet. In this post I'll explain how I began loving sports and how you can too. | HOW TO GET INTO SPORTS (EVEN IF YOU CAN'T TELL A FACE-OFF FROM A FREE THROW!) | HONEYBEE JOYOUS

 

I never thought I’d be a sports gal but 2017 was full of surprises and my hockey obsession was one of them. I’ve talked to a lot of people who want to discover their own love for sports but aren’t sure where to start, so I figured it would be the perfect topic for a blog post! Today I’m going to help you go from total newbie to professional spectator. Remember, this is a no judgment zone, just like all sports fandom should be!

 

 

Figure out what will suck you in

The first step to becoming a sports lover is to figure out how to get your foot in the door. Lots of people are born into the world of sports and grow up with ESPN constantly on in the background. Everyone has something they’re an expert on just because they grew up with it. For me, that thing is Disney World, but for a lot of people it’s basketball or soccer or football. Because of that culture, it can really seem like you have to start being a fan the second you get out of the womb, but that’s just not true!

For some people, the thing that sucks them in is just who their family is and what they’re into, but the rest of us have to work a little harder. Just like your goals and New Year’s resolutions, you’re not going to stick to watching sports if you’re not motivated.

My suggestion is to try thinking out of the box for what will suck you into watching sports. If you’re super competitive, maybe it’s a deep-seated rivalry with your best friend’s football team. If you’re the hands-on type, maybe learning how to play football will help you get excited about watching it. If you like to win bets against your friends, try making a March Madness bracket.

For me, I love stories, especially stories about people. The thing that turned me from casual sports viewer to die-hard hockey fan was learning about the lives and stories of the players on the Washington Capitals. I first learned to care about the players and once I cared about them, I just naturally started caring about the outcome of the games they played in.

If you love stories too, I’d definitely recommend opening yourself up to sports stories by reading sports books. If you’re building out your reading list like I am, consider adding a book like The Crossover [affiliate link] to your list. This book by Kwame Alexander is about basketball and written in poems, but WOW it’s way more amazing and accessible than you’d ever think. His books are largely beloved by kids who love sports but are still learning to love reading, but I found them amazing as someone who already loved reading but was still learning to love sports. Getting sucked in by stories is so real and books can definitely help you get in the right mindset.

 

Find your news sources

Once you’ve figured out what’s going to get you interested (and keep you interested) in sports, you’re going to want to start getting some info. What kinds of news sources you find is going to depend on what sport or team you’re getting invested in.

My recommendations are to find a couple blogs dedicated to covering your preferred sport/team and also to figure out who the beat reporter is covering your team for the local newspaper. For me, I mostly get my Caps news from one of my favorite blogs, Russian Machine Never Breaks, and from Isabelle Khurshudyan, the reporter covering the Caps for The Washington Post, as well as a couple other blogs and reporters.

As a new sports fan, it can be really hard to stay invested if you’re not up to date with what’s going on, but finding good news sources can be really helpful, especially if you feel like going on a reading binge to try to learn a bunch all at once!

 

Go crazy with your social media follows

Once you’ve figured out where you want to get your news, follow those people and outlets on social media. Twitter tends to be awesome for sports news and sports discourse. Once you’ve followed your news sources, start following some of the players. How much the players post on social media and which platforms they prefer is going to wildly differ by sport and by individual, but personally following players on Twitter and Instagram was a big part of what turned me from a causal viewer into a devoted hockey fan.

If you’ve followed all the players you can find, start thinking a little outside of the box. Have they tagged their spouse’s public Instagram in any photos? Does their dog have an Instagram account? Go down some rabbit holes and get invested in the personal lives of players. It sounds super weird, but if you’ve never found a reason to care about sports before, getting peeks into the lives and families of the players you’re watching can help give you a reason to care.

Once you’ve followed a bunch of people affiliated with the team/sport you’re getting interested in, your suggested accounts will reflect that. Be sure to take a look at those as well. I started out just following my news sources on Twitter, then gradually followed a bunch of players and their wives, and now I’m following tons of accounts that tweet about the Caps (with varying levels of ridiculousness).

 

Get a trusted watching buddy

This is probably the most crucial tip on this list — find somebody to watch with. This person needs to be absolutely no-judgment and totally down to help you learn. They should answer all your “stupid” questions and never make you feel like you’re stupid for asking them. They should never tell you to be quiet so they can watch the game. They should never quiz you on trivia to make you prove you’re a “real fan.” They should never make fun of you for not knowing terminology or rules of the game. They should be excited to answer your questions and help you get excited about the sport/team you’re learning to love.

For me, this person is my boyfriend, Brendan. He grew up watching and playing all kinds of sports and is one of the most die-hard D.C. sports fans you’ll ever meet. He’s got a wealth of knowledge about the rules, happenings, and histories of most sports and if he’s not playing guitar or writing, he’s probably watching a game. When we first became friends, I’d often find myself in his dorm room watching basketball or hockey with him while I did homework. At first, I had no idea what was going on. But, as I started to ask questions, Brendan was always excited that I was genuinely interested in learning what was going on and he’d always give me a fleshed-out, easy-to-understand answer. A good example of this is one time I asked Bren how they transitioned from hockey ice to basketball floor and instead of telling me that was a ridiculous question, he helped me find a video of the process that we both watched together.

Of course, having one trustworthy viewing buddy is crucial but it’s even better if you can find more than one! Brendan’s obviously my number one, but I’ve got quite a few friends I like watching and talking sports with. During March Madness, I spent a lot of time with Bren and our friends Kevin and Alyssa watching games and eating appetizers. Kevin is a supportive pal who’s always down to re-explain weird basketball lingo to me. Alyssa is one of the most awesome boss babes I know and is our school newspaper’s first female sports editor in recent memory. She’s great at putting up with my comments on the sides of articles that say “This sounds wrong. Is it just a weird football word or does it need to be fixed?” and she teaches me new things all the time. Chris is her co-editor and he is a boundless wealth of sports idioms that he’s always willing to explain. My friend Josh never fails to provide hot takes and hotter memes. And my friend Julia has bad hockey allegiances (don’t worry, just a friendly rivalry!) but she was one of the first people I ever watched hockey with and her enthusiasm and perspective is absolutely unmatched.

There’s no better way to make a quick transformation from person-who-knows-what-a-basketball-looks-like to basketball expert than by developing your own sports squad. A perk of working for my school newspaper is that my whole sports squad is also awesome at writing and covers sports for the paper and other publications. Check out their work and give them some love! Brendan (here, here), Kevin (here), Alyssa (here), Chris (here), Josh (here, here), and Julia (here, here).

 

Watch games and listen to the commentators

Now that you’ve found your sports squad, you’re probably starting to watch the games. This is obviously super important, but even more important is listening to the commentators. This probably sounds like an obvious piece of advice, but really focusing on what the announcers are saying made such a difference for me. At first, it might be kind of confusing because announcers tend use a lot of lingo and jargon to keep their commentary interesting. However, that lingo is a lot easier to digest during gameplay than if you were just reading an article.

Something I did not initially know is that there are usually two announcers — a play-by-play announcer and a color commentator. The play-by-play announcer tells you who has the ball (or the puck) and basically the nitty gritty facts of the game as it’s happening. Listening to that is super helpful if you want to learn how to follow along with a game. The color commentator adds interest by throwing in facts about players and telling you why little details matter in the grand scheme of the sport/team. A good announcer pair will have a good relationship and play off each other, which helps make every game both fun and informative to watch!

A year ago I knew absolutely nothing about sports. These days I'm one of the most die hard hockey fans you'll ever meet. In this post I'll explain how I began loving sports and how you can too. | HOW TO GET INTO SPORTS (EVEN IF YOU CAN'T TELL A FACE-OFF FROM A FREE THROW!) | HONEYBEE JOYOUS

 

Remember there’s no such thing as a “fake fan”

Probably the hardest thing about getting into sports when you don’t know much is cracking into the culture. It can be really easy to feel like you don’t belong and you should just give up trying to be a fan. Even if you’ve got a solid sports squad and you’re learning a ton and watching every game, the second you try to talk about your newfound obsession, somebody is going to try to quiz you to see if you qualify as a “real fan.”

Just because you can’t name the 1983 coach’s son’s middle name or you don’t know the most obscure stat about a player who sits on the bench for 90% of games doesn’t make you a fake fan. Even if you can’t name every single player on the team’s roster or the most basic stat of the most well known player, you’re still not a fake fan! Everyone has to start somewhere and if anyone’s a fake fan it’s the jerk pretending like they emerged from the womb with extensive knowledge of the minute details and advanced stats of every sport.

This is a big obstacle for a lot of people new to the world of sports, especially for women. For some reason, certain people would rather tell you you’re a “fake fan” than get excited about the fact you’re learning to love one of their favorite things. It can be hard, but don’t let those people get you down. Surround yourself with your supportive sports squad and tune out the gatekeepers. Sports are for everyone and there’s no such thing as a fake fan. 

 

I hope this post helped you feel encouraged and supported in your attempt to learn about something new. Tag me in your posts and pictures about getting into sports (I’m @honeybeejoyous everywhere!) and let’s be each other’s supportive sports squads!

 

{What’s your favorite sport to watch? Are you a sports novice or a professional spectator? Tell me all about your sports opinions in the comments below! I read and respond to every single comment.}

 

 

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