It's Not Just About The Sportsball

Many people I know into tech are not into sports. At all. In fact, they tend to refer to all sports collectively as sportsball:

Sportsball...is an Internet slang term used to describe any competitive sport that revolves around a ball, particularly the ones that end with the suffix “-ball” in their names, such as baseball, basketball and football. As implied by its generic name, the word is typically used in a derogatory manner by those who either dislike or has little interest in sports fandom.

I am probably in the minority among my community in the sense that I actually like some sports, particularly the NFL and the NBA. I'm not nearly as deep into it as some fans, but I do have teams I follow: the San Francisco 49ers (NFL) and the Golden State Warriors (NBA). I will occasionally pay attention to baseball, and I've been to a couple of hockey games, and I will entertain other regional sports when I am abroad.

If I had to pick a favorite sport: it's football, hands down. I've liked it ever since I was a young kid. Probably didn't hurt that I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area while I was a kid and watched the 49ers during their glory years. I will watch NFL, College, high school, and even the younger kids play. It requires a huge commitment and 11 players to work together towards a common goal. There are different things to appreciate about this sport at all age levels if you know what to look for.

Living in the Seattle area does not make me popular during the NFL season because the local team (the Seahawks) are in the same division as the 49ers. Between that, the absolutely miserable play by the 49ers over the last few years, and the recent success of the Golden State Warriors (colloquially known as the Dubs), I've started following the NBA again. Thankfully, unlike the 49ers, the Dubs do not have a rival based in Seattle, unless of course various parties can bring back the Seattle Supersonics.

To people who don't follow sports, professional sports seems absolutely ridiculous. It's an activity undertaken by highly paid athletes who work for teams and/or sports leagues mostly interested in making as much money as humanly possible. The impact of a team win or loss on a fan is mostly psychological. One's beliefs about a team's ability to win can appear similar to a belief in God, something a lot of tech people don't believe in, either.

Then again, that nerdy thing you like and will spend hours on end talking about seems absolutely ridiculous to most everyone else who isn't a similar sort of nerd. Sports (in general) is one of those things that the vast majority of people are interested in. As such, it serves as a useful way to relate to people who aren't your kind of nerd.

For example, even though I am not a Seahawks fan, because the majority of people around where I live are, I follow them enough to be able to talk intelligently with anyone about how they're doing. Same with basketball, I follow the Dubs and have a cursory knowledge of other teams and players. Baseball, I'm less into, but I get mildly interested in during the postseason and know who's playing who in the World Series.

When I travel, I find sports is a great way to relate to people, even if they like a sport I don't know much about. I've learned a bit about hockey from Canadians and about various forms of Rugby from Australians and South Africans. Even though it's unlikely I will get into these sports, I find having at least a perfunctory knowledge of the locally prevalent sports helps in all manners of conversation.

Bottom line: People appreciate when you show interest in something they are interested in. Sports is about as close to a touchdown, slam dunk, or home run as you're gonna get in this area.