From the Sidelines: Dont be That Guy

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 4, 2008

An important skill for any sports fan is the ability to chime in on or maintain an intelligent conversation with other knowledgeable sports fans. This skill doesn&8217;t come naturally to most. Rather, it takes countless hours of intently studying Sportscenter, listening to sports talk radio and, of course, watching and analyzing the games themselves. With that in mind, the worst thing any would-be aficionado can do is completely undermine all that work by taking a ridiculous stance on a hot-button issue. Such mistakes can cause any otherwise intelligent human being to stand out like the overly inebriated idiot who manages to inopportunely scream &8220;Freebird&8221; during seemingly every concert the world has known since the Southern anthem debuted more than 30 years ago.

This edition of Sidelines offers one simple piece of advice, &8220;Don&8217;t be &8216;That Guy.&8217;&8221; In light of that priceless bit of counsel, here are the top five conversation stallers that can leave you as the proverbial cheese &8212; standing alone.

5. &8220;Tom Brady is the best quarterback of all time.&8221; &8212; Other than displaying your general disregard for the history of the game&8217;s most storied position, this statement also exhibits your susceptibility to buying into hype. Anyone making this statement should also zip in a quick &8220;Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is the greatest movie of the summer.&8221; That statement will go ahead and remove any remaining doubt as to the speaker&8217;s ability to make good decisions.

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4. &8220;I don&8217;t watch the NBA because it is full of thugs.&8221; &8212; While obviously indicative of your inability to look beyond the off-court incidents that are a minority in The Association, this statement also makes one wonder whether or not you long for the days of smaller, tighter basketball shorts and the absence of the three-point line. You really don&8217;t want that question to be the lasting impression you leave in anyone&8217;s mind.

3. &8220;The only reason Barry Bonds got so much attention is because he&8217;s black.&8221; &8212; The fact this argument was ever made in the first place is disconcerting. However, to continue making it in light of the Roger Clemens saga is nothing short of ludicrous. Moreover, it diminishes the scrutiny and pressure that besieged the game&8217;s true long ball king, Hank Aaron, during his quest to claim the record.

2. &8220;This year, we&8217;re going to win No. 13.&8221; &8212; Aside from the fact that sincerely making this statement calls into question the validity of the other 12 national titles, it also reveals a biased, uneducated perspective on college football. Passionate fandom is commendable in its place, but it should never replace authentic intelligence. While the Crimson Tide will likely return to glory one day, that day is not likely coming this year.

1. &8220;When The Bear was coaching&8230;&8221; Pretty much any statement that starts with this phrase will flip that intangible switch that causes discerning listeners to tune out before the idea at hand has the opportunity to fully present itself. While the appreciation for Bryant&8217;s accomplishments is admirable, a nostalgic statement on what used to be in no way serves as a valid argument for the current state of college football, its players or its coaches.

Take heart Alabama fans, narrowly missing the list was the phrase &8220;War Eagle.&8221; Its uttering can also call into question the sports IQ of otherwise decent human beings.

Keep these cardinal sins of sports speech in mind as you pass the time around the water cooler, television or barbecue grill and you will have taken great steps toward ensuring you never become &8220;That Guy.&8221;

Jeremy D. Smith is the sports editor of The Times.