I'm a New York City transplant by way of Massachusetts, so sometimes I join a diehard group of New Englanders at a local bar to watch a game. Normally, it's a good time. Until, that is, the "casual fan friend" shows up. You know the type — they can't tell the difference between the mid-court circle and the charity stripe.
But it doesn't have to be so bad. Over time, I've discovered some tactics to make watching a game with non-fans a pretty enjoyable experience. Here are 10 tips I assembled with a big assist from State Farm.
1. Provide A Pregame Cheat Sheet
Before tip-off, provide a two- or three-minute tutorial on the basics. For example, let them know that a foul shot is worth one point and that a player is permitted six fouls before disqualification. Taking care of this up front will save you a ton of aggravation and annoying questions later on.
2. Emphasize The Cultural Elements Of The Game
New fans rarely care about in-depth analysis and subtle rule distinctions. They might, however, be intrigued by the more — ahem — human aspects of the game, like sneaker culture, random mid-career name changes, and tattoos drawn with a meticulousness usually reserved for world class craftsmen. Who can resist life's rich pageant?
3. Drama, Drama, Drama
There's no better way to hook a fan on a game than by introducing them to a matchup that's especially heated. If it's a classic intra-city showdown, convince your buddy to throw his support behind the team with an affiliation to your neighborhood. Don't stress the nuances; just explain that there's a good guy and a bad guy, cite an urban myth about the depravity of your rival's fans, and be on with it.
4. Tone Down the Histrionics — If Only For A Night
Any diehard is prone to the occasional fit of rage or joy, but new fans are understandably turned off by over-the-top freak-outs, especially if they occur every other play. If a guy hits a game-winning half-court buzzer beater, an emotional response is acceptable. Otherwise, chill out a bit. No need to start pounding the bar and throwing hot wings at the screen because of a routine botched foul call in the second quarter.
5. Embrace What the Novice Brings To The Table
Your new fan-friend has probably spent thousands of hours pursuing nobler hobbies and interests that could come in handy while you're watching the game. Grab your buddy from Accounting and pick his brain about those "advanced analytics" that, in truth, you don't understand at all. Medical professionals can be especially helpful for easing (or exacerbating) your fears about your favorite player's recovery from a torn meniscus.
6. Only Admit One Newbie
Trying to split up your mental energy among multiple neophytes can be exhausting for you and confusing for your tutees. One guy is asking you the difference between a three-second violation and a ten-second violation, while another is pestering you about why the home team almost always wears white. Remember: your goal here is to enjoy the game.
7. Don't Gang Up
In the same vein, it's important to keep the dynamic to no more than three-on-one. If you bring the rookie fan to watch the game with, say, ten of your message-board buddies, there's a serious chance that herd mentality will take over and ruin the experience for the new guy. Pick a few compassionate friends who will aid in the experience, but don't overwhelm the new fan by throwing them into a pack of forty dudes in throwback gear.
8. Laugh When You Feel Like Crying
Will the new fan sometimes annoy you with their inability to distinguish between the shot clock and the game clock? Not gonna lie — sometimes they will. But instead of mocking them, take these flubs in stride. A question about whether the baseline has something to do with the arena's sound system is actually pretty funny.
9. Remember: It's Not About You
The game-watching experience isn't about showcasing your doctoral-level knowledge of basketball. It's about helping a friend learn to enjoy a new sport. That's it — no need to spend the entirety of the game rehashing the origins of the three-pointer just because you can.
10. Give Them A Project
If none of the above works, just have them construct a meat stadium out of the tasty delights on the appetizer platter.
Lead by assisting, not showboating. State Farm Agents understand that finding the right policy is about catering to the needs of each individual client. Head here to learn more about how State Farm can assist you in your non-basketball related endeavors.
Andrei Berman is a writer and Associate Content Producer for Studio@Gawker.