As somebody with as little knowledge of sports as I do, I felt I needed to discuss the issue with somebody who follows sports. That person was my sister’s fiancé, Chris Straw.
He has followed hockey his entire life. When I asked him where his passion for the sport comes from, his response varied. At first, he spoke of how his interest was sparked by his involvement in the sport in past days. Now, I have personally been involved in basketball, soccer and baseball. I’ve been involved in sports (recreational teams at least), but the connection people build to the sport itself is not something I have ever understood.
Upon further research into the topic of hockey fandom, I came across a research paper called “Bruins Nation: A Study of Fandom and Identity” by Rachel Kampersal talking about how levels of commitment and engagement and loyalty have been formed for the Boston Bruins.
“Fans deep-seeded connections to a team like the Boston Bruins are reinforced by the longstanding history and culture of sports, and given hockey’s securely rooted place in culture, individuals must negotiate and navigate their personal identity in relation to their support and devotion to the Boston Bruins,” the article said. It went on to discuss how since the invention of hockey, the culture of Boston itself formed around sport, which gave individuals a reason to, “…unite with a common purpose and create a sense of belonging.”
While this research touches on the culture of the area, my interest is more than anything else in the small talk involved in sports. When one meets a person for the first time, there have always been accepted small talk topics by which a person can test the waters for shared interests. Among these have always been weather, traffic, your day, your job, your hobbies, current events and sports. The topic of sports among men is the most common one for small talk, based on my own experience. Unfortunately, because of this, there have been many times where I have had to talk about sports to the extent of my knowledge and respond in kind to their passionate exclamations referring to a previous game. Still other times I have come right out and said I do not follow sports. The end result is always the same. Either I slip up and they realize I know nothing about that game or I say “I know nothing”, and the conversation ends and thus begins the awkward silence.
Sebastien Mehegen can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org