A Reluctant Sports Fan’s Guide to Super Bowl 2016

Allow me to tell you the story of me and sports. Don't worry, it won't take very long. From an early age, my mother decided to shape her only son into a “man” through gifts of over-sized Redskins winter apparel. I could live with that because it was infinitely better than the bow ties forced upon me in earlier years. Something that was harder to accept was being enlisted in an actual sport.

This isn't recorded in any record books, but it's true: I was the most apathetic defense soccer player in the history of the game. As halfheartedly as Daria plays volleyball, I did my best to be as unhelpful as possible. But that didn't stop a hurtling ball from finding the side of my head. Stars! Just like in the cartoons!

If I was a fictional being in a Hollywood movie, this would have been the part of the story where I became impassioned and fueled by the pain and made some memorable winning play or something. What actually happened is I cried a lot and the coach took me to the sidelines and then did that thing jocks do in movies where they rally an unwilling person into doing something they don't actually want to do. "YOU GOT THIS! YOU'RE FINE! YOU READY TO GO BACK IN THERE???" I'm not exactly sure what I said, considering the head injury, but it was something in the neighborhood of: Hell no. That was the last day of my illustrious sporting career.

Since then, sports don't come up that often. Well, until recently, that is, with the Warriors killing it last year and the SF Giants winning three World Series in five years. On each of those occasions, I took the “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” approach and sacrificed myself to the sporty gods. And you know what, it wasn’t terrible. With the Super Bowl upon us, what’s a non-sports fan to do?

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Here are a few tips on how to successfully pretend you care about sports for one day (and maybe even have some fun while you’re at it):

1. Do your homework.

No one likes a dunce. So do some light studying on the rules of the game and who the major players are. You’ll actually find out interesting conversation topics like:

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  • Peyton Manning is known for being a reliable veteran of the sport (he didn't miss a single game in 14 seasons until he needed surgery in 2011). This will likely be his last hurrah.
  • Because Manning's dad was a notable quarterback, Peyton grew up in a nice part of New Orleans next to Anne Rice and Trent Reznor.
  • Manning is currently under investigation for possible use of human growth hormones.
  • The Broncos are tied for most Super Bowl appearances (8). They only won twice, thanks to QB John Elway, who is now the team's general manager (the circle of liiiife!).
  • This is only the second Super Bowl for the Panthers, mostly because they didn't exist until 1995.
  • You know that field goal kick that always looks really easy? Well, they made it less so this year; the players will have to kick from the 15-yard line.

Got all that? Good!

Another good way to up your interest level -- if you’re a girl, gay boy or open-minded straight guy -- is to go through both teams’ rosters and pick your next boyfriend. As anyone who has crushed on their high school math teacher knows, love can make any subject interesting.

2. Do find your people.

Life is too short to surround yourself with people that don't get you so find out where your kindred spirits hang out. If you like to be in the middle of the action, Mission dive bars are the place for you. If you enjoy reliving your college years, head to the Marina. If you don’t like strangers, invite yourself over to a friend’s house. And if you’re gay and aren’t opposed to a celebratory kiss, check out Hi Tops in the Castro.

3. Do respect the high holiday and mind your manners.

I’m not sure if Emily Post ever touched on the topic of talking loudly over an important televised event, but I bet she would have been against it. So don’t be a chatterbox during pivotal plays. Just because you don’t care doesn’t mean that others don’t. This is called manners. You wouldn’t want someone to go on and on about how they just can’t figure out why so-and-so never called them back while you’re watching reruns of Full House, now would you?

4. Do wear the right colors.

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Dressing up is fun (see: Halloween and Quinceañeras, Rocky Horror shows and raves). So get in the mood by putting together an ensemble that is appropriate for the occasion. You don’t have to go so far as to wear a jersey or hat, but at least get the colors right if you plan on rooting for a specific team. Don some black, white, silver and blue for the Panthers, and blue and orange for the Broncos. Or you could always protest by wearing red, white, black, and gold in honor of the 49ers.

5. Do find the silver lining!

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If you really can’t find a way to enjoy the sport, I suggest exercising mind over matter. One option is to think of the positive: it’s not that often that everyone is brought together in solidarity over a televised event, so revel in the high-fives from strangers, the company of your friends, the finger food, and the overall sense of community. Plan B is to convince yourself that the game of helmeted giants hurling themselves at each other is actually just a pre and after party for the real event: a glimpse of Beyonce during Coldplay's Halftime Show! Also, there's always the Puppy Bowl.

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So put your shiver-inducing sports memories behind you and let these tips guide you to surviving and maybe even enjoying America’s biggest and baddest sporting event. In the words of my former coach: “YOU GOT THIS!”

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