How to Survive Sports Talk in Florida
By Kelly Dean
Don’t worry. If you move to Florida, no one is going to make you relinquish your favorite sports team, college or professional. No one is going to tell you how lame your team is or how inferior they are to their own favorite team. No one is going to quote endless win-loss records and championship conquests. No one is going to list their All Pro, All American, All Conference, All Freshman, All District, All High School, All Pee Wee, All Embryo candidates dating back to the time of the Romans.
No one is going to tell you that Florida produces the very best athletes in the universe, therefore, attracts all the best recruits as well. No one will ever do that.
And I am lying through my teeth.
Floridians love sports. If you move to Florida, you can outwardly cheer for your real favorite team if you like, but it can be controversial, so it is generally required to adopt a local team as well for diplomatic reasons. Most adopt a professional team because they are easier to remember when you’re cornered at Publix while waiting on your sub. This is the inopportune time when a guy named Bud asks you, “Who do you like this weekend?”
The innocuous phrase is common among sports fans — but it can take one by surprise — especially when it comes from unwittingly wearing that beat-up St. Louis Cardinals T-shirt your Uncle Floyd gave you in high school because you threw up on the one you were wearing after a night of “beer-on-whiskey-mighty-risky.” He never told Dad, so you kept the shirt.
“Uh … I … like … everybody … man … especially … you know … people.” Bud looks at you like you’re on meds and Floyd kicks the side of his casket. “And … that’s … not just … on weekends, either … I mean … all the time … Hey, I like you … a lot, big fella!” Yikes. That last over-correction did not help.
To avoid these embarrassing situations, it’s best to have a few sports clichés to stymie these conversations quickly.
The Conversation Killers
You shouldn’t go into detail about your surrogate team because you might get stuck trying to name their best running back in football or best hitter in baseball – or viewing endless stats, phone videos, Halloween costumes and discrete tattoos.
My recommendation is to link sports conversation to the Florida weather, because people in Florida ignore the weather; that conversation is boring. It’s like taking something truly exciting and then bringing up the humidity. It’s a sure conversation killer.
For instance, during baseball season, “Boy, it rained right in the middle of the third inning” is a great one. Why? It always rains in the middle of the third inning in Florida. Always. In the summer, it rains in the third inning of everything. That’s a sure-fire conversation killer, right there.
In football, September and October is lightning season. Florida is about the only place in the country that stops football games because a lightning bolt just melted the concession stand.
Man over the loudspeaker harps, “I have an announcement folks: grilled weenies are now buy-one-get-twelve free.”
A practical version is: “It was a pretty good game until the whole team’s hair stood straight on end. They couldn’t get their helmets on, so I guess they had to call it.”
Beware, basketball fans are sensitive.
“Am I the only one who thinks the Miami Heat’s logo looks like a flaming testicle being thrown through a wedding ring?”
“Uh, yeah, I think you are, jerk.” She says, showing off her ring finger — while simultaneously showing off another finger.
That conversation is dead on arrival. D-E-A-D.
There’s hocky too, but really, hocky in Florida? That’s like putting beer in your Pina Colada.
And soccer’s for tourists.
In conclusion, you might be an Ohio State fan. You might love the Steelers or know the difference between a Badger, a Wolverine and a Golden Gopher. Hell, I don’t. I must have missed rodent field trip day in high school. The Cubs or the Buffalo Bills might put a song in your heart (although, I doubt it). Your first child might be named Tom Brady Morgenstern and Green Bay might have another meaning to you — other than what happens when Lake Okeechobee water is released.
But it might be a good idea to pretend to like the Bucs, Jags, Dolphins, Rays, Hurricanes, Gators, Seminoles, Knights, and all the farm and spring league baseball teams that steal a little Florida sun for the places where there isn’t any sun.
Yet it’s good to be vague.
Nowhere on earth are there such amalgamating sports fans — all keeping very, very deep secrets — except maybe Browns fans.