This weekend sees the grand finals for both the AFL and NRL, so the topic of football is going to be hard to escape. Here are a few basic conversational gambits if you have no interest whatsoever but don't want to confess your ignorance.
Picture by William Brawley
Yes, honesty is the best policy and there shouldn't be any real issue with saying "I have absolutely no interest in AFL/NRL/sport". However, this isn't always practical. Maybe you're being friendly to a valuable work contact. Maybe you don't feel like discussing your loathing of PE at school with a marginally sane taxi driver. Maybe you don't want to get into the ludicrous argument that not being obsessed with sport is somehow "un-Australian". Whatever the reason, it's often easier to say "I'm not a massive fan but . . ." and contribute a little something to the conversation than to become the unwanted focus of taunts.
I don't see much point in faking a level of knowledge you don't have, so I wouldn't claim to be an expert or just randomly spout facts from the sports page. A proper league or Aussie Rules fanatic will quickly spot that you don't know what you're talking about, and then you'll look insincere as well as ignorant. The reality is that far more people watch the grand finals in both codes than ever watch a match during the season, so the vast majority of them are amateur dabblers. Faking your way into that category ("I don't follow it, but I like to watch the final because it's such a big event") is much easier than pretending to be a genius.
The bare minimum
So the really basic facts: the AFL (Aussie Rules) grand final is this Saturday from 2:30pm between Collingwood (the Magpies) and Geelong (the Cats); both are Victorian teams. AFL is most popular in Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia, but is dominated by Victorian teams.
The NRL (rugby league) grand final happens on Sunday from 5pm, between Manly (the Sea Eagles, from Sydney) and New Zealand (the Warriors). NRL is most popular in NSW and Queensland.
I could load you up with statistics at this point about how often these teams have competed in grand finals before, but that would contradict what I've already suggested: you want a handful of data points and nothing more. Whether you need to know even this much depends on where you're located — Victorians can probably plead ignorance of NRL, and Sydneysiders can disclaim AFL since there's no Sydney team in the final.
Pick a winner
The one question that's generally hard to avoid: who are you backing? For practical purposes, you could pick a name at random, but here are a few suggestions to whittle down your choice:
- Collingwood and Manly are both teams which have large and fanatical followings and are loathed by pretty much everyone else.
- That said, supporting a New Zealand team is likely to lead to more of that "un-Australian" rubbish, so that might be best avoided.
- Eddie McGuire is the president of Collingwood. Make of that what you will.
Ask questions of others
To avoid the conversation shifting into areas you can't follow, ask questions of other people. That shows your involvement without requiring you to have a high level of knowledge. Some possible starters:
- Have you ever been to a grand final yourself?
- What would be the worst possible outcome: a draw? A total slaughter of one team by the other? A streaker?
- Have you ever noticed that the term "grand final" is generally only used in Australia?
- Who's the most annoying commentator?
None of this will get you through half an hour in a bar with a bunch of sports tragics. But it will give you a few passing contributions, and that's hopefully all you need.
Got your own favourite sports-related conversation fillers? We'd love to hear them in the comments.
Lifehacker 101 is a weekly feature covering fundamental techniques that Lifehacker constantly refers to, explaining them step-by-step. Hey, we were all newbies once, right?