We threw a birthday party for my wife at a wine bar in our neighborhood recently, on a night when there was an Important Football Game happening. While most of our guests chatted and enjoyed appetizers, a handful of men sat at the bar. At first I thought that they were just staying close to the font of booze, and so I went to join them. Then I realized that they were actually watching football.
"You watch the Broncos game earlier?" one of them asked me.
"I saw a little bit of it," I said. "Close one, huh?" I had watched about 30 seconds of the game while borrowing something from my next-door neighbor. I'm pretty sure that was the extent of my viewing of the 2012/2013 NFL season up to that point. My neighbor, a sports-obsessed gay guy, had similarly assumed that I cared about the game, so I had made some vague comments to him as well. You know, so as not to fail at the performance of hegemonic masculinity.
In both of these exchanges, I had that old familiar feeling of not having a clue about something that was supposed to be important to me as an American male. I've finally learned, if pressed on my opinions regarding the latest sporting news, to say, unapologetically, "I really don't follow sports." But my first reaction is still to try to "pass" for a man with a healthy concern for box scores and draft picks, and then change the subject of conversation as seamlessly as possible.