Last fall, I was leaving Mike & Jeff’s BBQ with a to-go bag full of more food than one person should eat at a single time when a man I’d never seen before looked at me and said, “Tough loss last night.” I glanced around thinking he must be speaking to someone else, but we were alone in the parking lot. “They need more hitters,” he continued as he got into his car. “Sanchez can’t carry the whole team.” As he drove away I kept thinking, “What the hell was he talking about?”
This was the first time I had worn my New York Yankees baseball cap. I’d purchased the hat during a trip to Manhattan that summer. I didn’t buy it because I was a fan of the team. I bought it because I like the iconic logo and thought the hat would make me look cool. Which is does. But when I wear it people assume I follow the team and know the language of the game. Which I don’t.
Even when I’m not wearing the hat, many people, especially men, seem to expect, because I am a man myself, that I know about sports. Countless times have I been stuck at a cocktail party listening to someone talk about a recent sporting event as if my knowledge of it were a given. What baffles me even more is they often use the pronoun “we” to describe the team they are discussing. “We really need a better passing game,” they’ll say. Or, “We’ve got some strong rushers this year.” When these interactions occur, I’ve learned to just grin and nod, which is quite similar to the way I converse with my mother.
At a recent dinner party in Los Angeles, I sat next to two baseball fans who were rattling off batting averages and something called RBIs. I’d just met these men, but they assumed I knew what they were discussing. When they began arguing about baseball MVPs they looked to me to settle the debate. “Do you remember who was MVP in 2013?” one of the men said to me. “No,” I responded. “But I do know Kinky Boots won the Tony for best musical that year.” He would not have looked more surprised if I had stood up and peed in my glass of rosé.
While in L.A., I purchased an all black Dodgers cap from a shop near Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. Later that same day I told my friend Angela, an L.A. native and huge sports fan, that I was probably going to be asked about the team when I wore the hat. “Just say, ‘We’re hitting good right now,’” Angela told me. “And then say, ‘When Kershaw gets back from his injury we’ll be in a good position to make a run.’” She may as well have been speaking Swahili, but I memorized the lines and now have the vernacular to wear my L.A. cap with confidence. Still, if someone asks me my prediction for next season’s winner, I will have to go with what I know. My Fair Lady for Best Revival. We’re unbeatable.