Life is full of unwritten rules.
Don't talk with your mouth full, give up your seat to old folks on the bus and never, ever ask a woman if she's pregnant. Don't eat stinky food on an airplane, don't date your best friend's ex, and don't say the word "vagina" on the Michigan House floor. (Obvs.)
When it comes to playing sports, there's another set of rules.
Don't pad your stats at the end of a blowout win, never try to bunt to break up a no-hitter, and don't touch the Stanley Cup until you win it. Don't talk during a backswing, don't stand and admire your home run, and if you strikeout in rec league softball, you're buying beer.
Of course, the art of watching sports is regulated by its own unwritten rules, as well.
No cheering in the press box, wait for the whistle before heading back to your seat, and don't spill your beer on the people in front of you. Never boo your own team, stop texting and watch the G.D. game and don't be that guy who always wants to fight the visiting fans.
I think it's clear we don't need any more rules, and yet ... I feel compelled to make one last list: The (Very Unofficial) Unwritten Rules of the Female Sports Fan.
How one "fans" (yes, it is a verb around these parts) is very personal. Whom to root for, where to sit, what to wear -- all of these are important choices every fan has to make for herself. There are clearly far too many of us to expect everyone to fit into one set of rules. Just as male sports fans range from casual to die-hard, moron to sophisticate, so, too, do female sports fans.
So, keep in mind these are my unwritten rules; they may not be for everyone. Feel free to add your own in the comments.
1. Don't wear pink.
Pink sports gear is the bane of the true female sports fan's existence. It's more than just a color, it's a statement. That bedazzled pink tank top with Padres scrawled across the chest says, "Hey, I care more about fashion and looking cute than actually supporting my team."
If you say you're a fan but you're just in it for the beer and the boys, that pink jersey is a dead giveaway. No real Raiders fan would choose to rock pink instead of the traditional black, and a die-hard Boston fan wouldn't be caught dead in anything but her beloved Celtics green.
You may be OK with looking like a fraud, pinkie, but you're giving all female fans a bad name. You wanna look cute at a game? Wear team-colored ribbons in your hair, rock a logoed scarf or sport some super-hot, knee-high socks.
There is one exception to the pink rule: Breast Cancer Awareness Day. Rock as much pink as you want in support of "the girls" that day. Just tuck that T back into your drawer before next week's game.
2. Stick up for your fellow females.
Sometimes when you're watching a game with mostly men it's easy to slip into "dude mode." You don't wanna harsh their bro vibe so you try your best to just fit in with the pack and avoid saying anything too "girly." We've all done it.
Some can take it too far, though, selling out their gender to appease the crowd. Well, it's time to start defending your gender like you do your team. For instance, if the guys you're with start to mock women's sports, don't just zip your lip. Calmly tell them Brittney Griner would block their shot into tomorrow and Serena Williams would toast 'em any day of the week and twice on Sunday. And if they try to dog female sports fans, saying you're the only real chick fan they know, tell 'em it's time to get out a little more, 'cause we're everywhere.
3. Don't play dumb.
The whole concept of acting stupid to earn the affection of a man baffles me, but it's no skin off my hide if a girl thinks being ditzy is attractive. Any man who wants to date an idiot isn't the guy for me, anyway. When it comes to sports, though, I've had to resist the urge to deck a few girls who thought it was cute to be clueless.
Female sports fans have worked hard to prove they belong. After years of being excluded from fantasy football leagues and being left home alone while the guys are at the bar watching the game, we're finally starting to get a little respect. Don't ruin that by playing dumb.
If you're new to a sport and wanna learn, then buy a book, read up on the sport online or ask a sports-savvy friend to watch a few games with you and get you up to speed. No one will judge your lack of knowledge as long as you're genuinely interested in learning. If you're not into sports and don't ever want to be, then just sit there and try not to do anything stupid. No need to loudly proclaim, "I don't get it," "This is boring," or "Who's playing?"
4. Mourn gracefully.
When it comes to this girl, there is crying in baseball. And football and basketball and hockey. I've most certainly cried because of a sporting event and I'm not ashamed to admit it. Back in 2007, I cried tears of sadness and frustration after my Bears got pounded by the Colts in the Super Bowl. And in 2010 I cried tears of joy while waving at the million-plus fans who lined the streets for the Blackhawks' Stanley Cup parade. And guess what -- the guy next to me on the media bus was tearing up, too.
If you love a team enough, they just might cause you to shed a few. There's no shame in getting emotionally attached, those feelings of pride and loyalty are precisely why people love sports so much. Just do your best to avoid any real dramatics, you don't wanna make a scene and draw the pity (or scorn) of those around you. And please, whatever you do, don't record how heartbroken you are and post an ugly-cry video to YouTube.
5. Don't talk about how hot the players are ... too much.
Being a sports fan is about cheering for your team, getting into the action and admiring the incredible skill, strength and heart of professional athletes. Getting to check out super-fit dudes is just a really great bonus. Over the years I've been told by a lot of guys that women commenting on how hot those super-fit dudes are can spoil the game for them. Just imagine a handful of you are enjoying a good, spirited debate about batting Scott Podsednik at leadoff and all of a sudden you're wondering aloud whether Mark DeRosa wears boxers or briefs.
I see their point, but I'm not a big fan of hearing a pack of guys do color commentary about a slo-mo shot of a cheerleader's implants, nor do I need a side of porn with my daily sports blogs. If women have to get pummeled with cleavage and "guy talk" during games, why can't we get a fix for our sexual desires as well? It's a double standard, to be sure.
I've learned to settle for a compromise. I do my best not to turn NBA games into an episode of the old show "Hot or Not" but sometimes I might get lost in Dwight Howard's arms and mutter something about snuggling in a hammock. I'm only human.
6. Just do you.
Take everything I just said with a grain of salt and go do you. Guys don't worry about how to be a fan; women shouldn't have to, either. Man, woman, boy, girl, dog, goldfish -- a fan is a fan.
Remember what I said about the pink stuff, though. Even a goldfish wouldn't wear that crap.