can I avoid talking football without annoying my boss?

A reader writes:

I work in an environment where there are three to five of us (depending on the day) who spend a lot of time together just due to the nature of the work and the set-up of our office. There are three to four of us at the same level and one boss, and it’s a highly hierarchical structure (what our boss says goes).

I genuinely like everyone I work with and feel lucky to have such great coworkers, but there’s one thing (of course) that really bothers me. My boss is really into football: college, pro, fantasy, whatever. My coworkers are also into football.

I truly could not care less about football; of all the sports, it’s by far my least favorite (which is not saying much, to be fair).

They talk about football A LOT (like five times a day), mainly due to the boss’s prompting. That’s fine: I understand that for people who love football as much as he does, football is a big part of their out-of-work social life and takes up a lot of head space, and I don’t expect it to not be talked about at work.

The problem is that when it comes up and I’m already in the conversation, I do not know how to politely leave/excuse myself, and often they will joke about how little I am interested in it. Like, “what do you think about that play, Sarah?”-type comments. At first I could go along with the joke, but it’s really starting to bother me now — it’s exhausting to constantly joke about my lack of interest in something, especially when it feels like the jokes are their way of saying, “I know it’s rude that we talk about this so much in conversations that you were just a part of, but… too bad! At least we are acknowledging your presence.”

How can I just get out of these conversations as soon as football comes up without being rude to the boss or making him feel like his jokes aren’t actually appeasing me in these conversations? If it was just equals doing it, I’d have no problem leaving, but because it’s the boss who always brings it up in a really hierarchical system where he has a lot of power over me, I don’t know what to do. And how can I avoid feeling like my coworkers aren’t favored over me due to my non-love of football?

Start treating it like any other subject that doesn’t interest you, and turn back to your work. If they try to draw you back into the sports talk, say in a distracted tone, “What’s that? I wasn’t paying attention — I was working on the X project.” Or, “Sorry, I tune out when the subject turns to football. What did you say?” If you do that consistently enough, it’s pretty likely they’ll stop with the “haha, how’d you like that touchdown, Sarah?” comments because continuing would feel increasingly obnoxious. But you have to sound distracted, not annoyed. And really perform the distraction — pause for a minute, slowly tear your eyes away from your computer screen, etc. (Not only will this drive home the point that you were focused on work, but it’ll also disincentivize the jokes by causing a bunch of pauses in their conversation.)

If your boss holds it against you that you don’t share all of his personal interests and that you choose to work rather than pretend an interest in football … he’s a terrible boss. It’s possible he is, but you didn’t mention that being the case and it sounds like you’re worried solely because he’s the boss and it’s a hierarchical environment. If that’s the situation, I’d say do him the courtesy of assuming he doesn’t operate that way — because truly, most managers wouldn’t and most decent people wouldn’t. (And most would be horrified to learn you feared that! If I found out someone on my team thought they had to talk about cats or Game of Thrones to preserve my good favor even though those topics bored them, I’d be appalled.)

That doesn’t mean there’s not value in building rapport with your boss. There is! But you can look for other ways to do that. It doesn’t have to be through this one, very specific topic.

For what it’s worth, I don’t know that it is terribly rude of your boss and coworkers to bond over an interest that you don’t share. It sounds like you work in a fairly open space, and if that’s the case, there are going to be conversations that don’t interest everyone. That’s okay. It would be one thing is this was all they talked about around you, but it sounds like it’s sporadic, not constant. And that’s okay. You just need to give yourself permission to tune it out.

{ 305 comments… read them below }

  1. juliebulie*

    Where I work, it is golf. (I used to be neutral about golf; now I hate it with a passion.) I just say “meeeehhhh” and walk away.

    No one has ever challenged me on this (and I can’t imagine why they would). If they did, I’d try to negotiate a D&D discussion period, like 30% D&D per hour of Golf.

    (Knowing the smart alecks I work with, I would probably then be challenged to monologue that much D&D material. No prob. First topic: “Owlbears of the Ages: An Illustrated History”

    (The next letter to AAM would be “My Coworkers Play D&D on Company Time”)

        1. Elenia*

          Me too. And the way they took it personally because I didn’t watch it! Even if it is the most amazing show ever I am not going to watch anything I am forced to.

          1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

            I finally gave in and started watching the Great British Bake off, now that I don’t work with the people who constantly pressured me to watch it. I was really angry and kinda resentful that I liked it. Like, I spent a full day annoyed that I enjoyed the show.

            1. smoke tree*

              I’m amused both at the image of you resentfully enjoying GBBO, and of your coworkers being so aggressive about the most non-aggressive and collaborative reality show of all time.

              1. JessaB*

                Thank you Smoke Tree for summing up my reaction exactly, that show is so kind and sweet.

                As for GOT, some people do not even get the channel that it is on and chose not to um…get copies in an extralegal manner.

              2. Mongrel*

                “…about the most non-aggressive and collaborative reality show of all time.”

                Bizarrely, Forged in Fire is pretty similar which you wouldn’t think would be possible for knife making.

        2. OlympiasEpiriot*

          I was SO glad when a lot of people became bored with The Walking Dead (and before that The Sopranos, and Dexter). I don’t watch many things and was really really resenting that lunchtime in the only conference room we could sit in to get away from our cubicles was All TWD All The Time. I started eating at my desk because of it.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Betting pools for Survivor and American Idol, and me without cable OR an interest in gambling.

      2. Retired Accountant*

        I used to say I could talk about anything but boats and soccer. That was before GOT though. I would have changed the subject to boats or soccer if my co-workers had been into Game of Thrones.

    1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      +1 on golf. I have family members who love watching golf and if I get stuck watching it with them I root for the course. I love it when the balls go for a swim…play it where it lies people, drops are for the weak…and insist that the hazards need to be more hazardous.

      1. AKchic*

        Yes. The hazards are so misnamed! The only hazards that were even remotely accurate were in the book series Castle Perilous by John DeChancie.

    2. HS Teacher*

      I worked with a group of people who were into D&D. I hated that place with a passion. Then I worked in an office where everyone was into Fantasy Football. I’m a huge football fan, but I don’t like Fantasy Football (can’t bring myself to root for players on teams that are rivals of my team).

      I think it’s okay to bond over shared interests in an office; however, it shouldn’t be to the point where that’s all that gets discussed at work. If I worked with someone who told me they didn’t like football, I wouldn’t discuss football around them. Surely there’s something else we could talk about.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        Gotta say, people talking about their D&D campaigns is about the most stultifying thing possible. I felt that way even in my D&D days. It is a great topic for participants in the campaign, but No One Else Cares.

        Come to think of it, fantasy football is pretty similar.

    3. History Geek*

      My husband is NOT into sports. But it’s pretty standard for other men to try and get him bond over sports especially if they have just met. He gives them a dead pan look of mild confusion. Pauses. Replies in a serious tone, “Sorry…….I don’t follow badminton.”

      99% of people take a second or two to parse, laugh and move on to another subject.

    4. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Yeah you’re most likely going to find a similar situation on most any popular subject if you’re not into it. I was going to suggest a hands up, jokey “I’m out” and walk away.

    5. Bamble*

      Specific to football: I feel more or less the same way, though I don’t hate football quite as much. One trick I’ve successfully used is to come up with a stock of inarguable platitudes that you can just cycle through. It takes the right personality, but they’ll either think you’re brilliant, or (more likely) figure out what you’s doing and leave you alone (perhaps the same as if you use the distracted-from-work approach). Some examples:

      Well, defense can lose the game, but it takes offense to win.
      I wasn’t sure about some of the play calling.
      Special teams can really win or lose a game for you, am I right?
      I’m not sure all the officials were watching the same game.
      It really all comes down to execution.
      Some of those guys are way underrated/overrated/underutilized/overutilized.

      I’ve been amazed by the number of times I’ve said something like that on a Monday morning and people think I actually watched the game, let alone knew what the big match was over the weekend.

      1. TardyTardis*

        Ha! Just change the subject by explaining from Oregon State. You *will* get pitying looks, mind you, but nobody will be surprised you don’t want to talk about it.

  2. Squeeble*

    Alison is exactly right. Make it boring for your boss and coworkers to engage you in the football talk, and they should eventually stop.

      1. Jamey*

        Eh, not everybody has to be included in every conversation, especially about hobbies.

        Me and a few of my coworkers who are really into astrology have our own slack channel where we can chat about astrology. People who aren’t into astrology aren’t in that channel so they don’t have to listen to it. I don’t think that’s exclusion.

        1. Cobol*

          I didn’t mean it would invite exclusion from the sport conversation. I meant it would invite exclusion.
          It’s okay to say I’m not into x, and then passively listen, or go back to work. If you make yourself seem uninterested, people will think you’re uninterested, but often times won’t attribute it to just one topic.

          1. JSPA*

            I’d right out say, with a smile, “aaaand there’s my cue to get back to work on the Suzuki report” (and turn and do so). They can’t tease you for the attitude you’ve already claimed; they ought not tease you for doing work in an office.

      2. JB (not in Houston)*

        But I think the OP would like to be excluded from the football talk. And she doesn’t suggest that she’s worried that if she’s not participating in the football talk, she’ll have a poor relationship with her boss or be excluded from work matters.

        1. Cobol*

          And that’s fine. My comment is more don’t make yourself boring.
          In general, my policy is be clear instead of do something that you believe will indicate to somebody that you feel a certain way

  3. BigRedGum*

    A few people I work with and I are REALLY into football. Most of my friends outside of work could not care less. I don’t get offended when they do a half smile and nod, because I know they don’t care. Just politely let them know and put your headphones in. I highly doubt anyone will mind.

  4. The Original K.*

    It was Game of Thrones for me. I don’t DISlike the show; it just didn’t click for me. I’ve seen fewer than five episodes. So I’d just say “sorry, I don’t watch it. Fantasy isn’t my thing” and move on. Occasionally among the more rabid fans I would have to defend not watching it because there are some people who take not watching it as seriously as watching it and watchers would get defensive, so I’d say “It’s just like any other show I don’t watch,” and we’d all move on.

    1. AnonEMoose*

      Fantasy is my thing…but I still had no interest in “Game of Thrones.” Too much “horrible people doing horrible things” for my taste. Which is to say…I feel your pain.

      1. Scarlet Magnolias*

        How I miss “Game of Thrones” with such heartfelt pangs. The characters! The settings! The Dragons! The Deaths! Oh yes and the Deaths! ……….but not the last season.

      2. Amber Rose*

        Yes, this. I love fantasy. I don’t love “horrible people do horrible things and get away with it” the show.

        I also have limited tolerance for huge numbers of characters. Few authors manage to pull it off properly.

      3. What day is today?*

        I read the first three books, but it was such a slog. By Book 4 it was obvious that Martin desperately needed an editor. Ever read a Michener book? Books like “Hawaii” and “Chesapeake”? They’re all 900+ pages and begin at the moment of creation and move forward to now. Martin’s GOT series was like reading 12 volumes of Michener all crammed into the same story. We had the history of every kingdom and family on every landmass, characters by the hundreds, plots and subplots for each and every one. Just exhausting. I watched a few episodes, but then gave up. So, not a fan, but I loved seeing some of the places they filmed in Croatia.

        1. AnonEMoose*

          I have read Michener – I really enjoyed several of his books: “Hawaii” and “The Source” in particular.

    2. Doug Judy*

      I’ve never seen it because fantasy is 100% not my thing. Any time it came up I’d say that to “I’m too poor for HBO” and just end the conversation.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Yeah, I’ve done this. I do, in fact, have fancy television, but I’m not even sure if I have HBO or not so I just say I don’t. I mostly watch the game warden shows.

    3. Amber Rose*

      Any tips for getting people to stop bugging me about Netflix? I don’t have Netflix. I don’t have that Amazon one. I don’t stream TV. Period. I’m not interested in Stranger Things or Breaking Bad or anything that these services have to offer.

      No matter how many times I say that, people still get so uptight about it.

      1. Edianter*

        This is so odd to me. I’ve never had any trouble shutting this down. Just a shrug and a quick “I’m just not much of a TV-watcher” usually gets people to smile and move on with the conversation.

        Occasionally, an interested person will ask me what my hobbies *are* then, if I don’t spend my time watching TV, so I have to be ready for a layperson-friendly elevator pitch of my interests. But I’ve never had anyone bother me that persistently about the TV thing.

      2. Holly*

        Have you tried moderating your tone, or going out of your way to be upbeat when saying you’re just not a TV person? Because if you respond to people as if they are “bugging you” when discussing television on streaming services, or just a flat “I’m not interested in that kind of thing,” like you do in your comment, people could be reading into that you think their favorite shows are frivolous, and hence the defensiveness. A white lie also goes along way – “I’m not a TV person usually, but that sounds interesting! *change subject*”

        1. TC*

          i don’t watch much TV either, and I think this is the key — people just want to talk, TV is a fairly safe water-cooler topic. If i want to keep talking to the person, I will ask “What do you like about it?” because I can usually find some common ground once I figure out why they like it.

          I do the same with sports — if it’s a sport I don’t know anything about (like American football) I ask about why they support that team. I’ve learned some very lovely things about where people are from this way. (It’s also one of the reasons why I follow sport a little more closely now, because it’s something easy and harmless and fun).

        2. Lily Rowan*

          I do watch a lot of TV, so I just say I already spend too much $$ on cable and time watching it to get involved in more. It’s fine! But I do work on the tone and not worrying about what other people enjoy.

      3. Q without U*

        I tell people (honestly) that I don’t even own a tv. They’re usually so baffled that such a situation can exist that they drop all other lines of thought immediately.

        1. Scarlet Magnolias*

          Strangely enough, I watched Game of Thrones obsessively and loved it(except for the last season) but it was the first TV I had watched in 30 years. We own a TV but only my husband watches it.

        2. Parenthetically*

          I didn’t own a tv for the better part of a decade, but I still had Netflix. I just watched it on my computer.

        3. BadWolf*

          Although with all the options, not having a TV hardly prevents you from being an active consumer of TV and TV like media.

          Just don’t be like my Ex who liked to announce that he didn’t watch TV (not, “Oh I don’t watch that show.” He’d boast “Oh, I don’t watch TV.”) People would be amazed. But what he really meant was that he didn’t watch broadcast or live TV. He had a boatload of movies, TV shows on disc, streaming services.

          1. The Original K.*

            Yeah, I find this annoying. First of all, bragging about not watching TV is annoying in and of itself – not watching TV doesn’t make you better or worse than anyone. And second, bragging about it when you actually do consume media, especially in this day and age when there are a million ways to consume media, as you note, is disingenuous at best.

        4. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

          So what’s all your furniture pointed at? Sorry couldn’t resist…

        5. D'Arcy*

          I technically have a *very nice* TV, but I use it exclusively as a large-screen computer monitor and I don’t have the tuner set up. . . and since I don’t have cable or an external antenna, it would barely pick up anything even if I did.

          I find it deeply distasteful how certain people — especially sports fans — feel entitled to try to *make* everyone like what they like.

        6. Alexandra Lynch*

          The only reason I have a TV now is that I moved in with my boyfriend, who watches it.

          But his favorite thing to do is, after the news is over, turn to one of the shopping channels and viciously mock the clothing and gadgets on offer. I can get behind that.

      4. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

        Tell them that you are a member of the Reformed Church of Luddite, and while you can use internet and phones for certain purposes, as a Reformed Luddite you are strictly forbidden from using streaming services of any kind. Deadpan it. Use your best Wednesday Adams inflections. Lean into it and make up other crazy stipulations for the Reformed Church of Luddite (which you also deadpan). I have successfully used this on numerous occasions to get people to leave me alone about accepting Candy Crush or Farm Whatever invites, using Snapchat, giving out my phone number, etc.

        1. Marion Q*

          … Can I join this church?

          I don’t have Instagram or Facebook, and the way people react, you’d think I say I kick kittens for fun.

      5. BRR*

        I think people are just really bad at not being bewildered that “you don’t watch X!” or “you have don’t Y!” I would maybe have a second line after “I don’t have netflix” like “I’ve never been much of a TV person” or “my list is already too long with just cable.”

      6. Parenthetically*

        A breezy, “Oh, I’m just not much of a tv watcher!” + subject change.

        Unless you have cable but no streaming services, in which case I can’t help ya, because I understand why people would be baffled! ;) But for most people this is a bid for connection — wanting you to be excited with them about things they enjoy — rather than “Amber Rose needs to change her ways.”

      7. Curmudgeon in California*

        Huh. I just say I don’t watch TV, and that’s the end of it. I play online MMOs. That takes up plenty of time.

        Anyone who got bent out of shape about it would probably get an earful, though.

    4. SugarFree*

      My co-workers used to get really annoyed with me about GoT. We all LOVED it, but I was always a season behind because I didn’t have HBO and would get the season on DVD once my library had it to borrow, which was typically available about the same time the lasted season would be broadcast. They would want to talk about last night’s episode but wouldn’t be able to until after I left. It was very hard for them, lol!

    5. OyHiOh*

      I’ve had people actively try to talk me into liking the show, which honestly made me even less interested in watching it.

      On the other hand, a friend started referring to my kids as “dragons” a few months ago and I have embraced the title Mother of Dragons with a vengence. So . . . . .

      1. JessaB*

        Honestly I saw part of the first season, until I found out the actor I was watching for did his “I am going to die in this production routine” really, really early.

  5. Quickbeam*

    I’m in a somewhat similar situation and have been for the past 30 years. I had no idea when I moved to my present state that a specific pro team is like a religion here. I have worked places in my industry that had MANDATORY team colors days. It was very very hard for me to get used to as I come from a pacifist religion and had zero exposure to football.
    I’ve tried varying strategies but what has worked best for me is spending less than 3 minutes in the morning looking at ESPN online re; how the game went. That pretty much prepares me for the day. It has greatly increased my acceptance from my co-workers and my annual review has gotten better and better marks for social interaction.

    I still think this is stupid but it worked for me.

    1. schnauzerfan*

      This. I grew up in a baseball family. Never got into football. But a friend started dating a RABID football fan (later married him) and his friends were obsessed too. So I took to checking up on the local team. Just the score and what people were outraged/thrilled about. “Wow, what a drive (catch, fumble) etc. I also picked one player (Rich Karlis for those who care) because I thought he was cute. Checked to see how his game was… Great game! Rich won it for them! or OMG can’t believe he hit BOTH uprights.

      Now I follow Adam Viniteri. (Local kicker made good) Don’t know how I’m going to keep up my end of the conversation when he (finally) retires.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        That’s 100% my mother’s technique — she has one thing to say about the Big Game or whatever. But just the one thing.

    2. Doug Judy*

      I live in Green Bay and do enjoy football but even I won’t spend more than a few minutes talking about it and I rarely wear any memorabilia (I actually have a superstition about it) and thankfully most of my coworkers/friends are the same.

      1. Captain Raymond Holt*

        Not everyone in Wisconsin is obsessed (I’m in Madison), but I find it helpful to do the quick google on how the Badgers and Packers do so I’m not completely in the dark.

    3. Librarian of SHIELD*

      I hate that your employee evaluation scores went up when you started following sports. That makes me irrationally angry.

      1. juliebulie*

        I think you mean “rationally angry.”

        As Quickbeam said: “I still think this is stupid but it worked for me.” I think that sums up 90% of the socializing-related issues we read about on AAM.

      2. CmdrShepard4ever*

        @quickbeam said that their scores for social interaction went up more and more on their review. It seems reasonable that when they started interacting socially with their coworkers over this “shared” interest that their relationships with their coworkers improved. As Alison has said before you are not only paid for the work you do but to get along with your coworkers. How many letters have we seen Fergus is brilliant at what he does but is short/grumpy with people. It is always better to work with coworkers that you can get along with to a certain extent.

        It is part of human nature to bond with people over shared interests, experiences, etc…

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          But you can get along with your coworkers and have pleasant interactions with them even if they follow sports and you don’t. Not participating in conversations about football is not the same as being the office dragon that people are afraid to ask for help.

          And seriously, for a person’s performance evaluation to get lowered because they aren’t engaging in enough social interaction is problematic in and of itself, even without the apparent subtext that the primary way to participate in social interaction is to talk about sports.

        2. AnotherKate*

          Sure, but at what point is the onus on the football-lovers (or GOT evangelists, or what have you) to find an interest they…ACTUALLY share with the outlier? Shared is the key word here, and in an ideal scenario, no one would have to fake it. Surely we are all varied and interesting enough humans to find something to talk to our colleagues about that isn’t totally one-sided to one of them?

        3. CmdrShepard4ever*

          @Librarian and @another

          You are both right that having positive social interactions with coworkers shouldn’t hinge on any one single topic. I have worked with people of various backgrounds and have often been able to find at least one common point of interest the converse/bond over at least on a surface level.

          But if cat videos is my #1 passion, and knitting is my #6 passion I am more likely to be closer with a coworker with also shares cat videos as a #1 or 3 passion vs someone who shares knitting as a #6 or lower ranking.

          In office where almost all coworkers share a singular passion, it can be helpful to build closer/stronger relationships to fake interest in the #1 thing even if you can bond with them over other things.

      1. Bird Person*

        Totally off topic but I live in the Pacific Northwest and am SO EXCITED for Seattle to get going….I’m saving money for jerseys already!

    4. Emelle*

      My daughter is vaguely aware sports teams exist. So on sporty spirit days at school, she wears a Ravenclaw Quidditch t shirt. Her homeroom gets points for people participating, and she didn’t want to be the reason they didn’t get an extra whatever on Friday, so she is supporting her House Team. (And is prepared to explain why Cho Chang is the greatest seeker in ‘Claw history.)

    5. Hijos de Sánchez*

      This is exactly right. Suck it up and learn just enough so that you can say something intelligent about the game.

    6. Accounting IsFun*

      There is an amazing bit that “The IT Crowd” did on the guys discussing soccer (specifically Arsenal) that they would use to sound like they followed soccer. The guys used a fake site called I wish they had that for the letter writer to say something that bluffs their colleagues.

      The quote:
      Moss: Did you see that ludicrous display last night?
      Postman: What was Wenger thinking sending Walcott on that early?
      Moss: The thing about Arsenal is, they always try and walk it in!
      Postman: Yeah it is true. See you later, Moss
      Moss: Mind ‘ow you go.

    1. WellRed*

      Does that mean you like football and would similarly bore someone with incessant football talk? Because the football isn’t the problem, it’s the nonstop football conversation and the “jokes” at OP’s expense.

    2. FairfieldJen*

      That’s neither kind nor helpful. It would be incredibly frustrating for *anyone* to be subjected to hours-long conversations like this at work, and even more so when you consider the little ‘jokes’ at her expense. Please don’t dismiss someone’s very valid question about how to deal with this.

    3. JimmyJab*

      Lol at this comment. “something is going on that I don’t particularly like, any ideas to help me possibly avoid that thing?” “You’re fussy! Don’t ever dislike things!” Not every question on here is about sexual harassment or salary negotiations (thankfully).

    4. Holly*

      The LW has the self-awareness to look for ways to resolve this issue without coming off as fussy/alienating herself in an office where this conversation is enjoyed. That should be encouraged!

    5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I prefer some days with the low stakes stuff.

      We can’t always talk about how to deal with bosses dumping pee in the sink and how to deal with managers who are abusive AF or breaking actual laws.

      1. Airy*

        My boss dumps his pee in the sink while talking to me about football while Fergus simultaneously microwaves fish and demands that I have an opinion about Game of Thrones

    6. BadWolf*

      After many walk breaks of sports discussion, I had a special moment of glee when I roped one person into discussing the new Downton Abbey movie with me and the rest of the walkers listened silently.

    7. Important Moi*

      I read your comment as a lighthearted joke given the topics today’s questions focused on.

      I guess I was wrong.

  6. Jen*

    I deal with this too. I live in a sports town and if people aren’t talking about baseball they’re talking about hockey. Or college football. Or during this terrible time of the year – all three at once :(

    The talking doesn’t bother me too much because as the staff has changed, there have been more women my age group who have been hired and there are times we all have common interests and the men don’t have anything to add. Or if we get a newer employee, he has no idea what we’re talking about (favorite episode of Family Ties for example). But what does bother me is the condescending comments to people when they don’t get the topic. It at times is sexist or agist “Oh Dave won’t have any idea what we’re talking about. He wasn’t even born yet!” which is a fact but it’s presented in a condescending way to “Other” him to the group. The sports razzing is very “othering” in my office and that’s what pisses me off. There are some groups where I’m the only woman and while granted, there are women who love sports and can go head to head with any guy about stats and players, I am not one of them. I could not care less at all. But they LOVE to point that out. They’ll be talking about the game and pause and say “This is a conversation about baseball, Jen. That’s the one on the field with the bats.” and I usually say “I know. I’ve seen A League of Their Own so there’s no need to be condescending about it. We’re all very impressed about the fact that you get ESPN in your cable package.” – Things like that. So I kind of joke about it but it does feel othering for lack of a better term. It’s like someone in the room wants to stand up and say “One of these things is not like the other! One of these things just doesn’t belong!” and draw a big X over me and circles around them.

    I don’t know how to deal with “othering” comments but I do think that they are terribly rude.

      1. KoiFeeder*

        Well, you see, only vampire bats have the wing articulation to be outfield…

        *is bricked for stupid humor*

    1. CmdrShepard4ever*

      I agree with you about the sports issue. I feel like sports is inherently an “othering” situation, via the us vs. them situation. But some people do take sports way to seriously. Even with TV shows, podcasts, books some people get defensive/aggressive with judgment with what media you do or don’t consume.

      1. Mr. Shark*

        Huh, I get that for those that don’t like sports, it can be an us vs. them, but to me it’s very much the opposite. If you like sports, no matter what race, religion, creed, sex, or otherwise, you have a common ground, which is why sports and television are often the topics of conversations when we discuss these issues.

        Even if I don’t talk to someone about anything else, anything personal, I can find common ground with them on sports or TV, and that sort of greases the wheel when working with someone. Instead of 99% of your conversations covering something you want from them, or an action they need to get done, it’s only 70% and 30% bonding over sports or your favorite show.

        1. CmdrShepard4ever*

          I meant us vs. them not in a sports people vs. non-sports people way, but rather that most sports literally pit one team/city vs. another team/city.

          Like I mentioned with tv, people can take any hobby/interest to the extreme if they start thinking that what they like is objectively the best tv show, band, book etc it does not only happen with sports.

          1. Filosofickle*

            Right. Sports fans have extremely strong team identities. People are very passionate about THEIR team, and everyone else — even fans of the same sports — are not in their tribe. (But even worse if you don’t like the sport at all.) p.s. I live in Raider Nation, so…yeah.

    2. OlympiasEpiriot*

      Yeah, you’re not imagining it, it often IS intended as an othering tool. I write that with such assurance because I’m a woman in a male-dominated industry who follows ice hockey (both the NHL and the various women’s leagues we’ve had recently) and is completely bored by American football.

      So, someone starts a conversation about sports, I’m present but minding my own business until someone does the “oh, but, we’re probably boring OE. Tell us, do you follow anything? Tennis?” At which point I tell them how I’ve been banned by some friends from playing pond hockey for violence and my position is Goon…and then I contribute to the conversation if it is about hockey. They don’t like that. Like, they ACTIVELY don’t like that. I get aggression from about 10%, incredulity from about 60% and sharing of interest with some ribbing from 30%.

      Then I get cross-examined about different sports by the 60% and my knowledge thereof and I get pressed as to WHY I don’t know about football (for example) if I’m such a Sports Fan. So, I have to say I’m a hockey fan and I like baseball and I sorta follow boxing (that is all due to my mother who was a huge boxing fan, so I grew up knowing a lot and just kinda kept up on it because it is mostly about personalities and the gladiator aspect and therefore easy to do) and I find American Football super dull, but, hey, we can talk about rugby — either union or league — all ya want!



      I might as well have said I slice men’s private parts as a hobby from the majority of responses I get.

      Major aggression.

      Boxing is a little odd in that it isn’t something that the I’m A He-Man Sports Fan With An ESPN Package generally really follows and even if they sorta do — like watch the big fights that get lots of hype — many of them actually don’t know the fine points of the rules and they even might not really know the stats. There’s also different Boxing commissions, record keeping and stats differ between them…only recently (like within the last 5-10 years) has standardization been attempted, so nearly a guarantee they won’t actually be able to speak with their normal Author-I-Tay.

      So they just get really aggressive with me and often it turns into active aggressive ignoring. Which lets me work unimpeded unless I need information from one of them doing that and I deal with that as it comes.

      1. Sara without an H*

        Banned from pond hockey for violence??! I would have thought they’d all just back away, slowly.

        1. OlympiasEpiriot*

          Yeah, but then they don’t want to play with me! And word got around. I mean, it does depend on who is on the ice. Some people are fine with it. I just take it too seriously.

          One cousin used to call me Dave for Dave Schultz. I’m a 5′-1.5″ woman once referred to as Dave “The Hammer” Schultz. We weren’t flyers fans, so this was not a good thing in any way.


      2. Doc in a Box*

        Yes, this is definitely a gendered thing. Many men do use sports talk as an in-group masculine signifier, and get really angry if they discover that someone they don’t want to include in their group is not only interested in the sport but is actually better than them.

  7. Shadowbelle*

    OP, if you are already in the conversation, just smile and say, ” I have no idea, but for some reason that reminds me that I have to get back to work!”
    If someone gets pushy about it, then it’s, “You know, I never got into football. But let me tell you how I tanked/DPSed/healed Boss X in dungeon Y in World of Warcraft on Saturday, and you can tell me if the football thing is anything like that.” Or whatever thing interests you. Skiing. Reading Tolstoy. Mixology.
    (Yeah. I love gaming, hate football.)

    1. Daniela*

      If this comes up at work again, I plan to force the offender into a conversation about my latest drug cartel show and how I would structure the operations differently. If I am forced into boring conversation, they will be as well. :-) But Tolstoy…now that’s a genius way to make a coworker’s eyes glaze!! I’ll have to remember that!

      1. Librarian of SHIELD*

        I’ve responded to sports conversations with “Have I filled you all in on what’s been happening on General Hospital lately?”

      2. CmdrShepard4ever*

        I get in trouble with my partner because we watch true crime shows, after episodes I say “This is what Fergus did wrong when committing that crime, if I were Fergus I would have done xyz to cover my tracks and I would not have gotten caught.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          At one point I was blitzing through Forensic Files and for like, two weeks straight, every time my husband came home from work, I was in the middle of an episode about one spouse offing the other for the life insurance. We had at least three conversations agreeing that murder is not worthwhile, neither of us is smart enough not to get caught, and that if things went south we would just invoke the prenup and call it a day. (He did, however, point out that if he dies under Mysterious Circumstances, my fixation on crime tv and my tendency to threaten to stab him with the mashed potatoes, a napkin, or other similarly unlikely object may be problematic for me.)

          1. Daisy Avalin*

            Yeah, my OH and I have had similar conversations! Compounded by the fact that I could probably knock him out with one punch as he’s 2 inches taller and about 4 stone lighter than me – and my temper’s quicker than his!

    2. Sal*

      I was going to suggest OP says jokingly “well that’s my cue to leave!” but it’s still kind of joking around so wasn’t sure that’s what she wanted. That being said, it 1) gets you out of the conversation and 2) at least you’re making the joke, not everyone else

      1. Warm Weighty Wrists*

        I use this exact script! Always with a smile and usually followed by something like “I’ll let you know if the breakroom has the good tea back in stock, Alan” on my way out to keep it friendly (and also as a reminder that there are things I have in common with them).

    1. Asenath*

      Warning – Canadian Content! When I was a girl, I confused the Stanley Cup with the Grey Cup. My sports-mad cousins stared at me in complete disbelief that anyone could say such a thing!

      I can’t say long conversations about anything really are an issue at my present workplace, but when any conversation gets a bit tedious, I use the “Gotta get back to work” excuse.

      1. BethDH*

        My sister still makes fun of me (in a pleasant way) for referring to uniforms as “costumes.”

        I’ve worked in many workplaces where sports or a particular TV show were the main subject of non-work conversation, and never felt penalized (so far!) for not contributing and excusing myself when others are on that tangent.

        The following tactics seem to have helped:
        -if I need to have some small talk (say, it’s with an external person before a meeting starts), I pick something to ask about and let them talk. I may not be interested in sports, but asking something like “what’s the most unfair rule in baseball?” can be of interest in just understanding how a person approaches the world.

        -with coworkers, I make sure that I have a subject of conversation to use with them at other times, even if it’s not shared with them all. I find that I feel much less excluded and still get the benefits of “I’m a person, not a cog in the machine” that way — basically, instead of trying to lessen the sports talk or redirect a particular conversation, I just try to make sure there are other conversations at other times on subjects where I do have an interest. The balance often changes over time.

        -I keep an eye open for the occasional times when an interest of mine intersects with the Main Topic and bring that up. This doesn’t even require me to read anything I wouldn’t be looking at anyway; just that if a food magazine does a special on unique stadium food, I mentally mark whatever they say about the ones I’ve heard coworkers mention. This ends up being no more difficult than, say, remembering where a coworker went on vacation and asking them about it when they get back.

          1. fhqwhgads*

            I know a lot of theatre people and they all do this (not only half-time but also 7th inning stretch), including the major sports fans. Theatre can become the dominant terminology in one’s brain.

      1. CmdrShepard4ever*

        a homerun is when the seeker punts the puck through the two pronged fork, c’mon that’s so basic.

      2. 1LFTW*

        Both. But if you’re outside it only counts if you hit it with the racket; inside you’re disqualified if you touch the puck with your hands.

    2. Frea*

      I have literally replied to the question of “Cubs or Cards” with “That’s hockey, right?” and nobody in that organization ever talked to me about sports again.

      (This is a lie: I got dragged onto the intramural softball team. But I didn’t have to talk professional sports!)

      1. Gumby*

        I did ask, “wait, where are the Angels from again?” to a college dorm-mate who looked at me with horror and said, “Aren’t you from Los Angeles?” (Close enough. And I mean, when I thought about it I probably could have come up with the answer. Maybe… Also, in my defense, at the time they were officially the Anaheim Angels.)

    3. Ted Mosby*

      I actually think this would be a great response. I tend to enthusiastically say “goooo sports! Score a basket!” And other silly things. It gracefully removes me and lets everyone laugh at a common thing (me) so it doesn’t feel awkward or tense when I’m like “byeeee you’re boring the shit out of me”

    4. pentamom*

      I have a friend whose every response to a sports discussion is, “I don’t follow hockey.” This only works if hockey is not the sport being discussed, of course, but it almost never is.

  8. Beancounter Eric*

    You could try saying you have better things to do with your time than to concern yourself with adults playing children’s games, opposition to the use of public funds to build what are essentially private facilities for the NFL, NCAA, etc., and having work to do which creates wealth for shareholders in preference to prattling on about non-work related topics.

    1. AnonEMoose*

      I have issues with professional sports in general, and football is my particular peeve for all kinds of reasons about which I can rant at great length. I don’t just “dislike” football…I actively loathe it and ignore it as much as humanly possible. My preference would be to never have anyone mention it in my hearing ever again (unless the person saying “football” actually means “soccer” – that’s different).

      So working in a place like this, I would be strongly tempted to go on a rant about use of public funds, the injuries to the players and the possible long-term effects, the exorbitant salaries, etc., etc.

      I wouldn’t, because I wouldn’t want to torpedo my relationships with my coworkers and especially not my boss. But it would be like fingernails on a chalkboard every time someone brought it up.

      I think Alison’s advice is your best bet, OP. Act distracted and a little bored by the whole thing. If you can cultivate a quizzical sort of “Really? You’re still on about that?!” sort of expression, that might also be something to try.

      1. JimmyJab*

        I also actively dislike football/NFL, and have many football obsessed coworkers. They know which of us (that interact somewhat socially during the workday) don’t like football, us non-sportos usually end up starting our own convo about something we enjoy.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          Unfortunately, OP doesn’t have anyone who’s non-sporto there…

          I like Alison’s reaction a lot, honestly, except for the way that it limits OP’s access to the boss.

      1. The Original K.*

        Exactly, which is part of the reason this response would be completely unhelpful (the other part is the fact that it’s needlessly confrontational. “Hey boss, this thing you love is TRASH” is not a good look).

        1. AnonEMoose*

          Definitely not a good luck…no one likes to be told that something they love is awful, and the power dynamics in this situation make that an even worse idea.

          It can get tempting, though, when people act like you not caring about something makes you somehow deviant or defective. And I’ve had that happen with football. Even a neutral “it’s just not my thing” has on occasion resulted in people trying to “convert” me, and given how I actually feel about football, that gets me from 0 to seeing red in .0015 seconds. In the past, I’ve settled for something like “I can see you love it, and that’s cool…it’s just not my thing.” Sometimes it works, sometimes they get offended or even pushier.

          1. not really a lurker anymore*

            Feel free to tell them that you’re penalizing them 15 yards for Offensive Interference or a Personal Foul.

            Or that you’re preemptively ejecting yourself from the conversation before you get flagged and fined.

          2. Shadowbelle*

            I’ve run into that too (people getting pushy, trying to convert). IMHO it’s because they feel that if you don’t like what they like, you are criticizing them for liking it. Because otherwise, you would like it too, right? Then they get critical of you for not liking it, because clearly that makes you a lesser being. The conversation I once had with someone about skiing … Really. No. I am not interested in skiing. No, not interested in trying it. No, not gonna. Please go away. Give it up already! Oh, look! You fell down! Hit you? I most certainly did not. You must be having a flashback to the last time you tumbled down a snowy slope and hit your head.
            (I made that up about the falling down, but not the part before.)

            1. AnonEMoose*

              I think you’re right about that – and I can understand the impulse to some extent. They’re trying to share something they like, and they feel rejected/criticized. But I think it’s important to be able to move past that reaction and realize that different people like different things, and that’s actually a good thing.

              I don’t go from zero to stabby because someone mentions football; I just get annoyed if they keep pushing it. “But why not? EVERYONE likes football…” and so on. I’ve literally bitten the inside of my lip to keep from replying with something incredibly snarky, like “Because I don’t find head injuries entertaining.”

    2. Librarian of SHIELD*

      It’s probably not a good idea to tell your boss that their very favorite thing in the world is something you find to be juvenile or unethical. OP has become accustomed to paychecks and would like to keep receiving them, so it’s probably better to treat football the same way you would treat something like carrot cake. Some people like it. Some people don’t. You don’t need to add a moral value judgement to this, and doing so would probably put OP in a really bad situation with the rest of the office.

    3. Holly*

      I’m assuming this is just a snide comment and not actual advice? I think the goal for OP is to *not* be further alienated.

      1. Beancounter Eric*

        Not a snide comment – I’ve actually said all three at various times at work.

        People I work with learn very quickly I’m not interested in most “pop culture”. They want to prattle on about “Game of Chairs”, grown men chasing a ball around, some person “singing” at a volume loud enough to make one bleed from their eye sockets, or the latest stupid comment made by a politician or candidate, go ahead – just leave me out of it, and if you are on my team, get your job done on time and correctly.

        1. Parenthetically*

          You know, I spent a lot of my life doing this — shitting on things that were popular — because I saw myself as more discerning than the masses. I’m much happier now, and I get much more enjoyment out of the things I DO like, because my mindset towards others and their preferences doesn’t begin with disdain, but with the basic assumption that different people like different things for complex reasons, and my tastes and preferences aren’t better than others’ just because they’re different.

          1. CmdrShepard4ever*

            I agree with you 100%. I consider myself to have a wide variety of tastes and interests. I like movies. I enjoy and like to watch Oscar worthy movies that tackle certain issues and make social commentary. But I also enjoy and like to watch big budget action packed, explosion filled movies with a loose plot, while it might be bad it is still enjoyable.

            With most media of any kind I always try to say, I do not like xyz band, or abc show, rather than those things suck.

            1. The Original K.*

              Totally with you on movies – actually, most forms of storytelling (my taste in books does lean more literary than commercial). I watch prestige dramas and some trashy reality shows, art house Oscar contenders and most of the Fast and Furious franchise. There’s a saying: “Don’t yuck someone else’s yum.” It usually refers to food – if someone is eating a food you don’t like in front of you, it’s very rude to be like “Ew, WTF are you eating?!” I think it applies to most things.

              1. Parenthetically*

                Yup. I talked about this in my classroom all the time.

                And the thing is, so many people with an elitist attitude toward other people’s entertainment/hobby preferences are heading for a humbling (or confusing) experience when their tastes change, or when they go through a season of life when they just don’t have the bandwidth for Posh Literary Fiction or Deep Art-House Cinema. I used to love tackling heavy-duty classic literature and film as a winter project every year; I’m currently pregnant and have a toddler and am 6 books deep in an aggressively mediocre detective series and don’t feel any angst about it.

                Better just to let people enjoy what they enjoy. Pride goeth before a fall, and all that.

          2. Filosofickle*

            Me, too, and I’m grateful I’ve evolved. My best friend watches The Bachelor. My BF is a football fan. I have no interest in either of those…but then again I love time travel sci fi. I don’t have much of a high horse here, even though I used to think I did. When I was doing the online dating thing, anyone who made a point of saying they didn’t watch TV or like any pop culture got a swipe left — that’s going to be a miserable person to be around.

        2. CmdrShepard4ever*

          While it is certainly advice, idk if it is good advice for OP based on the fact that they don’t want to alienate and risk the relationship with the boss.

          If you want to say I’m not into pop culture generally, or sports, tv, politics (although politics should generally stay out of the workplace unless you actually work in politics), music go right ahead. I have usually been able to find at least one mutual point of interest with most coworkers that we can chat about every once in a while.

          Doing your job on time, correctly, and having some water cooler conversations with coworkers is not mutually exclusive. People are not robots, taking breaks everyone in a while to chat for 5 minutes with a coworker about sports, music etc… can help boost productivity after people have been working a for a little while. In many jobs having good relationships with coworkers is important even if it is not explicitly required. If you want to be the prickly pear coworker that people avoid it is your prerogative, but it could hurt you professionally.

          But saying it the way you did is judging people for liking a particular thing implying they are stupid and/or you are so much better than them. You looking down on someone because they like sports is no different then them looking down on you because you don’t like sports.

        3. Holly*

          It’s your prerogative how to live your life and what kind of relationships you want to have with people, but it’s not advice I would give to anyone that wants to be well liked socially or professionally.

        4. KoiFeeder*

          If someone’s interest in things comes from punching other people down, are they actually interested in the thing, or the power trip they get from it? It’s impossible to shame someone into having an interest in something, and frankly it’s difficult to shame them out of having an interest in something; having a “watch soccer instead of football” bake sale is more likely to impact their interests.

        5. Librarian of SHIELD*

          You know, it’s possible to not be interested in things without being judgemental and rude toward the people who do like those things. If this really is the way you talk to your coworkers when they’re trying to be kind to you, I’d encourage you to rethink that philosophy.

        6. Deanna*

          Well, that is certainly one way to make sure no one ever talks to you who isn’t forced to!

          Doesn’t make it good advice for people who want to be good employees, colleagues and human beings, though!

          1. Beancounter Eric*

            Here’s the thing: I was asked, in a very confrontational manner why I don’t like sports. I answered, honestly and succinctly. I also made very clear to the questioner that I really don’t give a rats backside if they want to spend their time watching football, paint drying, or grass growing – just don’t demand I do so.

            So there!!

            1. Jules the 3rd*

              Are you my kid? Because ‘So there!’ is the kind of thing my kid would say.

              He’s in middle school.

              Good trolling, sir, good trolling.

    4. Parenthetically*

      This is quite possibly the worst idea I’ve ever seen posted here.

      It is okay for people to like things.

    5. Librarian1*

      Don’t do this. I get that a lot of people don’t like sports. And I get a lot of people are practically obsessed with sports and spend way too much time talking about it. But as someone who doesn’t fit either of those categories, I find it super annoying when people start insulting sports by calling it “adults playing children’s games” or pretending they don’t know anything about it or using the word “sportsball.” It feels needlessly confrontational. People usually aren’t liking sports AT you. (Although this case is borderline since the coworkers keep making “jokes” about it.)

  9. Cookie Monster*

    To be fair to the letter writer, she said these conversations happen 5 times a day, which to me leans toward the constant side of the spectrum rather than sporadic. (I hope I’m not being nit-picky, but 5 times a day, every day is kind of a lot, right?)

    Alison’s idea to really act distracted is great. I think you can make it even simpler, though. Do the pause, staring at your screen, then as you pull your eyes away to look at them: “Sorry, what?” (In a pleasant but distracted way, not annoyed.) It gets the point across without all the extra words.

    Also, what DO you like to talk about? Can you have other conversation topics ready to go so when you see your boss, you can try to connect with him about it? And also with your co-workers? They might not all want to talk about football as much as they are, or even if they do, it doesn’t mean that’s the only thing they like to talk about.

    1. BethDH*

      Yeah, I feel like often something becomes a pattern just because people already know it works. Most people want to socialize a bit at work, and it’s really easy for something to become the default topic just because it’s easy and everyone knows it works passably well. This is why I don’t mention having chickens within the first month of meeting anyone new at work anymore — it’s too easy for it to be the go-to topic, and there just isn’t that much to say about them.

    2. OP*

      OP here! Appreciate your defense. In my obviously biased opinion, it really is more than sporadic: it’s daily, usually in conversations I’m already a part of. I of course agree with Alison that it’s not rude to bond over things I’m not interested in–that’s human! But I get frustrated when I have to leave or disengage regularly when my coworkers don’t, which I think rises to the rude level often but I could just be being sensitive.

      We do talk about things I’m interested in, so I’m honestly not too worried about that. Especially with my coworkers, who rarely bring up football in a conversation-interrupting way.

        1. Filosofickle*

          Oh, and my sports-fan BF, who wishes he had more people to talk sports with, agrees they’re being rude.

      1. So long and thanks for all the fish*

        Also while I know obviously this isn’t cut-and-dried, I feel like there’s a gender component here that makes it feel particularly icky. Excessive football/golf talk around the water cooler was a traditional way to exclude women from workplace bonding, and it’s hard as a distantly-removed observer to ignore that history.

  10. Not So NewReader*

    I love Alison’s advice about the slow response time and the distraction.

    I have a good friend who loves to tell me about football. I just “oh” and “hmm” my way through the conversation. Sometimes I try to say “that’s nice” or “that’s too bad”, if it is an appropriate remark. I am like you, of all sports football is my least favorite and I have very little interest in sports. He’s a good friend so I make half of an attempt.
    (He knows this.) I have been doing this for years now and it can get less annoying. I guess I just got used to it?
    Hopefully, in time, OP, the novelty of talking over football with each other will wear off and the topic will die down. OTH, the season does pass.

  11. KGP*

    When this happens to me at work, I make a joke about it to disengage from the conversation in a lighthearted way:

    “That’s my cue to leave!”


    “Well, folks, I’ve lost interest in the conversation! Back to work for me!”

    1. Angwyshaunce*

      I’ve found that pointing out [whatever sports team] all shower together ensures I am excluded from all future sports conversations, to the benefit of everyone.

    2. CupcakeCounter*

      I tend to use your first line as my go to. That or “Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand I’m out”. Those usually get a little chuckle or eye roll or something (I found if you make it a sort of goofy exaggerated version it actually goes over really well). I go back to work, they talk more football, but I don’t get any disparaging comments aimed my way since I am essentially participating in the conversation up until a certain point.

      No offense but the second line seems a little off-putting even though your explanation conveys a chipper, upbeat tone.

  12. Librarian of SHIELD*

    Where I work, it’s reality TV shows. My coworkers know I don’t watch the Bachelor, so when the conversation turns in that direction I generally say something like “And on that note, I’ve got next week’s program to plan,” and get back to my work. Nobody’s ever been upset or offended by it.

    As long as you treat it like this is a perfectly reasonable thing for people to be interested in, even though you yourself are not interested, I think you’ll be able to pull it off.

    1. Lily Rowan*

      That’s totally the key! “Not my thing” is the attitude, not “ugh, how do you care so much about that?” Because doesn’t everyone have something unimportant they care about irrationally?

      1. Parenthetically*

        Yes! “Oh, sports just aren’t my cup of tea” isn’t going to get you a lot of pushback in my experience. “Sports are stupid and childish and you should feel ashamed for liking them,” though? Yikes.

  13. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I feel your pain, I am actually a sports fan but I hate talking about them with people because it causes my brain to start screaming “This person keeps talking and they don’t know a dang thing they’re talking about!”

    Really, it’s all about just excusing yourself each time. They already know you’re not into football, they are just the awkward people who think you now have “inside jokes” with each other about how Sarah isn’t a football fan but trapped among the football fans.

    I grew up outside a college town. Without a professional football team in our state. It almost made me hate football out of spite of having to deal with “Ooooooooh how about those Ducks?” I just start talking about actual ducks. “Oh my dad used to take me to feed the ducks when I was a kid! Ever been down to the dam, so many duckies!!” *side eye*

    1. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

      Oooooooooh, I feel this! I live in SEC/Tiger Country. The number of bad takes are truly, truly terrible. I change the topic almost immediately when football comes up, or say something really generic and then come up with something that I need to exit to take care of immediately.

    2. t*

      Ha! I’m only into football when the Ducks (or Beavers) are ranked in the top 5. Total fairweather fan.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        LOL, Beavers ranked in the top 5 tho.

        I used to wait until game-time in Eugene to go shopping for years. It may as well be Christmas day [if things were still open Christmas day, you know what I mean.]

        I won’t lie, I would hang out with Puddles though. I would hang out with any mascot. I get drunk at Mariner’s games and demand I be taken to the Moose.

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      And where do the Ducks in Central Park go in the winter time anyway?
      (Bonus if it helps turn up a few readers among the sporting types.)

    1. Patty Mayonnaise*

      You win. Especially for me personally, because my husband knows nothing about football and decided to root for the Lions because they are “the underdogs” (I grew up in Steeler Country so this is a point of major contention).

    2. MatKnifeNinja*


      Oh the horrible Motor City Kitties!

      I’m 55. I’ll be dead before they get into a Super Bowl, let alone win it.

      If you hate sports it’s hard living in Metro Detroit. Between the Lions, Tigers, Pistons, Red Wings (my guilty pleasure), Michigan State and U of Mich sports, there is no escape.

      Today, the yipping will be how the Wings lost. I have a fighting chance to chance tribute there.

      We have team colors Friday, It’s Motor City Kitties today. I play along to keep the piece. I scroll quickly through the local paper for a general over view of what went down.

      For me it’s like the Good morning ritual. Do I want to say, “Good morning”? Not really. Do I want to hear how the MC Kitties got pounded again? No.

      But the price of keeping the piece is worth tying on a Honolulu Blue and Silver ribbon to my pen under the guise of team player.

      I’m much more a Rally car/Team Finland hockey nerd, but alas…not many folks here want to talk about that. Lol..

      OP like someone said up stream, quick look at the scores. Chirp a couple sentences and move on. For me, “Yeah, I know. It’s/they are awful.” works in any conversation about the Lions.

  14. theschnauzer*

    Out of curiosity, are all the football fans male? I wonder if there’s a gendered aspect to this.

    1. Lucette Kensack*

      I was wondering about that as well.

      I love everything about Alison’s response to this — the tactics for disengaging, the reminder that it’s not rude for your colleagues to talk about something they are all interested in (but it IS rude to tease about it).

      But given that the boss is male, and the OP seems to be female (I’m making an assumption based on the name she used, so apologies if I’m wrong about this!), I’m wondering about the genders of the rest of her colleagues. It does become more problematic if a bunch of men are spending a chunk of the work day connecting over a traditionally male hobby and actively teasing the only woman about how little she knows about it.

      1. Captain Raymond Holt*

        My thought exactly! But I live in a state where people of all genders bond over the football team.

        1. CupcakeCounter*

          The biggest football fan in my office is female. She pays for the NFL TV package and is in 4 different fantasy leagues. A large part of her Monday morning is spent on the phone with coworkers at different location talking about the weekend games.
          I will say that in many circumstances based on what the OP alludes to (her female, boss and coworkers male) is going to end up having some underlying sexism. It did seem to me that in this case, boss and coworkers have been talking about football for a long time and when OP joined that genuinely made an effort to include her. Sounds like the jokes started a little later in her tenure there (possibly in a 4th grade boy effort to keep her part of the group?)

        2. MatKnifeNinja*

          Two women I work with have season tickets to the Lions and Red Wings.

          They also do a ton of tail gating, so at least I can ask about the primo spread they’ll put out. It’s way more than cheap brauts and beer.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I hate this is a thing that’s being brought up.

      Being a woman sports fan. Being someone who grew up around sports hungry folks. It’s split equally gender wise when you actually get into the thick of it.

      It’s offensive AF when people act like I couldn’t possibly be a football or hockey fan because “but you’re a girl…”

      So yeah, please stop playing into this falsehood and making women look like delicate flowers who couldn’t possibly like such barbarian behavior like the sports.

      1. Holly*

        I agree with your sentiment a lot – there are plenty of women sports fans (I’m a college football fan myself) that would be unaffected by this – but bonding over sports or playing certain sports in the workplace has historically been part of discrimination against women in the workplace (e.g. let’s go golfing with the major client at the all male country club!) so it’s not completely off base to raise. Especially since LW is being talked down upon for her lack of interest.

      2. Lucette Kensack*

        I’m a woman who is a season ticket-holding, fantasy-sports-playing fan.

        But that doesn’t neutralize the ways in which women have historically been sidelined (hey, a sports pun), intentionally, by men who bond over traditionally male pastimes and then complain that it’s not their fault that women don’t advance/have fewer relationships with key stakeholders/aren’t seen as fully a part of the team (hey, another sports allusion).

        1. So long and thanks for all the fish*

          This! The existence of female sports fans doesn’t make this any less true!

      3. Database Developer Dude*

        Thank you, Becky, for that. If you and I are ever in the same place at the same time, I owe you a beer or whatever you drink (one round).

        I -am- a guy, and I probably know less about football than any guy you know, and includes any one reading this. So much so that when I was in Pittsburgh about 10 years ago, I was at a sports bar, and there was a Bengals game on TV. *shrug* I dunno why….

        Anyway, there’s a player who used to be on the Bengals by the name of Chad Johnson. because of his wife beating off the field antics, I think he’s a moron, and I started getting loud about how much of a moron I think he is. I made lots of new friends that night, and didn’t buy my own beer the rest of the night.

        Point being, I didn’t know the Bengals and Steelers have a huge rivalry.

        But. I didn’t care. Still don’t. Baseball is my game. GO RED SOX.

    3. OP*

      OP here: not entirely. However, I have no doubt that if I were the only woman, nothing would be different (because I don’t think my boss–as much as I really enjoy him–would be thoughtful about it based on previous experiences).

    4. MatKnifeNinja*

      I work with a majority women. All the women love NCCA basket brackets and sells “spaces” on different games.

      All their sons play high school/collegiate sports.

      I wish I could say “men” need different hobbies, but the women are the ones going to Thanksgiving Day game at Ford Field with the SOs. (WHY?)

  15. Amber Rose*

    Hockey. *deep sigh*

    I know, I’m a terrible Canadian, but I just can’t with hockey. I quietly tune out of any conversations as soon as someone says the words “Flames” or “Oilers.” I went to a hockey game courtesy of my boss and feel like I may have had a better time scalping the tickets and going out for dinner.

    I find football interesting from a tactical point of view (like, I find the rules and strategies fascinating) but would actually rather watch paint dry, so I understand.

    No advice from me, just empathy.

    1. Lindy*

      I’m also a terrible Canadian. I had an ex-boyfriend who was obsessed with the Leafs, I didn’t fully understand the obsession until we moved in together. He had to watch every game and it drove me crazy. I eventually couldn’t stand it. All get-togethers with friends revolved around it. Then he would balk at wanting to do something I was interested in! We didn’t last too long after that.
      But like anything that is talked about incessantly, it can get pretty tiresome, so I empathize as well.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I have lost friends because of me badmouthing the Leafs. Bless their hearts. Each and every one.

        1. RobotWithHumanHair*

          You’ve made a friend in me, because I adore anyone who badmouths the Leafs. 1967! :)

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            I’m a Philly fan. We’re awful and I’m okay with it because I have Gritty now. I forfeited my soul the day I put the flying puck on for the first time, I know what I signed up for.

  16. Gov Planner*

    OP, I also do not follow any sports and also have certain coworkers who will hijack regular conversations, or actual development review meetings with outside parties, and start animated conversations about whatever sport is in season. I used to try and politely edge away, but I found that it is more fun to say something like “Uh oh, we’re talking about sports again… I’m out of here!” first.
    Then my co-workers have a good laugh about how I just don’t care about sports, and I agree with them, and then I go do something else. Or if we’re in a meeting and not done with our meeting content, then I might say “Let’s wrap up this meeting first so I don’t have to listen to you all spend the next 3 hours talking about baseball”, then we wrap up the meeting content and I leave. This is always good natured and it has never caused any other issues in my office interactions. If it’s going to happen anyway, I think you may as well have fun with it!

  17. BinDC*

    Solidarity. I worked in an office with many new parents at a time when I had zero interest in babies. I was constantly finding myself in meetings and conversations around the coffee pot that would devolve into intense discussions of breastfeeding (some uncomfortably graphic!) and baby sleep etc etc. I struggled with knowing how to deal with these situations because it seemed rude to suddenly walk away from a conversation I was actively part of only minutes before. It’s entirely different from just hearing something peripherally and tuning it out. I was also ok talking about baby stuff briefly (I did care about my coworkers as people, after all) – it was just that these discussions happened frequently and could go on for 20-30 minutes plus easily! (I’ve since had kids, so I do get it now.) At the time I had very little to contribute, so it was often just me listening to others talk. Anyway, I never figured out a good solution for how to gracefully extricate myself, so hopefully the OP can find something that works.

    1. Daniela*

      Oh, baby conversations would make me suddenly look for the group discussing football! Those are the worst, if you don’t have kids of your own and no interest either.

      1. AnonEMoose*

        I don’t mind baby conversations so much. I can either contribute with nephew stories, or sit there and contemplate how much I’m looking forward to going home to my cats.

      2. OlympiaEpiriot*

        I have had a kid. I love them to bits. I ALWAYS walk away from baby convos and avoid anyone who brings theirs in for everyone to admire. Just because I had one doesn’t make me want to interact with anyone else’s.

  18. Hey Karma, Over here.*

    I think the issue is that when boss sees OP and coworker talking, he thinks oh, good, an audience. Then he walks over and inserts himself into the conversation. Or when people are getting coffee, lunches in the break room he starts talking about football. The other coworkers are able to transition into the conversation and OP is left with nothing to contribute.
    It would be awkward to announce, “well, that’s it for me.” OP needs a graceful way to bow out, something that is neither, “boss is here, I’m out.” or “football talk, which interests everyone but me, so I’m out.”
    I think when boss comes in a redirects or honestly hijacks, and then turns to OP to make the point she doesn’t know what he’s talking about, definitely go with distracted. “Oh, I was still thinking about ‘subject we were discussing. I’m still curious about X. If you will excuse me, I’m going to google X now. Bob/Mike/Sue/Boss, I’ll let you know if I find anything really interesting.”
    It’s just the boss dynamic that is difficult. You can work through/around this.

    1. OP*

      OP here! That really is the problem. These conversations often happen when I’m not at the computer, so I don’t have a lot of the options Alison provided. Worse, they happen when I’m already involved in the topic: how was your weekend? etc. pivots to “did you watch the game?” When I am at my computer, I 100% don’t engage or listen, which isn’t a problem. I’ve taken to doing basically what you’ve suggested: as soon as it comes up, I just quietly dismiss myself.

      1. BuildMeUp*

        That sounds tough! Would it work to give them a minute or two of football talk, and then bring up a new topic of your own? Something tangentially related, like something else you did over the weekend, maybe.

      2. Jules the 3rd*

        uuughhh – if that’s happening 5x / day, this is seriously limiting your ability to connect on a personal level with both your boss and your team. That, to me, takes it to ‘something you need to actively address’. I see a few options, but I’m sure there’s more:

        1) Cultivate an interest. At least at the level of ‘so, tell me why that play was so important!’ or ‘what do you like about that team?’ (in my town, it’s Basketball. College Basketball. And I can say ‘I like that team because Coach X was revolutionary in racial integration’ or ‘Coach Y has a great graduation rate’ [iirc, this was actually the basis for why I cheered Georgetown in the 90s]). Find some way to bring your interests (ie, mine for education) into play.

        2) When he hijacks the conversation, give him a few minutes of football, then guide the conversation to another topic. ie, ‘ooh, we played the Steelers last week and beat them!’ can lead into ‘What city are they from? Have you ever been to Pittsburgh?’ or ‘and how did your kid’s team do, did they win too?’

        3) Sit down with the boss and say, ‘Pretty regularly, when I’m talking to people, you join in and switch the topic to football. I’m getting excluded, and people are noticing. I get teased about it. Could you make sure I’m included by joining in with topics that are not football? I definitely want to chat with you and the team, but the single topic is making that hard.’

        Make sure you track this for a week or two, written down, to make sure you’ve got the frequency right and you’re not just in a first data or confirmation bias loop. If it’s really 3 – 5x/day (that is a *LOT*) that he’s hijacking your conversations, I lean towards ‘talk to the boss’. If it’s 1 – 2x/day, or if he’s just talking about it with someone near you, I lean towards cultivate an interest or redirect.

        You don’t have to tell him you’ve been tracking it, but if there’s a day you can pull out and say, ‘yesterday it was when I was talking to Ron, then when I talked to Hermione, then with Hagrid, and again with Harry’ that may give him a real wake-up call. Because 5x/day… that’s a LOT.

        Good luck.

        1. Tau*

          I like these suggestions, especially talking to the boss. At the frequency and in the situations stated, I really don’t see how this can not impact OP’s ability to connect with her team. This means the “bow out” scripts will just make the problem worse.

          Another option might be to see if you can find an ally – a coworker who is also not super into football and maybe picked up the interest as a survival mechanism, or one who is interested in football but sees how shitty this whole situation is for you. They might have some ideas, and I think option 2) would work better if you have someone who’s willing to pick up the subject change or initiate it themselves every now and then.

      3. Hey Karma, Over here.*

        It’s one thing if he wants you to break it up and get back to work. Or it would be nice if he could join in and keep the situation open to all. This coming over and commandeering a captive audience is annoying, but that’s life. The backhanded “othering” of you compounds his social gracelessness. And in one of the few situations where hierarchy trumps social grace, you are just screwed.
        I would honestly (I’ve been thinking about this) one time, be prepared with something, like if you heard the score on the radio in the car that morning, use it when he says, “OP doesn’t care/know.”
        “Oh, as a matter of fact, I did catch the the end/hear the score/hear about X play. I was wondering if fans were going to be surprised.”
        and let him reply.
        One time ought to affect a change,

  19. NotaFan*

    I had a (successful) interview with my former boss and he got to chatting and asking questions about Local Pro Football Team. I was honest, laughed, and explained that despite growing up here in Football Town, I never caught the sports bug. Whenever the topic came up in the future, we good-naturedly joked about it. I don’t think you need to pretend if you keep it light and respectful of others’ preferences.

  20. Salt Water*

    When the conversation turns, “And that’s my cue to exit.” Said pleasantly and with a smile, so your boss won’t take offense.

    1. OP*

      OP here: yes, I think that’s probably what I need to start doing. It’s just odd because sometimes it’s mid conversation: everyone’s talking about their weekend and before it gets to my turn, football comes up and that’s it. I don’t care about talking about my weekend, I’m just unsure about whether to stay or not (I’m just gonna leave, honestly).

  21. Jamie*

    I know exactly how you feel. I am in an area known for the intensity of it’s sports fans and I don’t care about any of them. It doesn’t bother me at work as I just tune it out and go back to work (or check AAM) but I had one very painful business lunch with two colleagues and our customer and it was nothing but sports the entire meal.

    I started to feel really awkward as I literally couldn’t participate and so said nothing the entire time except to the waiter – ordering and thank you.

    My boss apologized to me later but I said, and meant, there was no need. I mean, the customer was happy were weren’t there to entertain me. But there was an element of weirdness for me being the only woman there and completely silent.

  22. BRR*

    I REALLY don’t have any interest in sports and I feel you on this. Unless there’s something missing from your letter, it doesn’t sound like it would be a big deal to say “well I’m going to head back to my desk now” in a cheerful tone. I can see myself being irritated at the football talk if it’s constantly grinding conversations, that I’m enjoying, to a halt but I think you’ll just have to more or less accept that part. I’ve also found it helpful to have a few quips ready of clearly wrong football facts. I might also have a few conversation topics in your back pocket if you can subtly try to switch it back.

    But I think the key to any response is to be cheerful with your tone.

  23. mark132*

    I actually sometimes will use stuff like this to get out of a conversation. I’ll draw a third party into the conversation and let them talk about subject X and then I’ll turn around put my headphones back on and go back to work. (yes it is evil)

  24. Not Blowing My Cover*

    I like sports a lot and I can talk about most sports, at least for a few minutes. I am also a big fan of horse racing, and every spring I get converted into everybody’s personal expert on who is going to win the Kentucky Derby. I also know how to teach people how to bet on horses and am a fairly accomplished handicapper. I am able to talk about this all day.

    BUT I don’t and I won’t. I know my interests aren’t the same as everybody else. I’m happy to talk if people want to but I don’t push it. And I always read the room to make sure I haven’t said too much.

    That doesn’t help OP much, of course. I think it would be a kindness to say something like, “hey, let’s have a football-free hour” or “this isn’t my jam – how about those spreadsheets?” or something similar. Sometimes people who are really into something don’t realize they’ve gotten carried away. It’s okay to steer it back.

  25. nosportpls*

    My father in law does this same thing! He’s one of those “good ol’ boy” types and loves to talk football. Usually when he asks me “Jane, what do you think about XYZ college football team?” I try to keep a good sense of humor about it and deflect by responding with a saying that is usually from another sport like “yeah they knocked that home run out of the park!” or “Go ‘stros!” (in ref. to our local baseball team, the Astros). He gets a kick out of it and I go about my business.
    Like Alison said, the key is being distracted, not annoyed. If they know you’re annoyed, they’ll just keep digging at you.

  26. 404_FoxNotFound*

    Another person here who does not enjoy the Sports Talk..

    When topics that I don’t agree with or find interest in have come up at the places I’ve worked at, I’ve done a lot of mixing reactions:
    – Feigning being focused elsewhere and then interrupted if someone ties to loop you in, as Alison suggests is such a useful tool. Caveat there that not participating in these majority office participation topics (kids, sports, health stuff, etc.) does come at a cost, and unfortunately in a less great office, sometimes that cost is one that affects advancement and/or being kept in the loop, even in a minor way.
    – After repeated interruptions, I will tend to make my answers less “that’s nice” and more pointedly in the direction of “sorry, trying to get work done. I’m glad Sports Team X did the thing, but I do have to focus my attention on Y project”
    – Half listening with non-committal responses. Depending on my mood the responses will range from vaguely encouraging the conversation along to asking questions (beginner to middling knowledge) and let other persons tire them out, or get to a point where I can more socially acceptably
    – If I know I lose out on social capital by not participating in the charade around (especially frequently gendered) office interests, I’ll either make a point about interacting with said interest in a non gender stereotypical way (“that’s cool, I [masculine presenting person] knit too!”, or less directly discomfort making by redirecting to something I’d rather talk about that genuinely interests me: “sorry, I look like a dude, but I don’t find most team sports interesting, I much prefer learning about non-team sports like martial arts”.
    Depending on how pushy I feel like getting and how open the team is, I’ll use the opportunity to talk about either the alternate thing I find interesting, or coopt the conversation to discuss gender norms or something feminist. YMMV re those specific discussions though! I’ve experienced that they either tend to change nothing about existing not great offices, or open the office discussion topics right up, either in a teaching way, or finding other people who might also not want to talk sports all the time.

  27. Buttons*

    It is so annoying!!! It was such a weird thing to get used to when I moved to the US, especially how rabid people are about their colleges.
    My standard response is “OH, I don’t follow any sports. I hope your team does well!”
    If I want to leave the group conversation I say “I will leave this to you serious fans!” *big smile* and then walk away.

  28. Paralegal Part Deux*

    In my office, I’m known as the non-football person. If they ask me a question, I don’t hesitate to tell them I have no idea what they’re talking about because I don’t follow it. If they ask me which team I’m pulling for, I tell them “the one with the prettiest colors.” They don’t ask me anymore. :)

  29. Buttons*

    If it is people I know well, and who get my sense of humor, I will say things like
    “Is that the one with the orange ball?”
    “Is that the one played on ice?”
    “Is that the one with the bat?”
    “I’ll go, but I am only there for the overpriced beer and people watching!”

  30. Mama Bear*

    We are not a sports family. My husband has a t-shirt (I think from Woot) that says “Go Sports!” and often talks about “sportsball” and will deliberately mix things up. “Oh, so the underwater polo soccer dodgeball team did well? Good to know.”

    I personally wouldn’t feign distraction. I’d just say, “I have no opinion because you know I don’t follow football” and perhaps then follow up with “by the way, I’m about finished with that report you asked for. Please let me know when you have time to review it.”

      1. londonedit*

        Yeah. As a football (soccer) fan, this is really irritating. People are allowed to like different things without other people mocking them. Not liking sport doesn’t mean you’re any better than anyone who does, and acting all ‘Ohhh, did your Sporty McFootball Squad win the trophycup?’ just makes you look like a bit of a condescending arse.

    1. Campfire Raccoon*


      Once I was explaining the rules of Nascar to my son, and my husband was FLOORED because 1) he has no knowledge of the sportsball car vroomvrooms and 2) He assumed my lack of interest meant I didn’t know anything about it.

      Anyway, I am the household designated sportsball explainer.

      1. E*

        I also know more about football and baseball (which is really very little) than my husband. I went to one college football game with my uncle while I was an undergrad, that’s pretty much the extent of my football knowledge from what he explained during that game. And my father was a solid Dodgers fan, so minimal baseball knowledge. I don’t follow any teams or players, so I just nod and smile at sports conversations. My weekend is best spent on other more fun things…

    2. Buttons*

      “I hope your team wins their trophy/tournament/major award” Ha! I am sure it is annoying to them, but I only do that after they have not taken the hint when I have politely said “Oh! I don’t follow sports, but it sounds like it was an exciting game!”

  31. Sal*

    I dunno, to me it sounds like maybe everyone is standing in a group talking when this is brought up, not just casually chatting from their desks. If the latter it is easy enough to just stop participating. But sometimes at my work people will gather when talking about something, and sometimes we go off topic or are just taking a break from work and it definitely feels weirder to just turn around at that point. It can be done (I’m practicing haha) but it’s not as straightforward as just resuming your work and popping in and out of conversations as the day goes on.

    (I get this expression because she says she’s already part of the conversation and is finding it difficult to excuse herself and LEAVE)

    1. OP*

      Yep that’s it! (OP here). I’m practicing this as well but as you say it’s not straightforward and takes some social finagling that isn’t necessarily intuitive or easy.

  32. LQ*

    I’ve valiantly defended the person everyone else hates who isn’t a bad guy. In sports it’s usually the refs. This is easy, “Oh it’s a hard job, surprisingly athletic, and everyone spends all their time second-guessing your decisions forever.” If you know just enough you can get a good laugh and then mostly people have left me alone, it comes up once or twice a season.

    (My other strategy which is hit or miss, join whatever the gambling thing in fantasy, sports pool, etc. Play in a knowledge-free way (pick the best pick all the way through march madness etc, color jerseys whatever), and then whoop everyone who cares 3 years in a row. They stopped talking about it after that.)

    1. Half-Caf Latte*

      My father-in-law has a great story about only picking players whose jerseys were divisible by three for a fantasy league and winning a few hundred bucks from the VERY SERIOUS competitors who endlessly analyzed the stats.

  33. C Average*

    This was exactly my situation at my old job, which was at a major sporting goods manufacturer where football came up a lot. I follow other sports to various degrees, but not football; it both bores and confuses me.

    I flat-out told my immediate colleagues that I was like that dog in the Far Side cartoon: when they started talking football, all I heard was “blah blah blah blah blah.”

    They joked about it a bit, but they also got accustomed to me smiling and murmuring “blah blah blah” as I walked away from yet another conversation about the tenth down at the eleventeenth yard line or whatever. To my knowledge, it never impacted my work relationships.

  34. LGC*

    LW, tell them you’re a Dolphins fan. They will understand and offer you their deepest condolences.

  35. TootsNYC*

    I’m a big fan of just dragging this stuff out into the sunshine and not letting it get treated like some shameful secret.

    I’d suggest saying, “I’m going to bow out of the football talk–sorry.” And then just immediately and quietly go focus on whatever it is you’re going to do.

    If you have trouble segueing over to whatever’s on your desk, then maybe it’s a good time to do a bathroom run. Or get a cup of decaf.

  36. Campfire Raccoon*

    Get chickens. Learn about chickens. Talk about chickens non stop. Learn about genetics. Ditch all your friends for chicken friends. Watch the world burn.

      1. Campfire Raccoon*

        SO! TRUE STORY:

        One of my techs was at a job at an apartment complex, and a goat wandered up to them out of no where. Followed them around this 400+ apartment complex for a solid 2 hours, happy just to be part of a group. After the job the techs spent some time looking for a house that *could* have livestock nearby – to no avail. The tech called me, (because CHICKENS), and now I have a goat.

        But not before the goat spent another 6 hours in the back seat of the service truck, helping out with all the other service calls.

        But of course, you can’t have just ONE goat…

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Male goat, they may have rescued someone’s dinner. (I had a vegetarian friend with dairy goats and she hated selling off male baby goats because someone told her WHY he didn’t want a pair.)

  37. fhqwhgads*

    I don’t if this would land well in OP’s situation, but something I’ve frequently seen people who are Not Into Sports do in the middle of discussions when sports come up is, regardless of what is being discussed, refer to it as “sportsball”. In cases where either saying “I do not follow football” hasn’t worked, using “sportsball” tends to send the very clear message that you have no sports-specific knowledge or commentary to offer and if pressed to engage you will do so generically. This could come off as passive-aggressive if you’re not careful, but I’ve seen it work plenty of times where it lands as more of a fun, quirky, “ok I’m trying to play along but I’m being transparent that I got nuthin'” kind of thing that for some reason gets the point across.

    1. Lucette Kensack*

      Using “sportsball” is suuuuuuper rude. The intention is to turn your nose up at someone else’s interests, right? As in: “I care so little about this thing that you care about that I’m going to pretend that I don’t even know the right word for it.” That’s not something kind people do.

      1. RussianInTexas*

        I mean, do care that little! Really! So if I tell you I don’t care/don’t watch/don’t read, well, don’t keep badgering me, or I will being out the “sportsball”.

        1. Isabel Kunkle*

          Right. My rule for anything–sports, religion, MLM, TV shows–is that you get *one* polite “well, that’s not my thing, how about that change of subject,” and if you push the issue, I can make fun of you and your hobbyhorse with a clear conscience.

          I am also here to note, in Tales of Sports-Related Workplace Ugh, that I once had to fake a sick day because one of the higher-ups decided to take everyone to a Red Sox game as a “reward” and there was no way I could explain that I would, in fact, rather actually have stomach flu.

      2. Bagpuss*

        In fairness, monopolising the conversation about somthing which is of no interest to people your spoeaking to is alsoextremely rude and sends the messagfe that you don’t care at all whether they are interested or about trying to be open or inclusive.

        I think using terms like ‘sportsball’ is very dependent on tone and context, and isn’t always or automatically rude.

        As fhqwhgads says, it can be a effective and light-hearted way to get the message across – most people recognise that it is a joke, but get the point.
        I think it’s probably a ‘know your audience ‘ thing as well.

  38. Luna*

    “what do you think about that play, Sarah?”
    I dunno, I don’t care about what happens to some oblong shape getting thrown around by men in tight spandex pants.

  39. StaceyIzMe*

    As long as they don’t target or exclude you in other ways or interrupt you when you’re discussing work or telling your anecdote of the moment, I don’t know that this is even a “thing”? Sure, it’s off-putting to be in the middle of a group whose whole social and professional bond centers largely around One Thing, but that would be true whether it was wine tasting, coffee snobbery or more common issue like the parent/ no parent or pet/ no pet divides. Just be yourself, be known for your work and occasionally join in on the joke, if your comfortable. If it really DOES bother you after you’ve tried a shift in mindset, see if there is an underlying tone of gender based sexism that’s just oozing out through the medium of football. If that’s the case, then it might be time to polish up your resume and look elsewhere, since an extremely hierarchical structure is unlikely to be responsive to change that’s driven from the bottom up.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Did you catch the update where OP explains the boss repeatedly interrupts her non-sports conversation’s with co-workers and changes it to football before she has a chance to offer her part of the conversation at all? This would be rude in high school even!

  40. Buttons*

    I was consulting once at a company where there was a large and powerful good ‘ol boy’s network, and I knew I needed to get IN with them. While they were all discussing sportsball game X I texted a friend who is a sports photojournalist and he gave me things to say. “Man, when playerdude made that whatever, I couldn’t believe it.” LOL! I don’t often care about playing the game with the good ‘ol boys, but I understand that some times you have to!

  41. Lynn Whitehat*

    I attended a big basketball school, but never got into it. It was hard for students to get tickets, and none of my friends were into it either, and I’m not really a “sports” person anyway. It was fine until I started interviewing. Every interviewer started with a few warm-up “ice-breaker” questions about basketball. NOOOOOOO. I had no idea what they were going on about. I tried to read the sports page of my school paper, but I just… couldn’t. My eyeballs would just slide right off the page. It was just… about nothing, every day. It was terrible.

    I put an “Interests and Achievements” section on my resume to try to steer the ice-breaker questions toward stuff I knew. It was… sort of successful. That’s why I’m sometimes on here defending that section. It can be really helpful if you’re not part of the dominant culture in some way, to help steer the friendly chit-chat questions away from the Danger Zone.

    1. Beancounter Eric*

      “With all due respect, sir, you’re beginning to bore the hell out of me.”
      -GySgt Thomas Highway, Heartbreak Ridge

  42. RobotWithHumanHair*

    Just do like Moss does.

    “Did you see that ludicrous display last night?”
    “The thing about Arsenal is, they always try to walk it in!”

    (Yes, I know, we’re talking American football here, but this letter totally reminded me of that scene!)

  43. Bird Person*

    One trick I learned from a former boss is to use coffee or the restroom as an excuse. Usually when he was trying to get someone out of his office – after a few minutes I would hear “Oh, I need to go refill/get some more coffee/run to the restroom…” at which point everyone realizes that they would also like more coffee/need to use the restroom and the conversation will somewhat disband.
    I’ve used the coffee excuse to get out of team conversations about dogs at around the 15 minute mark and it works well – I’ll just walk right by them with my full coffee cup on the way back to my desk and don’t feel the need to reengage. I did eventually start hearing comments about avoiding the dog talk, but it sounds like you’re getting that already and just need a graceful exit strategy. Good luck!

  44. Lucy Preston*

    I love pro football, but how do you focus with everyone else around you talking? Someone in the office next to mine has season tickets. Everyone in the office (literally, but we only have a handful of people) goes to their office on Monday mornings to talk about the previous day’s game. I can’t wear headphones because I’m backup protectionist, so I usually end up closing my door. But then I feel rude.

    For other things I don’t normally follow, like college football or pro basketball, I usually just scan the headlines.

  45. t*

    I work in the south – the SEC is a religion here. I was introducing a new coworker and got his school wrong – he was gracious about it, but I could tell it bothered him. To me, I can’t remember the difference between Alabama and Auburn (one of them you say Roll Tide! to. I have no idea which one.)

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      I am informed that the distinction between Michigan and Michigan State is extremely important, but I can never keep the two straight.

    2. What was I doing SQUIRREL!*

      If you want a mnemonic, tigers have auburn fur and definitely aren’t crimson.

  46. Enginear*

    Where I work, the topic I have no idea about or interest in compared to my colleagues is Star Wars, Marvel and DC comics, old shows and movies way before I was born. I just go back to work/sit back at my desk.

    1. Jennifer Thneed*

      Old movies are *fascinating* for social studies stuff. Ignore the plot and watch the clothes, cars, pedestrians and trollies in the background. Watch the differences in how people greet one another, and how they talk about food. Watch the completely-unconscious racial messaging in how characters interact. Yes, this isn’t documentary stuff, it’s not “true”, but it’s great information about how people thought they should be, which is equally interesting. It’s also interesting to see how the art direction handled the limitations of b&w film.

  47. Gumby*

    I cannot tell you how happy I was when we hired someone who is *also* into gymnastics. In a more-often-than-every-four-years way. Someone to geek out with… But! We discuss it for 5 minutes. Maybe 10. It’s definitely not an all-day thing. I mean, when we are at the meets, sure, but at work they are shorter convos.

    I have worked places where I started conversations about gymnastics to counteract the fantasy football insanity that was taking over the lunch room, hallways, lobby, any location with 2 or more people in it…

  48. Princesa Zelda*

    I only follow figure skating and womens’ league soccer, which aren’t exactly the NFL. So whenever someone asks me about a sportsball game, I have two stock answers. I deploy them in a jokey tone, but they almost always lead to a subject change.
    Option 1: Recite a TV jingle from 20 years ago for the local baseball team (most effective when not talking about baseball). This usually pivots to a conversation about “man I remember those ads” or “what the heck.” at which point I can explain the ad.
    Option 2: “I bet that Ireland wins, but Krum will catch the snitch.” This usually leads to a discussion about Harry Potter, which is just objectively better than sportsball.

  49. Database Developer Dude*

    Trust and believe you cannot avoid talking football without annoying SOME football fan somewhere. It’s kind of like a reverse Fight Club. The first rule of football is you never STFU about it.

  50. Auntie Social*

    I (f) have a slight limp sometimes. If people ask about it I tell them it’s an old sports injury–I’d been a nickel back at Grambling. Most people think it’s funny and laugh it off, some people take it seriously. The best response I ever got was “I wouldn’t have thought you were that fast.”

  51. Jennifer Juniper*

    What I do when people talk about sportsball is to say something like “I hope your team wins!” If someone says their team won, I congratulate the team. If they say their team lost, I’ll express sympathy for them.

    Maybe the OP should start doing that. Her boss and colleagues may like her better if she does this bit of emotional labor for them. Since she’s a woman, they may expect that of her. (I know, not fair – but she has to survive in the workplace.)

  52. Jennifer Juniper*

    I apologize for my use of the term “sportsball.” I was trying to use it as a catchall word for “football, baseball, basketball, etc.,’ but didn’t realize it was rude until I saw some comments above.

  53. Bagpuss*

    OP – I have zero interest in football or sport generally, I hav a number of coworkers who are very into them and there are lots f sports-relted conversations in the office.

    What I tend to do is leave most of those conversations – since you are concerned about your Boss’s response, I would do it in a friendly way – smile, say “I’ve got to go, I need to finish up the Jones report” (or whatever works in your context.
    Then ocassionally – maybe once every couple of weeks, stick round a little longer, and maybe make a brief comment about how you are happy for them that their team is doing so wekll, or sorry to hear it isn’t doing as well as they hoped.

    That way, you can participate just enough to avoid being perceived as stand-offishbut you can hopefully avoid the majoiryty of the conversations .

    If it happens in work related metigns where youcan’t leave bcause you need to be in the meeting , you could try redirecting e.g. “It sounds like that was a really exciting game, but would you mind if we deal with the projections for next month, as I have a lot of stuff on my desk and was really hoping we culd kep this meeting fairly short?”

    In other words, don’t make it explicitly about the fact that they are boring you to tears or wasting time. Becuase you aren’t being critical, it is less likely to upset anyone.

    (If this was peers, I would be less concerned about being more openly critical, but as it’s your boss, being more low-key may work better)

    If you find that you are excluded from work related things becuase the conversations go back and forth between football and work related stuff, then I would suggest raising that separately, directly with your won line manager, and asking them to ensurethat you are brought back into the conversationwhen it moves back to work-related topics.

  54. GDub*

    Live in Texas. Football coach’s daughter. I was in HS band, at every football game, and attended a VERY football oriented university. I have no interest in football. What lots of people don’t understand is that I get it, I just don’t care. When asked what I think, I reply “oh, I’m a football atheist.” When they ask what that means, I say, ” I no longer worship.” Then when it comes up again, I repeat until they start saying it for me. I think casting it as religion shuts it down faster.

  55. So sleepy*

    OP, given that you already have established that you have zero interest in football, I would also say something like, “that’s my cue!” anytime it comes back and continue on to whatever you would have been doing next. It won’t seem that unusual as you are basically just noting what they already know and returning to your work. This would work for any sort of recurring topic that someone has no interest in (thinking about childbirth horror stories, myself… those always seem to come up and I’m sure there are people that excuse themselves from them!)

  56. Richard Hershberger*

    Develop an intense interest in some obscure sport. Back in the day, soccer served this purpose for Americans. It doesn’t anymore, but there are any number of other possibilities. Consider India Premier League cricket. So whenever sports talk starts up, start raving about how pumped you are by the Chennai Super Kings. Again assuming that this is an American context, they will stop pestering you with this stuff. Uninterest in cricket is a foundational principle of modern American sports culture.

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