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I suppose this fits under the heading "Men are from Mars." While most husbands/boyfriends and their eyes are laser-pointed at a flatscreen during any football/basketball/baseball game, the look on a typical wife/girlfriend is that of one who has just opened the hood of her new car. It is a look of XUG, which is one click beyond another acronym. Here's what a caring woman needs to know.

First, a short cut.  One of my favorite true stories is of a good friend/lawyer/banker, a brilliant woman who was forced to go to Soldier Field by her boss to entertain clients, and she knew-nothing-and-could-not-care-less about the violent game of football. Her partner, a very wise man, told her not to worry because she only needed to say four things, and she could say them over and over again. After anyone kicks the ball, always say, "Special teams always make the biggest difference."  After either team scores, always say, "Defense wins games. No defense - no win." Any time there is a time out, even at the end of the half, always say, "Well, let's see if they make adjustments." Any time there is a yellow flag on the field, just mutter, "Are you kidding me?"  I know you women are thinking, "Are you kidding me?" but honestly, I'm not.  These four things work every time. I don't know if she won over her clients, but she has been working at the same bank for twenty years, so I assume the men were duly impressed. If you want to learn more and you believe everyone needs a little humor, follow me below the orange Nerf.

Football isn't really a game, not any more than a soap opera is a TV show.  It is a substitute for war, a campaign with territory won, players described as offensive weapons, passes that are bombs, defensive plays that are blitzes, quarterbacks who have rifle arms, defensive players who have nicknames like Samurai Mike, and a battle that is won or lost in the trenches. Women who care about men should first appreciate that these men are not actually killing each other. The other thing to remember is that a football game is the one occasion in which an otherwise uncommunicative man can show an emotion. A smart woman would capitalize on that.  If you've been invited to a Saturday morning bike ride in Wisconsin, show up in a green Aaron Rodgers jersey and see what happens.  If you're in Chicago, you can choose from Urlacher, Tillman, or Marshall.  You could wear a Cutler jersey, but this year, that is somewhat risky.  If the local team loses, look sad, or better yet, look angry. It's amazing how a furled brow and grimace can make a guy think you are Athena, or better yet, Venus.

If you've already attracted a guy with your football jersey but you're not sure how to start a conversation, simply ask, "Hey, what time is the game?"  Be sure you say, "THE game."  Even if it's the middle of the season, it's still "the game" to a guy.

After the football season is over, men focus on basketball. The easiest thing to remember about basketball is that the refs are always wrong.  Even if they call a foul that benefits the home team, a typical guy thinks the foul should have been a technical foul, which is a really bad thing, kind of like telling a woman her jeans make her look, well, um, like a heifer.  A technical foul, you see, is a really bad thing.  

I'm not sure why, but women don't usually look good in basketball jerseys, so don't buy one.  Just wear the local team's colors. Basketball is only slightly different from football. It's not an all-out war; basketball is more like a series of skirmishes.  There are fast breaks, screens, setting a "pick," running the floor (after all, where else could the players run?), and steals.  Besides complaining about the refs after every call, there are a few things a woman can say during a basketball game. Whenever you see two players moving at the same time, just yell, "Pick and roll!   Pick and roll!"  It doesn't matter whether your team has control of the ball or not. It doesn't matter if a woman even knows what a pick-and-roll is. It still works if you yell it out.

Another thing a woman needs to know about basketball is that it is more like gambling than war.  Statistics like shooting percentages, the current number of fouls, how many time outs are left, and who is "hot" - those things mean a lot in basketball.  The best thing a team can do, as in gambling, is go on "a run."  That means one team has outscored the other team by, say 10 points to 2. A final thing a woman can do any time the game is going, no matter whether the home team has the ball or not, is yell, "Back door!   Back door!"  I'm not sure why, but in basketball, it's more effective if you yell out something twice in a row.

I'm going to add a text note here.  Some men will argue that after football season comes hockey season, especially in places like Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Canada.  The problem is that - unless you are a woman who likes cold climes, you may not want to impress a man with your knowledge of hockey.  Besides, it's a very fast, very violent game, in which there are a lot of official rules and a lot of unofficial rules, and the rules are usually only applied after a referee notices blood on the ice. When a hockey referee gets bored or is tired and wants to slow the game down, he calls "icing," which is sort of like a delay of game, and it's supposed to follow a rule, but usually a referee calls it whenever he feels like it.

Another problem is that hockey is four games in one, which doesn't make a lot of sense, unless you understand J.K. Rowling's Quidditch.  Much of hockey is like speed skating to see who can get to a puck first. Then it becomes soccer with passing, blocking and trying to score a goal. If the puck gets close to the net, it becomes a wrestling match, and after that, it degenerates into one-handed boxing where you hold the opponent's jersey with your left hand and flail away at him with your right.  If you actually hit him and you're both on skates, he'd slide away from you, and a boxing match with only one punch isn't very sporting, so you have to hold on to his jersey. I don't mean to insult hockey fans, but I wonder about a game where fighting puts a player in time out for 45 seconds, and most players have lost their front teeth years ago. I think hockey was invented by bored dentists in very cold places.

After basketball and hockey, it's time for baseball which lasts through the spring and summer. Women look cute in baseball jerseys, especially pinstripes or flannels that button down the front. Even cuter is a woman who wears a baseball cap and puts her ponytail through the little gap above the sizing tab in the back. Baseball is a slower game than football or basketball, so a woman might actually have a conversation with her date at a baseball game. Baseball has a lot of strategy, though, so some guys don't talk all that much. In the old days, a baseball game was a bad date because the slowness of the game meant a lot of beer drinking, but today, beer in a baseball stadium is so outrageously expensive that drinking it has become an economic issue that favors conversation and cracking open peanuts.

Here's what a woman can say during a baseball game.  First of all, whenever a player is out, just say, "Good pitching always beats good batting."  It doesn't matter who has just batted. Fans used to imitate Little League players by repeating a senseless litany that went like this:   "Hum, baby, hum, baby, humma humma, swing batter!"  That is outdated now, so a woman is safest shouting out after any pitch, "You call that a slider?"  Pitchers have lots of other pitches - fastballs, curves, and change ups, but in today's modern stadiums and the current price of tickets, to most fans all pitches look like sliders, which could be a fast curve or a curving fastball.  Do not confuse a baseball slider with a White Castle hamburger. If you do, it will be your last date with that guy.  If you want to get rid of him, misusing the "slider" word will do it.

Another thing a woman can do during a baseball game is read the scoreboard.  It usually has so much information on it, even scores from other games, that a woman can narrate any piece of it during a slow game, and a guy will appreciate her knowledgable contributions. Also, if you really like the guy you are with at a baseball game, you can attract him by saying, "You know, Tom (or Joe or Mike or whatever), I really appreciate a guy who's not juiced."  Most guys don't take steroids, so he'll appreciate that.

In some cities is easier to be a fan than in others.  If you live in Chicago and go to a Cubs game, after the game is over, you can always say, "Just wait till next year."  It's also good to have a list of names to say out loud.  You don't have to use a verb or put the name in a sentence.  Just say the name and he'll fill in the rest of the information.  You can say the names any time during the game, and it will be appropriate.  The Babe. Ted Williams.  Joe Dimaggio.  Stan the Man.  Ernie Banks.

If you're sitting next to two guys and you want to see them fight to ease your boredom, just say, "Pete Rose."  They'll argue for the rest of the game.

In baseball, there is also a trump card you can play any time.  You can say anything you want, even something silly like, "Was that strike four?" and if the guy looks at you with that XUG look on his face, one click beyond the usual acronym, just say, "Yogi-ism."  Yogi Berra said the most inane things and fans loved him for it, so you can too, and then repeat them as often as you like. It's deja vu all over again.

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