The Wise Guy: Guide to Female Football Companionship

Football and relationships can be a dangerous combination.  As an avid football fan, as well as serial monogamist, I should know.  By my last count, I’ve given 13 different women the title of “girlfriend” since I was old enough to know what that means.  And each one had a different way of annoying me when we watched football together, except number 13 who, by no coincidence, now holds the title of Mrs. Wise Guy.   Since I’ve finally found the Holy Grail of female football watching companionship, I feel I’m uniquely qualified to use my vast powers of nitpicky observation for good and hand out some advice to the female readers of this site.

The first thing you should know is that as different as men may be in their knowledge and interest in football, we are remarkably uniform when it comes to spotting an attractive woman (sure, there’s controversy around the margins, as Bill Simmons calls it: The Kirsten Dunst line).  More importantly, we can all agree on who the cool girls are, and whether you’re a wife, girlfriend, or out there looking, it behooves you to be “football cool.”  There’s a theory floating around that knowing football can raise a girl up to 2 points on the proverbial 1 to 10 scale, and I completely subscribe to it.  For the majority of men, football is our favorite sport, and being able to share that joy with our lady is surpassed only by sex, food, and, perhaps the birth of a child. On the other hand, many women can (both knowingly and unknowingly) ruin the football watching experience for men, which is the first step toward tuning you out in general.

Kirsten Dunst (good)  Kirsten Dunst (horrible)

                          Can this really be the same person?

To help maximize your potential to be “football cool,” I’ve broken down women into four categories: the hater, the tolerator, the casual fan, and the knowledgeable fan.  Sure, I could do the same for men (for example, pompous guy who tries to correct everyone on rules, the mysogonist, the guy who only cares about fantasy, the dorky guy who pretends to care but only wants to talk about his job , the alcoholic), but that’s not the point of article.  The point here is to maximize your desirability to men with a few basic insights into our fairly uniform psychology.  Do with that power what you will.

The Hater

You do not like football.  Except for gymnastics in the Olympics, you can do without sports entirely. Chances are, you grew up in a household with your two sisters and a domineering mother who trained your father to pee sitting down so the toilet would always be clean.  Ever since you were tormented by that cheerleader and her dumbass boyfriend in study hall, you’ve gone out of your way to avoid the jocks.  You found a sanctuary in the artsy/theatre clique in high school, and you went to a small liberal arts college that didn’t even have a football team.  Frankly, I have no idea how you got to this website.

After getting your masters in [something impractical], you took root in the bohemian part of the city and finally started looking for a life partner.  One day at a random museum, there he was: cultured, sensitive, philanthropic, and, of course, nerdy cute.  You spent a glorious summer together taking day trips, seeing movies, buying used books, and checking out the latest new coffee shops.  During an August weekend trip in the Poconos, you declared your love, and you moved in with him the next week.  As fall approached, you started secretly checking out Open Houses in the paper.

But then that fateful day came when he ever so meekly declared that he likes to watch the Seahawks on Sundays.  And the other good games.  And the cherry on top, that he plays fantasy.  Ugh.  At this point, you’re trapped.  You love him (not to mention that you sold all your furniture on craigslist), but you never fathomed being with a person that, eek, liked football.  You instantly harken back to your childhood and remember all those great tactics that your mom used on your father: take a hard line initially; acquiesce only if he begs and make it seem like you’re doing him a favor by letting him watch the games; then, while he’s watching the games, ask him to do chores or take out the dog.  Sounds like the perfect solution.

Except that it’s not.  Sooner or later, he’s going to get away from you for a bachelor party weekend and go all Ed Helms from The Hangover on you.  So let him have his 3-9 hours on Sunday.  Just leave and find something else to do.  It will all be over soon.

Of course, if he’s also into college football you should just cut your losses and end the relationship now.  It’s not going to work out.


Hey you haters!  Let your guy watch football and this won’t happen to you.

The Tolerator  

You have about as much interest in football as your “hater” counterpart, but unlike her, you’re a natural pleaser.  While we appreciate that, you must tread lightly if you want to venture into watching games with us.  Being a football tolerator is like being a doctor, your oath is “do no harm.”  First and foremost, this means you have to pay attention to the game.  Because football is such a long game, there’s a lot of time when fans are talking about other things or just not paying attention.  However, during those crucial moments–a fourth down place, a two-minute drill, a game winning field goal–there is nothing more annoying than someone talking.

As a corollary to the “pay attention” rule, let’s say you’re looking to spice up your game-watching experience with a little action during halftime.  Normally this would qualify you as “the coolest football girl ever,” but if it’s, say, halftime of the 2005 Divisional Playoffs, and Steve Smith just torched your secondary for the second deep touchdown of the game going into the half, your man is not going to be in the mood.  Know the game situation and the emotional effect it is having on him.

And let me just suggest, if you take the initiative to actually try and learn the game, it could pay huge dividends in the “football cool” department.   There is no stupid question when it comes to football, and we guys get off on displaying knowledge and authority.  Just don’t ask during a 4th and goal.

Steve Smith Touchdown

I’ll do it, but just know I’m going to be thinking of Steve Smith and Jake Delhomme the entire time

The Casual Fan

This is the category most fans fall under, guy or girl.  Most likely, you were huge into your college team. But the NFL is not college.  Being a college football fan is easy.  You just dress up in your school’s gear, drink yourself into a stupor, and scream your head off for three hours.

But, let’s face it, the NFL has become the place for the sophisticated fan (minus your proverbial cheesehead, “Dawg” mask, and spiked shoulder pads), and it’s a minefield for the uninitiated.  With all the technological advances and the growing popularity, you cannot escape NFL analysis.  Every fan now has an opinion on the game they’re watching, which is cemented by all the talking heads on ESPN, the NFL Network, and the pre and post-game shows.  Throw fantasy in the mix, and now you’re talking about a sport that has become overwhelming to many fans.

So if your goal is to maximize the “football cool,” you’ve got some major learning to do.  But you enjoy the game, have a strong rooting interest for your team, and you’ve come to this site, so you’re already halfway there.

Unfortunately, the second half involves work.   You need to go to a football-related websites every morning (hmm…I wonder which one?) and read the major stories.  Watch Sportscenter or another highlight show Sunday night to make sure you know what happened in every game.  For most guys, this comes as second nature (because we don’t have that many interests), but for women it’s tougher because there’s shoes on zappos to buy, trips to plan, and celebrity gossip to check out.  But trust me, get in this habit, and you’ll be amazed at the dividends.  Especially for all the single ladies (all the single ladies!).  Just knowing the major storylines and what happened in every game will allow you to hang at any happy hour, dinner party, or corporate boondoggle conversation involving the NFL.  If you throw in a little humor by ripping the crappy teams or moronic coaching moves, you’ll instantly be labeled a “cool” girl.  You’ll have so much hand, you’ll be coming out of your gloves.

However, if you want to make it with the knowledgeable fans outside the singles scene and during the actual games, well then just a cursory knowledge of what happened is not sufficient.  You have to know why it happened.  I’m hardly the authority on why the events of professional football play out like they do.  But this much I know: 95% of fans, 80% of announcers, and 30% of coaches (Jim Zorn, Herm Edwards, and Dennis Green come to mind) don’t either.  You must find the experts.  Easiest way: watch Cris Collinsworth on Sunday night because he knows his stuff and breaks down the strategy in football beyond the customary “he’s playing with a lot of passion out there” line you get from most announcers.  Also great is the Playbook AFC or NFC shows on the NFL network that breakdown actual game film and show you how formations have a huge effect on how a given play turns out.  My personal belief is that knowing the strategy that goes behind football makes watching the games a much more fulfilling experience because you appreciate just what a chess match the game is.

On a more practical level, just knowing a little bit about the strategy behind the game will instantly make you more knowledgeable than almost any guy you’re with, and you will immediately begin wowing people with insights without even knowing it.   Assuming you take the advice in the next section, you’ll be about as “football cool” as they come.

Kim Kardashian and Reggie Bush  

You know her family’s crazy.  But do you know why he can’t run between the tackles?

The Knowledgeable Fan

You know the game inside and out.  You play fantasy football and kick everyone’s ass.  Everything in this article up to this point was a curiosity, like a college professor sitting in on a high school class.  And we guys are simply in awe.  But, as Michael Jordan recently showed at his Hall of Fame induction speech, just because you’re good at something does not make you likeable or cool.  If you have a chip on your shoulder, are combative, or proclaim know-it-all status, people will tolerate you when you’re around and make snide remarks behind your back.  Now, as a know-it-all myself, I’ve become all too familiar with the looks on people’s faces when I’ve crossed the line into pompousness.  But women who know sports, especially football, they have a certain perspective that I’ve only come to appreciate after several blissful seasons with Mrs. Wise Guy.

Other girls it ruin for you.  The haters, the tolerators, the casual fans, they all condition guys to believe you don’t know anything.  You constantly feel like you have to prove yourself and establish your credibility.  Ladies, I feel your pain, but simply, you must get over it.  The vast majority of guys will instantly recognize you as different and give you the respect you deserve.  So have confidence, and don’t go on the warpath when you feel disrespected.

By that same token, there is something to male bonding that goes beyond just talking about football.  So, please, try your best to not get too annoyed when we regress into those moments.  The interplay of busting each other’s balls, arguing about which celebrity du jour is hotter, or communicating through movie quotes is something that many women have a hard time breaking into, no matter how much you think you’re one of the guys.  Again, you just have to understand that this is not about you.  It’s a long game, and that Will Ferrell impression that you’ve heard for the 120th time will eventually end.  And though you’re rolling your eyes for the 119th time, if you stay cool, we’ll love you for it.