As you may have noticed, I’ve been away for a few weeks.  Something happened to me in recent days that really forced me to sit back and reconsider a lot of things in my life: I turned 30. 

Turning 30 wasn’t something that completely snuck up on me.  It probably started on my 27th birthday.  That felt like the last real birthday of my 20’s.  When I hit 28, it was the beginning of the end.  People got married, kids were born, I started getting a few grey hairs…  Twenty-nine wasn’t really anything but a speed bump.  By this past April, I was staring down the barrel of true adulthood. 

They say that age is just a number; I don’t know, maybe it is, but this birthday hit me kind of hard.  My recovery involved many long walks, contemplative moments and pretending it was still July 2000 and not 2010, which was great until I realized that walking around in orange Abercrombie parachute pants and reeking of Curve wasn’t really a great idea.  In any case, during the course of my hiatus, I was hit with a number of revelations.  Some of them involved being a sports fan.  And while I hate people telling me what to do, I don’t care, I’m old now.  You have to listen to me.  Thus, my eight simple rules for the 30 year-old sports fan:

1.      No more jerseys.

Yeah, I know, in the mid-2000’s you dropped a few hundred bucks on a totally sweet Alex English Denver Nuggets jersey, but let’s get real: you looked ridiculous then and you look even dumber now without the benefits of a lifestyle that allowed you to work out 5 days a week.  Jerseys are for little kids and hot girls serving beers and buffalo wings. Special dispensation is given for soccer jerseys because sometimes they have the word “Bimbo” printed on them. 

2.      You cheer for teams, not players.

I’ve been at events where 50 year-old men get positively giddy when a 23 year-old athlete deems to enter their realm of existence for 30 seconds to scribble their name on a baseball.  It’s one of the most embarrassing things I’ve ever seen.  If I’m that dude’s wife (if he has one), I’d be filing for divorce at 9am the next morning.  When you’re younger, you love players because you look up to them.  When you’re their age, you cheer for them because you can relate to them from an age perspective.  When you’re old and you obsess over them, it makes you look like Chris Hansen should be following you with a camera.  Case in point: you were in middle school when Jason Heyward was born.  

3.      Learn something beyond the box score or get out.

Ok, this isn’t meant to be as harsh as it sounds, but seriously, nothing is sadder than a sports fan that has no idea what they’re talking about yet tries to convince you otherwise.  You know the type: wears the throwback jersey to the bar, screams louder than anyone else at the TV, eats his weight in cheese fries, yet has no idea what “YAC” means.  If you’re going to be Superfan #99, don’t be a poser.  Take some time to actually learn the nuances of your sport.  Sporting events aren’t just away games for drinking contests anymore.  Before you slurp down your 6th Miller Lite, take note of how the offensive line adjusts to block a guy like Dwight Freeney.  Learn about the 3-2 Zone defense.   

4.      Learn to spot the b.s. artists and develop your own opinions.

People love the Sports Guy – personal feelings aside, he’s an innovator in the new sports media so he deserves some credit.  Nonetheless, that doesn’t mean you need to regurgitate his opinions about sports and popular culture.  Just because a guy like Simmons has a theory based on a “feeling” he has that morning, or Bill Plaschke writes articles centered on crappy sentiment, doesn’t mean they’re right.  Force yourself to think outside the box.  Did you know Simmons was a bartender before he started writing for ESPN?  What relevant experience does he have that makes his opinions any more worthwhile than your own?  With regard to Plaschke, if you take anyone that appears on “Around the Horn” even moderately serious, I’m sorry, I can’t help you.  You’re beyond reproach.

5.      Make a commitment.

Maybe in your twenties you pulled for a college team other than your own because your Dad went to UT and you really liked Vince Young.  Consequently, you also like the Titans now (but not in 2008, when they did your boy VY

Do you think Ogre would have given the Tri-Lambs a break if he knew they had him on their fantasy teams? I doubt it.

wrong).  Nonetheless, it’s time to put childish allegiances aside.  Pick your teams and stick with them.  You can’t say you’re a Royals fan, but you also like the Cardinals because Pujols is your favorite player.  I’m not one for enforcing geographic limitations on fandom, but be prepared to succinctly defend your love for the Eagles if you live in Atlanta.

6.      Time to behave at sporting events.

In college, my fraternity would take annual trips to baseball games as brotherhood bonding events.  To call these excursions “sloppy” would be kind.  People snuck bottles of liquor into the stadium, tried to smoke cigarettes in the upper concourse, cursed like sailors, hollered at attractive (sometimes) women, and generally made complete asses of themselves.  It was awesome… at the time.  However, if you’re 30, you have to clean it up.  By all means enjoy yourself, but remember, getting bombed and trying to start the wave in your Fidelity Investments windbreaker and khakis looks as lame as it sounds. 

7.  Leave it on the field (or at the bar).

Your team lost?  That sucks, but guess what: you still have to go to work tomorrow morning.  Do you think Kobe Bryant was impressed by your heroic intake of cocktails after the Lakers won Game 7?  Or when you tipped over a police car and set it on fire?  Have fun explaining in a job interview that the 2004 ALCS made you get arrested for throwing a chair through a bar window.  Please leave the rioting to the professionals: college students. 

8. Cut back (better yet, quit) fantasy sports and video games.

I always had a hard time telling a woman I was dating that I participated in fantasy sports.  Aside from a few derogatory comments, they were cool with it so I never thought it was a problem.  However, a few years ago I dated a girl who was leaving the country for a few months and wanted to hangout one last time before she left.  The only night she was available happened to fall on the same night as my fantasy football draft.  As I contemplated ditching this girl versus the insanity of allowing Yahoo to auto-draft my team, I realized that I was a grown man and hanging out with an incredibly attractive 21 year-old was worth the pain of having to start Clinton Portis every week for four months.  Lesson learned: “Fantasy Football” is never an appropriate excuse for anything. 

So there you have it.  Being old sucks, but remember: with age, comes knowledge… and hopefully the financial stability to afford season tickets.  Or at least the Red Zone Channel…

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