I went to the Football Hall of Fame on a cold Tuesday in early December. As a lifelong Green Bay Packers fan I knew my favorite team would get lots of space in the Canton, Ohio landmark.
There weren’t many other people wandering about, so the security guard let me park it on the very bench Vince Lombardi sat on during the first two Super Bowls.
Sitting on that bench, I met a fellow Packer Backer and we ended up going out for drinks and reminiscences of our teams’ best games.
The love of sport is a great way to meet friendly locals and like-minded travelers. A conversation about the game can lead to more personal revelations and evolve into a mutual friendship.
Here are 6 strategies for using sports to make new friends.
1. Go For Live Action
Whether it’s a sport you’ve followed your whole life or something totally new, like the perplexing world of cricket, go see a live game.
Most towns of any size will have some sort of athletic contest going on. (Hint: Cheer for the home team).
2. Find A Sports Bar
A good second best involves parking yourself in a pub or sports bar. This may be the only option if something on a worldwide scale is going on, like the Rugby or Soccer World Cups.
Sit alone at the bar. Watch with intention. You’ll quickly be adopted by curious fans at the corner table.
3. Dress The Part
Buy a team jersey or t-shirt. Not only will you be recognized as a sincere supporter, you’ll have a cool souvenir to bring back home.
4. Knowledge Is Power
Study the sports pages. Watch the broadcasters on television. If you don’t know the basics of whatever sport you’ve selected, learn them – perhaps with an assist from a friendly local.
Be able to recognize marquee players, win-loss records, and team rivalries. I love learning new things, and I love getting the insider’s perspective.
Once you’ve done your homework, you’ll have multiple topics to banter about with that stranger sitting next to you.
5. Don’t Be Shy
Be subtly voyeuristic. A polite interjection into a sports discussion identifies you as someone who pays attention. Compliments about your grasp of the game and free adult beverages are certain to follow.
6. Don’t Skip The Post-Game
Go to any post-game functions, for either celebration or commiseration. Now is the time to segue into topics and connections of a more personal nature.
Sports With Benefits
The tips I’ve laid out work for meeting locals, but can also be a great way to spark a romantic fling if that’s what you’re looking for.
My natural tomboy affinities have bagged me some great seats and quality dates starting, but not necessarily ending, at a sports venue. If competition leads to chemistry and your new friend is a local, you’ll get the inside skinny on their home town and free accommodation.
If you are both wandering outside your home ranges, who knows, y’all may just end up planning an encore meet-up in South Africa to watch the World Cup in 2010.
What are your tips for meeting locals through sports? Share your advice in the comments!