The Sports Clique

For half a century, professional team sports were part of the routine office chatter that anyone in the office might participate in, at least in and near the major metropolitan areas where most of the interesting teams in the United States can be found. Over the past decade, the conversation has changed. There aren’t enough people who know enough about the local teams’ current struggles and successes to carry a general conversation.

Office sports talk has been taken over by the more dedicated fans who are perhaps about one eighth of the workers in the typical office. They talk to each other about the latest developments, but they are less likely to try to draw reactions and opinions from the other seven eighths of workers who may not even be aware of this week’s game schedule.

Partly this reflects the declining hold that major team sports have on popular culture. The increasing importance of minor team sports, such as women’s soccer, also interferes. A person with a limited interest in sports might nevertheless keep up with the news of four teams spread out over the course of the year. When there are 10 or 20 teams this becomes less realistic. The rising appeal of sports-based video games and fantasy football may also have something to do with the increasingly specialized sports chatter. Video games require specialized knowledge that non-players can’t be expected to have. The strategy of fantasy football is so convoluted that even among active participants, less than half are really proficient at it. Fantasy football leads to conversations that require a specialized group. The general public can’t be expected to keep up with the ins and outs of the topic.

And then, as with almost every recent trend, there is the effect of time pressure. It is easy to keep up with sports if you watch them on television for 15 hours a week, but these days, it is understood that even most fans can’t spare that kind of time.

Hence, the sports clique. Sports fans find out who the other sports fans are, and they may still talk sports every day, but for everyone else, the sports talk has faded into the background.

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