Because reading is always a good way to start.
The Premise: Nick Hornby’s memoir is the ultimate book on the subject of fandom, Arsenal football (er, soccer) and the power of sport as a vehicle for male bonding, self-knowledge and self-destruction.
The Movie: Stars pre-Tonight Show Jimmy Fallon as a perennially disappointed Boston Red Sox fan who (spoiler alert!) gets the ultimate satisfaction as the Sox won the World Series during filming. The film is not good. The English version with Colin Firth isn’t much better.
The Lesson: Wearing team colours might make you feel part of something, but it’ll never really get you over your daddy issues.
The Premise: The Oakland Athletics use new statistics and creative math to build a team of shaggy, unusual contenders — without spending big money on big names. This really happened!
The Movie: Brad Pitt stars as A’s GM Billy Beane and Jonah Hill won an Oscar nomination for his role as Assistant General Manager Peter Brand. You should watch it.
The Lesson: It’s not enough to just know what’s happening on the field. If you want to pass as a sports fan, pay attention to the front office and contract details, too.
The Blind Side
The Premise: The true story of an impoverished football prodigy adopted by a well-to-do family who nurtures his talent as he plays in college and, eventually, the NFL.
The Movie: Sandra Bullock won an Oscar for her southern accent. Doesn’t mean you should see it.
The Lesson: You know, we take that back. Forget the book and see the movie. In the tradition of Rudy or Chariots of Fire or any number of other sports movies before it, you’ll weep at the end. Because that’s what sports are really about: overcoming adversity. And giving men an excuse to cry.
Friday Night Lights
The Premise: Journalist Buzz Bissinger unveils the racial, class and gender politics of high school football in small-town Texas.
The Movie: Starred Billy Bob Thornton and was terrible. But the TV show, with Connie Britton, Kyle Chandler and Taylor Kitsch, has become a cult classic, and rightfully so.
The Lesson: Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.
The Hockey Sweater
The Premise: The well-meaning mom of a young Montreal Canadiens’ fan gets him the wrong jersey — a Maple Leafs sweater, no less. He is, naturally, shunned.
The Movie: It’s an animated NFB classic, that you can watch in full on YouTube (if you don’t remember it from your entire childhood).
The Lesson: Whether your mom’s buying it for you or not, get the right damn jersey.