I have always been a big sports fan but considered it useless knowledge for the most part. I would talk sports with friends and family, but figured watching sports would have no effect on my ability to blend in at an investment bank. Financial modeling skills and industry know-how may help get you middle bucket, but to hit a home run it helps to be able to make small talk with the bigwigs of the company. Politics? Big no-no in office conversations. Religion? STEER CLEAR! Sports? Who doesn’t want to talk about the games that they missed due to work, but saw the highlights of on Sportscenter? A lot of investment bankers were former college athletes, or at least former normal guys who liked to watch the big horse race or catch a baseball game on a weekend. They always talk about teamwork and ability to work under pressure as key elements to being an investment banking analyst, so it’s no surprise that athletes tend to grace the i-bank hallways.
I realized the importance of sports knowledge for the job from two incidents my roommates had at work. My first roommate was on an internal call last year when two of his coworkers began discussing how Barry Bonds was great for a while but now was getting old and worse. Being that it was during his first two weeks, when the call ended my roommate went over to his boss and asked what “barry bonds” were and what kind of interest and maturity schedules they held. His boss laughed, wondered if my roommate was serious, and then told him Barry Bonds was a baseball player. Then, he fired my roommate…just kidding, but the story itself is true. The second instance was not quite as embarrassing. Turns out my roommate’s boss was talking to him about how much Yankee first baseman Jason Giambi was sucking this season and my roommate responded saying, “I guess they shouldn’t have traded Don Mattingly.” For those non-sports fans out there, study up, because Don Mattingly retired about a decade ago, about the same time my roommate stopped trading baseball playing cards and being cool basically.
While sports knowledge is not a necessity, it is damn near close. If you went to Georgetown, you better know they didn’t make it past the Sweet 16 last year because Roy Hibbert is a stiff. If asked to join your group’s fantasy football league, don’t crack a joke telling your coworker to get a life. He’s obviously much cooler than you because he’s the league commissioner. Instead, simply ask a guy friend with some cahones to help you out, and get ready for the draft. I’m not telling you to study the baseball almanac, but simply knowing the big name players to come from your school, how the teams in your area are doing and knowing the rules of the game will help you fit in better around the office.
Sports knowledge is not my problem, so instead I study up for the rare situations I could find myself in. If I wind up in a conversation with non-sports fan coworkers discussing the new Sex and the City movie, you know I’ll be ready to discuss how it got terrible reviews and is not as good as the show, but that it was really nice to see all of the girls together again. Have I seen it? No, but I’m not going to let them box me out of the conversation. And nor should you during a sports talk. So use this as your playbook and make espn.com you homepage.