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Friday, July 31, 2009
Updated: November 4, 12:12 PM ET
The 20 things that make you a doofus

By Patrick Hruby
Page 2

I'm guilty. You're culpable. We're all felonious. Sooner or later, every last one of us ends up looking like a sports doofus -- casting sound social judgment overboard, setting sail with the tempestuous winds of passionate fandom, dropping anchor in the murky waters of athletic-related behavior that comes across as utterly ridiculous.

Ballpark Proposal
Oh, gosh, and the mascot is involved, too. Yikes!

Have you ever owned a wild-card hat?

Worn baseball pants to play slo-pitch softball?

Proposed via JumboTron?

Beat out a kid for an autograph?

If your answer is yes, you've definitely suffered from sports doofusdom; if your answer is no, you've probably suffered anyway. But buck up. We're here to help. The real tragedy of looking like a sports doofus isn't that the condition afflicts so many -- it's that the disease is so easily preventable. And all you need is better awareness.

As a public service, Page 2 presents 20 things that make you look like a sports doofus:

1. Wearing a team jersey inscribed with your name

Dubious behavior: Simple. Show up to a Cleveland Cavs game in a No. 23 jersey, only with F-O-R-B-E-S stitched along the back.

Doofus factor: High. It's one thing to create yourself as the cannon-armed quarterback of your favorite squad in "Madden," living out vicarious athletic fantasies in the privacy of your home. It's quite another to drape those same fantasies across your pudgy, rounded shoulder blades as you slouch over the guardrail behind the home team's bench, waiting for a call-up that will never, ever come. Really. Your team would rather sign Jeff George.

Suggested solution: Stick to stock jerseys, the way the NFL sometimes must wish it did.

Mitigating circumstances: If you're a Seattle Seahawks fan … and you pick the retired No. 12 fan jersey … and you don't have a favorite player … or a favorite former star … and you don't mind looking just a bit like a doofus … go ahead and customize your shirt. Sigh.

Related behaviors: Women wearing pink team gear, especially Boston Red Sox hats and Dallas Cowboys jerseys. Wake up, America! Doofusdom does not discriminate on the basis of gender!

2. Owning wild-card paraphernalia

Dubious behavior: Purchasing and/or having in one's possession a hat, T-shirt, banner, wall pennant, novelty towel or framed newspaper clipping that commemorates a wild-card playoff appearance by a team you root for.

Doofus factor: Very, very high. The equivalent of putting cubic zirconium under glass, surrounded by a cat-burglar-foiling laser light array. After all, your club didn't win its division, smiting its hated rivals in the process. Uh-uh. It simply backdoored into the postseason, NHL No. 8 seed-style, the better for leagues and networks to maximize their revenue streams. Like the flash-flood river from which you pulled that ridiculous New York Yankees Wild Card '07 cap.

Suggested solution: Credit cards and scissors before the fact; gasoline and matches after.

Mitigating circumstances: If you root for the Houston Texans, and they make the playoffs for the first time ever via a wild card, you're completely excused from shame and scorn. But just this once.

Related behaviors: Wearing or owning 2008 New England Patriots 16-0 merchandise, a USA Basketball 2004 men's Olympic jersey, Memphis basketball Conference USA champions gear or anything Duke basketball that doesn't mention the Final Four.

3. Shooting an air ball in a promotional contest

Dubious behavior: Hitting everything but net (and iron) when hoisting a free throw/3-pointer that could win you a car, a couple of thousand bucks or free chalupas for everyone in the building.

Doofus factor: Moderate for missing with a rushed, halfway-decent-looking jumper. Astronomical for missing with an awkward two-handed push shot that wouldn't be out of place sailing toward a peach basket. Here's the thing: Between nerves and adrenaline, shooting in front of a large crowd can get the best of anyone. Understood. But if you can't shoot a basketball in the first place -- if you have no idea what a guide hand is, let alone when to snap your wrist -- you probably shouldn't be on the court. Even if your law firm has really great seats.

Suggested solution: DO NOT SIGN UP FOR THE CONTEST. And decline if selected. If someone asked you to retake the SAT in Mandarin Chinese, right now, in front of your entire office, would you do it? No? Exactly.

Mitigating circumstances: If you're shooting from half court or currently using crutches.

Related behaviors: Bouncing a ceremonial first pitch, blowing a trampoline slam dunk, botching a coin toss (Phil Luckett only).

4. Wearing a Bluetooth earpiece during a game

Dubious behavior: Manning your seat, strolling the concourse, standing in line for curly fries or saddling up to a urinal with one of those unobtrusively obtrusive hands-free cell phone earpieces hanging from your dome.

Doofus factor: Significant, for at least four reasons: (1) You're on hand to watch sports, not prattle on about the Hong Kong stock exchange; (2) everyone around you is on hand to watch sports, not listen to you prattle on, which you'll have to do loudly, because you are, in fact, at a game; (3) you look just as borderline Marbury-ish talking to yourself in a stadium as you do on the street; and (4) real life isn't "Star Trek," Lt. Commander La Forge!

Suggested solution: Tell your friends to text you. Alternately, stand down your electronic communiqués for a few hours. Seriously. Just try it. You'll be surprised by how unimportant you are.

Mitigating circumstances: Medical doctor on call? Work for the home team's public relations staff? You're good.

Related behaviors: Checking your BlackBerry 47 times during the fourth quarter of a tight NBA contest or the fifth inning of a baseball game. Aren't you trying to get away from work?

5. Going crazy over giveaway T-shirts and burritos when you're occupying $500 seats

T-shirt Giveaway
Settle down, people, it's just a cheap T-shirt!

Dubious behavior: Responding to ballpark freebies as if you've been ingesting nothing but prune juice and boiled sand weevils for a month, and the CO2 cannon is loaded with invitations to be the next contestant on "The Price Is Right."

Doofus factor: Moderate. Gratis goodies have a way of warping the mind -- drivers will happily spend two hours waiting for $20 of free gasoline -- but when you can afford primo seats, you also can afford room-temperature fast food and cheap, one-wash-and-it's-ruined shirts that you'd never, ever be excited about under any other circumstances. Which means it's the cheerleaders, "Austin Powers" sound snippets and annoying stadium PA guy who are whipping you into a Pavlovian froth. Which means you probably should be embarrassed.

Suggested solution: Get ahold of yourself. Step back from the ledge. Stop waving your hands as if the ballpark prize patrol is a U.N. relief convoy. To use a sports chestnut: Act as if you've been there before. And if a goody happens to land in your lap, give it to a child.

Mitigating circumstances: If you're under the age of 12 and/or still get excited about Happy Meal toys, stay pumped.

Related behaviors: Vigorously cheering for the home team to top 100 points so that everyone in attendance gets a free pizza, then putting in a last-call drink order with the courtside seats waitress.

6. Wearing a sponsor-festooned jersey while riding your bike

Dubious behavior: Pedaling around town in a skintight, pro-style bicycle jersey plastered with the names of major European corporations.

Doofus factor: Very high. That steep hill by your house isn't the Pyrenees; the guy in the nearby car doesn't want to hand you a water bottle; riding an extra mile won't strike a decisive blow against cancer; no one is paying you a dime to be out here; no one is about to knock on your door and request a urine sample. Why? Because you are not Lance. Know those silly-looking flame-retardant jackets worn by NASCAR drivers? Imagine wearing the same thing to the grocery store.

Suggested solution: Wear a T-shirt or a plain-colored jersey. You even can wear yellow.

Mitigating circumstances: You are actually the Lance.

Related behaviors: Wearing NBA jerseys to play pickup basketball.

7. Proposing via JumboTron

Dubious behavior: Popping the question on the big, big, big screen before 20,000 of your closest nonfriends.

Doofus factor: As tall and wide as the University of Texas' "Godzillatron," the second-biggest hi-def video board in the Western Hemisphere. Consider: You're shoehorning an otherwise romantic moment into a context of chain gangs and drunken tailgating. You're putting her on the spot in an aggressive, borderline-creepy way. You're risking epochal failure if she says no. And for what? To make a "creative" proposal that's actually clichéd? To live out the climax of a Drew Barrymore movie? When Karl Marx said history repeats itself -- first as tragedy, then as farce -- he wasn't actually talking about JumboTron proposals. But only because televisions had yet to be invented.

Suggested solution: There's nothing wrong with a candlelit dinner at a nice restaurant. Or skydiving.

Mitigating circumstances: If you are: (a) working as a scoreboard operator, (b) filming a scene for a Barrymore film or (c) dating the team mascot, then all bets are off.

Related behaviors: Using the team mascot to advance your romantic life in any way.

8. Being too cool for the Kiss Cam

Dubious behavior: The camera weaves through the crowd. Sixpence None the Richer wafts from the speakers. You and your significant other appear on the video screen … and refuse to lock lips.

Doofus factor: Somewhat high. Old people do it. Married couples who probably haven't kissed in years do it. And you can't manage a little peck? Look, no one's demanding that you suck face. Just honor a silly, timeworn sports event social convention. Declining to pucker up doesn't make you an iconoclastic rebel playing by your own rules surrounded by misguided sheep; it makes you the kind of person who doesn't sing "Happy Birthday." C'mon, try it. You might even like it.

Suggested solution: Grab your SO's hand and give it a long, dignified, theatrical kiss. Nobody does that anymore, which means you can continue to see yourself as edgy and different.

Mitigating circumstances: You're sitting next to someone you've never met, in which case your night is potentially about to get a lot more interesting.

Related behaviors: Being the last to rise when everyone in your section is standing and cheering; being the first to sit down.

9. Putting team flags on your car

Dubious behavior: Driving around downtown Washington, D.C., on a Tuesday afternoon in May, a pair of Redskins mini-flags fluttering above the windshield of your Dodge Stratus, looking like a one-car motorcade in search of a uniformed Secret Service motorcycle escort.

Doofus factor: Heart-stopping. Right up there with people who put Christmas ribbons and wreaths on the front grille of their SUVs. The horror. Oh, the horror.

Suggested solution: Bumper sticker. That, or wear a team flag or towel like a cape.

Mitigating circumstances: If you reside in an area where there is literally nothing else to do -- or live for -- beyond following the local football team; if you're tailgating before a game; if your team just won a championship … and you're part of the victory parade.

Related behaviors: Painting your car and/or private jet in team colors. No. No. A thousand times no.

10. Wearing baseball pants to play slo-pitch softball

Bob Applehoff
Yep, those look like baseball pants. Guilty!

Dubious behavior: Self-explanatory. Often comes accessorized with the sort of wraparound sunglasses typically seen on American troops in Iraq.

Doofus factor: A mind-erasing supernova of doofusdom. Just as a shaved head and orange robes are the signs of a Shaolin monk, baseball pants in slo-pitch mark someone who takes softball waaaaay too seriously. Think someone who knows his on-base percentage. Someone who swings a bat that costs more than his couch. Someone whose uncontrollable, indiscriminate competitive fire would be better suited on a driving and/or firing range. Someone sports radio host Jim Rome has immortalized with a deceivingly innocuous nickname -- "Softball Guy" -- and someone you don't want to be.

Suggested solution: Wear shorts, drink a few beers, play co-ed.

Mitigating circumstances: You're a member of the U.S. national slo-pitch softball team. Which is, in fact, real.

Related behaviors: Showing up to a softball game with a dozen bats of varying weights. Again: Just play golf, already.

11. Running in a rainstorm

Dubious behavior: Lacing up your $100-plus ergonomic distance shoes, throwing on a sweat-wicking top and going for a long run in the pouring rain.

Doofus factor: Moderate. On one hand, it's hard to fault the dedication of someone willing to exercise in inclement weather, particularly when physical fitness helps ease the burden on our overtaxed health care system; on the other hand, there was only one Steve Prefontaine, and you're not exactly reducing health costs when you're subsequently hospitalized with severe bronchitis.

Suggested solution: One word: treadmill. Two more: indoor track.

Mitigating circumstances: Your local television weatherman meteorologist got it wrong. Which basically excuses everyone.

Related behaviors: Golfing in a rainstorm, the way Tiger Woods did in that commercial.

12. Getting a team or player-themed tattoo

Dubious behavior: See above. Or here.

Doofus factor: Measured in megatons. Let's break it down, shall we?

• Teams: You're inking yourself with a corporate logo. Like, say, the Golden Arches. Oh, and unlike Golden Palace, no one's paying you for the privilege. Just so you know.

• Players: Can be injured, traded or end up in jail. Today's world-beating answer is tomorrow's disgruntled free agent.

• Everything else: Someday you'll have a significant other, and at some point you'll want to be naked, and at that point they'll see this. Good luck.

Suggested solution: There's no shame in a temporary tattoo.

Mitigating circumstances: You're an Oakland Raiders fan; you appear to be a Raiders cheerleader.

Related behaviors: Having an e-mail address that includes your fan affiliation; team fight song ring tones.

13. Waving to the television cameras

Dubious behavior: We're not talking about a quick, surreptitious, in-and-out-of-the-frame wave or flashing your hands as part of a large crowd. Uh-uh. We're talking about camping out in front of the camera, just behind the in-arena announcing crew, and waving … and grinning … and pointing … and calling up all your friends … and taking pictures … and waving some more … and basically acting as if each moment spent mugging over Mike Breen's shoulder will add six months to your life span or perhaps land you a date. Which won't actually happen.

Doofus factor: High. And in the HD era, rising. You know what happens if you train a camera on a group of chimpanzees? Nothing. They go about their business. You know why? Because chimpanzees have dignity.

Suggested solution: Leave the ballpark and audition for a reality TV part.

Mitigating circumstances: You are an interpretive dance student on the eve of final examinations; epileptic seizure.

Related behaviors: Trying to start the wave … and failing.

14. Having an intense fantasy sports discussion while attending an actual game

Dubious behavior: Negotiating a prickly, laborious potential swap of third-string running backs while Minnesota's Adrian Peterson gashes the Chicago Bears for 150-plus yards right in front of your oblivious face.

Doofus factor: Doubly high, because it takes two doofuses to pull off this perfect storm of mildly ironic misplaced priorities.

Suggested solution: Easy. Wait 'til you get home.

Mitigating circumstances: You work full time as an online fantasy sports expert and have an adorable nickname to prove it; you have serious, Rick Neuheisel-level money riding on your fantasy league.

Related behaviors: Playing PSP baseball at an MLB game.

15. Leaving stickers and tags on your caps

Dubious behavior: Self-evident. Really self-evident. Like, you can't miss it.

Doofus factor: Moderate. Hey, sharing your head size with the world isn't the same as sharing your Social Security number or anything. It's more like wearing an underwear tag on your forehead. In addition, a San Francisco Chronicle article speculates that former "Hee Haw" star Minnie Pearl was the first person to wear a price tag dangling from her hat. And if anyone embodies urban cool, it's former "Hee Haw" star Minnie Pearl.

Suggested solution: Peel. Clean. Repeat.

Mitigating circumstances: You compose and perform intricate rhymes to musical beats for a living; you've just won a championship and have been handed a brand-new commemorative hat to wear during the trophy presentation; the hologram on your cap is actually Princess Leia, and you're the rebellion's only hope.

Related behaviors: Naming your fantasy team after gangsta rap lyrics or quotes from "Borat."

16. Beating a kid for an autograph or baseball

Alex Rodriguez
You just know there's an obnoxious adult in there trying to get past the kids.

Dubious behavior: Snagging a fly ball from just above the outstretched arms of a child; stepping in front of a kid to have your jersey or baseball card autographed.

Doofus factor: Enormous. The fandom equivalent of candy from a baby. Even if you live and die sports -- even if you have a team tattoo -- there's no chance a baseball or autograph means more to you than to a kid. Besides, do you really want to be mistaken for one of those icky, joyless memorabilia dealer/eBay auctioneer athlete hounds?

Suggested solution: Give the baseball or autograph to the kid you beat, the way a grown adult man with a modicum of decency and self-respect would.

Mitigating circumstances: The kid you beat works for one of those icky, joyless memorabilia dealer/eBay auctioneer athlete hounds, in which case, drop him with a forearm shiver. Just kidding. About the forearm part.

Related behaviors: Getting drunk and using vulgar language to taunt the road team when children are sitting within earshot, then acting surly and incredulous when parents ask you to shut up.

17. Wearing dated rival-mocking T-shirts

Dubious behavior: As a Boston Red Sox fan, donning a 1999 tee that makes fun of Pedro Martinez defeating Roger Clemens in the ALCS … even though it's currently 2009 (and the Yankees actually won that series in five games).

Doofus factor: Larger than you think. Sticking it to rivals always is welcome -- in fact, the worst thing about Brett Favre not playing for Minnesota is that Green Bay fans won't be sporting JUDAS No. 4 T-shirts -- but failing to stay current suggests apathy at best, ignorance at worst and a pathetic, underlying need to cling to past glories.

Suggested solution: Read the news. Get up to speed. Find yourself an appropriately current demeaning shirt. Every team has some negative news to poke fun at. Even the Red Sox.

Mitigating circumstances: Snarky references to the Bucky Dent game, A-Rod's purse glove slap, Cal defeating Stanford on The Play or Harvard beating Yale 29-29 age in the manner of fine wine and Elle Macpherson, and therefore always are welcome.

Related behaviors: Wearing jerseys of players who were traded more than 12 months ago.

18. Proclaiming special mastery of stadium scoreboard games

Dubious behavior: Quieting your friends, rubbing your palms together and blurting out something to the effect of "I'm really good at this" when the find-the-baseball-in-the-hat shell game is played on the big screen.

Doofus factor: Enough to cause whiplash. Everyone is really good at scoreboard games, because they're stupendously elementary exercises designed to entertain 5-year-olds. You want to impress someone by winning a shell game? Beat David Blaine.

Suggested solution: Let someone else answer the trivia questions. The less you say, the smarter you seem. Well, unless you're Steven Seagal.

Mitigating circumstances: You're Dustin Hoffman, getting into character for "Rain Man 2."

Related behaviors: Continually picking Cuppy Coffee over Dashing Donut and Biggie Bagel, then puffing up when you're right.

19. Wearing prep throwback jerseys of current pro players

Dubious behavior: Donning Kobe Bryant's No. 33 Lower Merion (Pa.) High School jersey, even though you went to public school in Phoenix and haven't been to a high school basketball game in 20 years.

Doofus factor: An 11 on a 10-point scale, because you're throwing back not only to games you didn't see but also games you never would have cared about anyway. Honestly, why not bust out a Larry Bird grade school uni? How about LeBron James replica diapers?

Suggested solution: Fauxish throwbacks like Bryant's No. 24 Minneapolis Lakers jerseys. Are you not entertained?

Mitigating circumstances: You're a scout for a high school/junior high/grade school basketball recruiting service.

Related behaviors: Wearing United States Football League throwback gear.

20. Holding a sign with network call letters in the hopes of scoring five whole seconds of sweet, precious airtime

ESPN Fan
Congratulations! You're a doofus!

Dubious behavior: Actually, on second thought, it's more like three seconds.

Doofus factor: Supreme. First, you have to make a sign, which requires both premeditation and a trip to an arts-and-crafts store; second, you have to work the network's letters into some kind of sentence, preferably supporting your team, a process more fraught with peril than it seems; third, you have to hold the sign aloft whenever you see a camera, aggravating the people sitting behind you; fourth, you have to have the sheer, oblivious chutzpah to believe that what you're doing is in any way original, creative or amusing. (In other words, the mindset we used to write this column.)

Suggested solution: Find a visiting-team football helmet and light it on fire, as Redskins fans did during Washington's last game at RFK Stadium, a victory over rival Dallas. The camera definitely will find you.

Mitigating circumstances: None.

Related behaviors: Naming your child Espen.

Patrick Hruby is a columnist for Page 2.