Special to the SentinelHold on to your britches, I am about to speak heresy: I don’t really follow football.

I know, I know, sunsets are orange because the Denver Broncos something or other, I can’t exactly remember the bumper sticker. It’s not that I’m against the Broncos. I’m definitely for them, in much the same way that I’m for gravity and central processing units — meaning I’m happy they exist; I just don’t know how they work and couldn’t fix them if they broke.

I do try to have a general awareness of football, mainly gleaned from Twitter and eavesdropping, for the sake of cultural literacy and conversation.

I mean, as a country we’re at a strange moment, conversation-wise, when more topics than usual are off the table. Politics and religion are out as always, but weather and art have become strangely politicized, travel is still hit or miss, and nobody wants to hear about my latest craft endeavor (“Star Wars” Christmas ornaments made from fuse beads; beware if you’re in my gift-giving tractor-beam).

So, I should at least be able to talk about the Broncos, forcing me to lean heavily on our most desperate conversational gambit: faking it.

I don’t think I’m alone in having a stockpile of vague yet very slightly informed things to say on an array of topics, from the barely verbal “seriously” to the parodied-on-“Portlandia” “I read a piece about that.”

There’s no nefarious intent in faking it, I think, just a sincere desire to keep the conversation going without resorting to my usual ploy of asking so many questions that people begin to wonder if I’m trying to figure out their passwords.

However, I’m not saying that faking it never backfires.

Last Sunday, I was sitting on my front stoop, enjoying the autumn sun, when a friendly neighbor walked by and said, I swear this is true, “How about those Broncos?”

I hadn’t been aware that they were playing, let alone who or where they were playing, but I shook my head in a way that could have been interpreted as either resigned or indulgent of those overgrown scamps and said, “Seriously.”

“You’re following the game?” neighbor continued, pausing.

Crud. Clearly, I wasn’t, but friendly neighbor has never struck me as the type to play a pointless game of gotcha. I think he legitimately wanted to engage in conversation. But what to say? My most recent awareness of the Broncos was that Von Miller had been traded to the ... Rams (?) and everyone was sad, and a gentleman named Bridgewater was doing fairly well. At what, I didn’t know, but still.

So, I charted a course of jokey ruefulness: “Not too closely! I’m starting to feel like every time I get my hopes up, they lose.”

Oh, geez, had they been losing? Hadn’t I read something about a streak? WHY AM I EVEN TALKING ABOUT THE BRONCOS?!?

But my answer seemed to satisfy friendly neighbor, because he shook his head, said, “I feel ya” and kept walking. Whew.

The easiest thing, of course, would have been to admit that not only was I not following the game, but I don’t bleed orange and blue, and I’m not much of a football fan.

But it’s so nice to have points of connection with people. To engage in a little light banter and feel that yes, I am involved in humankind! We are all in this boat and rowing in the same direction! Kind of!

Plus, the skills of faking it translate to many situations. In school, for example, if I didn’t actually do the reading, I scanned for a fact from the beginning, middle and end of the reading on my way to class. That way, I could raise my hand and be like, “What about this thing from the middle of the reading?” and seem super on the ball.

It was a dangerous game because I was not super on the ball. But it’s amazing what you can accomplish with a single fact.

And look, it’s not that I want to be a big, phony faker or never say “I don’t know.” I just want the warmth of conversation and connection with others, no matter how awkward or fraught the path to get there.

If that means pretending to know something about the Broncos, why, I’ll have you know they’re playing Philadelphia today on CBS! And Bridgewater is Teddy Bridgewater, and he’s the quarterback. And those are all my facts, so please let’s stop talking about the Broncos now.


Rachel Sauer is at rs81501@gmail.com and she has a whole arsenal of vague comments, enough for hours of conversation.