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How being a football superfan complicates my dating life

Jenna Birch is a health and lifestyle writer, lipstick enthusiast, aspiring yogi and diehard Wolverine based near Ann Arbor, MI. For more information, visit jennabirch.com or follow her on twitter @jennabirch.

The surprising way guys react to my love for football

I love football. Before we go any further, I know what you're thinking: What does that mean exactly?

A lot of women say they like football, and they do. They'll go to a game every now and then to take in the atmosphere, or casually watch the Super Bowl alongside their boyfriends. But that's not what I'm talking about here. I actually love football. College football, mostly.

I look up third-down conversion rates after the game. I read transcripts of coach press conferences during my breaks at work. I follow recruiting in the off-season. I know what a three-tech is, what a nickel is and can rattle off a slew of factoids even my dad (who raised me on the game) doesn't know.

Yeah. Call me crazy, but I take it kinda, sorta seriously — although you'd never know that by looking at me. With a propensity to wear bright-pink lipstick, high heels and glitter, I often get pegged as somewhat of a Barbie doll. Which is why I probably catch guys off-guard when I reveal that I'm actually a football fan. Although I've received everything from blank stares to the actual words, "You mean, you're serious?" my favorite reaction was the simplest, most honest one.

I wish I could remember the exact context of the conversation, but I remember once telling a date I really liked football over drinks. It was a first or second date, so we were still totally entrenched in the getting-to-know-you phase, but we had gone to the same college, so we were both alums and fans of the same team. How big of fans, however, had yet to be determined... but it was coming.

"Oh," he said in response to my comment, with a nod of his head and a speculative look in his eye. I could tell the enormity of my fandom was not sinking in. In fact, I knew what he was thinking — yeah, right. And because I'm super competitive at heart, curse of being an athlete all my life, I felt the need to prove myself right then and there by reeling off a list of incoming recruits, and giving my take on the new hire at offensive coordinator.

My date did not say anything at first. He just looked at me with a bit of shock. In that moment of silence, I sort of regretted saying quite so much. It was kind of a bad moment to showboat. So, I tried to explain myself — and dug an even deeper hole. "Well, my dad was a massive fan," I stammered. "Growing up, I think other kids got fairy tales while my bedtime stories were about Bo Schembechler, Woody Hayes and the 'Ten-Year War.'" (Look it up, guys. So awesome.)

There was more silence from my date while I did a mental face-palm — but this time, I forced myself not to fill it. Suddenly, though, my date let out a small laugh. "Well, that's intimidating," he said. "And that means you probably know a lot more than me."

Oops. Needless to say, this relationship didn't flourish. I'm not blaming it on my fandom and in-your-face display of statistical and historical dominance, but I'm also not saying it wasn't somewhat of a factor.

When you're still getting to know each other, guys like to feel they can impress you. They want to know they can show you something. It makes them feel like they bring value to the table... and traditionally masculine topics are kind of their defaults. With football season now in full swing, I thought I'd lay out this failed experience to all my fellow female super-fans — and offer some perspective on how I might've handled it differently.

Imagine this scenario instead, ladies: You mention you like sports to your date, but don't elaborate much further than that. Keep an air of mystery. (Just play it cool and let him think whatever he wants.)

You'll get more comfortable with each other, and not too long into your dating life, when you finally watch a game together, you can blow him away with your sports knowledge in a total drop-the-mic moment. And because he knows you, he'll be shocked in the best way. Not in the "intimidated" way. And it will be waaay sweeter than bringing that knowledge out from the get-go. He'll be thinking, What else does this girl have up her sleeve? (TONS. Wink, wink.)

I'm all for being yourself — your total self — but I also think preserving some mystery is a good thing, especially early on. If you unpack all your secrets and passions, what will you have to learn about each other as time goes on? Don't ruin the fun. Like fine wines, some hobbies are best appreciated with the maturing age of a relationship (and with the right person, of course!).

First dates are nerve-wracking enough as it is. If I could re-do that moment with my date, I would have saved room for that awesome surprise later on. I mean, you wouldn't want a guy doing the "in your face, I know more than you" thing with football facts and stats, right?

Think of it like a privilege. If he earns your trust, he gets to see your amazing, super-secret, sports-lover side. Then you can geek out about defensive formations together, and live happily ever after.

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