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Sports 101

In the comedy "There's Something About Mary," Cameron Diaz portrays a woman who loves sports. She lives for the driving range, she talks professional sports on dates, and roots for the San Francisco 49ers even though she lives in Miami.

But what about women who aren't sports-minded and still want to participate in a sports conversation? The answers are in Jean McCormick's new book, "Talk Sports Like a Pro: 99 Secrets to Becoming a Sports Goddess" (Penguin Putnam). It is a road map that helps women acquaint themselves with sports. It offers tips like: "Learn the names of just one or two players at first," and "When you discuss a game, know three things. Who won. Who lost. One key play or fact."

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The book is packed with a range of sports, from baseball to extreme sports. It also reviews movies with sports themes such as "The Natural," (baseball) and "Hoop Dreams" (college basketball), and identifies which players to watch. Well-known sportscasters also contributed essays.

But is McCormick just reinforcing stereotypes that women are clueless about sports?

"Really, no," she laughs. "While I was [at ESPN and CNN/Sports Illustrated], I noticed the gender split in sports. Guys thought I had the coolest job, and women kept asking me, 'My boss talks sports. What can I do?' "

That's when McCormick went beyond the sidelines and started to research men's and women's connection to sports at Wellesley (Mass.) College. When she surveyed Harvard Business School graduates (more than 400 responded), 85 percent said that men in their offices talked about sports compared with 34 percent of women.

Although her book is geared toward women, she also meets men who don't know a touchdown from a field goal. She says both men and women show up at her book signings.

McCormick doesn't emphasize memorizing rules. You don't even have to watch a game. Instead, she tries to teach sports in a simple, fun way. The point is to get the other person talking. Some McCormick tips: Know who's on the cover of Sports Illustrated and watch the first 10 minutes of ESPN's "Sports Center." "Then you start to feel part of the culture," she says.

And what should a woman do if guys begin talking draft picks, trades, a team's strengths and weaknesses? "Worst thing you can do is to fake it," she says. "Change the conversation back to something you are familiar with. They'll be thrilled you want to talk sports."

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*E-mail Lisa Parney at

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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