Basketball Watching Etiquette


We’ve all been in that situation before, you have been invited out, either to someone’s house or a public place to enjoy a game of basketball with some friends or people you are cordial with. Soon your head is running at 100 mph, questions popping like balloons in the jaws of a shark. Worries and concerns that grab the reigns of your brain and driving it into a ditch. You needn’t fret about it any longer, for you are about to discover the definitive list of to-dos and don’ts:

-Do not request nor accept the changing of the channel during gameplay. Everyone there is there for a specific reason, and that reason is to watch and hopefully enjoy a game of roundball. Notable exceptions to the rule include but are not limited to: 1) A better, closer, or more interesting basketball game is on another channel. 2) A tragedy is currently unfolding that shifts the world in a macro sense.

-If unsure about a specific call or rule, do not fear to ask the question. A moment of embarrassment is far better than if you were to speak out about something you have no idea about, leading to far greater ridicule by your friends.

-Although rooting for the home team is not discouraged, the far better stance is to root for good basketball. This leads to a far better outcome, because you leave the game without heartbreak and/or contempt for a specific player. This is all void if all parties involved are rooting for the same team. In that case, it gives you a common purpose and brings cohesion to the room. Then everyone can feel the same sense of pride or heartbreak as the final buzzer sounds.

-Any food the host provides is acceptable; no dissention among the ranks should be tolerated. If you feel that you can’t eat the provided food, politely excuse yourself and secure some food for yourself. Also, belching is accepted with the caveat that a hand is covering the mouth and an apology is issued immediately afterwards.

-Openly commenting on the game is encouraged, unless a request to maintain silence is issued in a polite way (e.g. “Could we listen to the analysis, please?”). The insight from one another spurs conversation, and that is what the watching party was created for.

-Conversation should be continual during the pregame and halftime unless injury news is being discussed on TV. Exception to the rule is during the TNT halftime show when Charles Barkley, Ernie Johnson, or Kenny Smith is speaking. Feel free to continue during Chris Webber’s moments on screen.


-If you are fortunate enough to attend the sporting event live, treat it as if it were a safari. You can talk amongst yourself, however, don’t involve outside parties and keep all limbs inside your designated zone. Do not attempt to throw anything onto the court; this normally results in a 73 game suspension for one of the players.

-When the game is over, all parties involved should be allowed a grace period in which to leave, much like an astronaut coming back down to earth. The actual experience of watching a basketball game requires some coping at the end in order for everyone to collect himself or herself. The usual time varies, anywhere from 5 minutes or until the end of the television recap. Brooding by the fanatics of the losing team should be anticipated, while if victorious do not be surprised if high-fives and/or chest bumps happen. It is the nature of the beast.

-Understand that Doug Collins is the best analyst on TV right now. His insight to the game is undeniable and makes all others seem like bumbling idiots. So, if given the opportunity, just listen to his incontrovertible wisdom about the game of basketball and be amazed at the depth of his knowledge.

-While you are perfectly within your right to acknowledge the lack of or missed calls, there is no need to beat a dead horse. We all know that the players illegally carry the ball while dribbling, and they take an extra one, two, or more steps on the way to the basket. It is what the game has become, with the refs swallowing their whistle to allow the stars of the game take control and usually more pleasing to the viewers at home.

-On the other hand, if a player flops, regardless of which team he is on, you are required to call it. Although they are just trying to win possession of the ball for their, and possibly your, team, it is a cheap and low thing to do on the basketball court. Everyone should commend you on spotting the flopper and then begin to ridicule him for his foolish actions.

-Never assume that a game is over and turn the channel prematurely. While rare, sometimes a team will defy the odds and mount a comeback and overcome a seemingly insurmountable deficit. If you are unfortunate enough to commit this sin of basketball watching, repent and vow to never make the same mistake.


-Don’t assume that two teams with porous records that make the Detroit Lions weep will play like amateurs. For instance, a Bobcats and Grizzlies matchup plays much like a soap opera with normally putrid players stepping their games up to a stratosphere unknown to them beforehand and arguments and scraps littered throughout the game.

-Jerseys are acceptable, however not all jerseys will be embraced. Usually reserved for wearing on the hard-court, watchers can support a favorite team or player by wearing their jersey. This pledging of allegiance should not limit the viewer to have only one rooting interest in the game. (Note: wearing a rival team’s jersey to a viewing party should be taken with some precaution and an exit plan should be ready to be put into use)

-Arriving fashionably late is frowned upon at basketball gatherings; we are not hosting a party celebrating clothing. The party is for basketball. If it can be avoided, be sure to arrive on time, however friends understand if you have previous engagements.

-The uncovering of trade rumors and myths is encouraged. The debate that ensues is often entertaining and informative. Possible trade scenarios and predictions are fun and offers a puzzle for those at the gathering enjoy partaking in. We all enjoy the thought that we could run a professional sports franchise (we can’t by the way).

-While pretending to be a GM for a small portion of the game is fine, pretending to be a coach is not. Maybe I am biased thanks to my family claiming to know precisely what to do in any situation, but the claim that anyone knows what to do other than the actual coaches borders on lunacy. The act of coaching is difficult and tedious that involves much more than picking a starting 5 and letting them run loose. Strategies and chemistry play a part in who is out on the court.

-If you are at a game, do not complain about the noise or the location of the seats. If your view of the game action is not great then look at the giant hanging television that has all of the game action for everyone to see. While some if not most of the noise in a stadium is unnecessary, your message is futile and nothing will be done about it so stop complaining.

-Find a comfortable spot and don’t worry if it might look embarrassing. A game typically last nearly 3 hours, so you will be there for a long time. It is senseless to try to act cool around your friends; they have already judged everything about you.

-Keep the distractions to the game to a minimum. Other than being annoying, they take away from the beauty of humans in flight, battling for nightly supremacy. Try to wait for a break in the game or a commercial if you need to walk in front of the television, that way nobody is upset or distraught by possible actions on the court.

-If the game is between two teams with superstars on them, just enjoy the spectacle. Once you get past the hype of the matchup and focus on the actual play of the game, you will get much viewing pleasure from the titans of the game fighting it out for the right to be called the best.

-Be aware that on most nights, national broadcasts are going to lean, either intentionally or subconsciously, towards teams that either play in the Los Angeles or New York area. It is just common sense. Most of the people watching that game will reside in those densely populated areas.

-This is not intended to be sappy or preachy, but enjoy the game. Enjoy it for everything that its worth. Witness the spectacle of adult men playing a game that is loved by millions. Embrace the underdog teams or players when they are matched up with perennial playoff teams loaded with All-Stars. Celebrate the missteps and mistakes that the players make and laugh and rejoice when they are made.


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