Whether you live and breathe for the Seahawks, Mariners and Sounders or don’t know a Nick Vannett from a Nick Rumbelow, it pays to be able to talk about sports.

Seem like a stretch? Not when you consider the far-reaching nature of sports, the viewing habits of sports fans and the personal branding opportunities associated with fandom. Give a sports fan the opportunity to talk about their love of the game and you’ll gain a foot in the door to building business relationships.

Here are three reasons why.

Popularity contest. More than half of all Americans identify as sports fans, according to Gallup Poll surveys. If you’re willing to talk sports, you can connect and converse with millions of people — including the ones who work in your office and industry. Remember, sports goes beyond the “Big Four” of football, baseball, basketball and hockey. Broaden your definition of sports to include Little League games, high school athletes, Olympic sports or extreme sports and you’ll discover even more connections.

Timely topics. Games and sporting events are watched differently than any other programming available. No one waits until the end of a season to binge watch all the games at one time. Sports is the only programming consumed in real time (or within 24 hours of an event.) That means you’ll have something new to talk about every day with sports-loving colleagues or clients. Those small talk conversations about what happened during the game, the upcoming season or a child’s high school team provide numerous connection points and follow-up conversations that allow you to build business relationships.

Personal branding. The way you talk about a game, player or outcome says a lot about you. Are you a sore winner or a gracious loser? Your reaction to a game might seem unrelated to workplace events, but there’s often a correlation to the way you respond in a business setting. Sports fans aren’t different people at a game, they’re just in an environment that is often more tolerant of emotional reactions. Choose your words and reactions carefully when describing a game.

Here’s something else to think about: Your choice of a favorite player, athlete or sport itself isn’t an accident. You relate for a specific reason. Identify the qualities you admire in a favorite player and mention those qualities when talking about his or her performance or contribution in a game. For example, “How could you not like Sue Bird after that game last night! Did you see how many points she scored in the fourth quarter? Talk about persistence after being off her game in the first half.” A comment like that not only conveys your admiration for Sue Bird, it gives colleagues an insight into a value you admire.

Jen Mueller is the author of “The Influential Conversationalist” and a sports broadcaster based in Seattle. (Courtesy of Jen Mueller)
Jen Mueller is the author of “The Influential Conversationalist” and a sports broadcaster based in Seattle. (Courtesy of Jen Mueller)