DIY Guide: Olympic expert

Chennai, Aug 10: The trick to be a specialist in any subject is to actually specialise in that subject. But there is one obvious flaw in this approach: It involves hard work. So the best option for you is to cheat, which is what everyone also does.

In the case of Olympics, which involves numerous sporting events, the first trick is to choose one that will be cool to be a specialist in. The corollary to this, you must know which sport to avoid.

Fencing, for instance. It is a sport in which the difference between an expert and the one who is not is: the expert may know whether it is the women or men playing. In general in fencing, it is impossible to tell who is playing, and there have been instances of coaches, unable to tell who their ward under that mask and body-hugging outfit is, ending up coaching the opponent. Figuring out who the players are is the high point of this entire sport. Also, it is a sport that is a followed only by a sum total 23 people, all of them players.

So, you are better off avoiding fencing as a sport to specialise in. Equestrian is another one you should give a total miss, especially the dressage event. The word ‘dressage’ comes from the original French word ‘dressage’ meaning “only a fool will believe this is a sport”. Let us try and explain what the event is: A man or woman will come riding a horse into rectangle space. After a minute or so  — this has to be the most spectacular part of the event — everyone claps. Scores are given, we strongly suspect, based on the claps.

Then there are also things that look close to a sport, but in reality they aren’t. We are talking about cycling. First of all, cycling events are held in a place called velodrome, where the entire track is askew and angular —- roads in Velachery have a striking resemblance to this — as if built by engineers after an all-night bender.

The events are also bizarre. It is not simple as who rides the fastest from, say, Point A to Point B. There are events in which one racer starts at Point A. And another at Point B. Also, in a race of six, two will be racers, four others would just hang around. Some of them are called pace-setters. The racers move around slowly as if they are out cycling on a honeymoon trip. Then suddenly, as if they finally remembered that it is Olympics and it is a race, they pick up speed. And the winner is the one who has fully understood the story of Inception. Or so it would seem, as seldom the guy who first gets past the finish line is declared the winner.

The race cycles also look anything but cycles. The tyres are full rubberised round shields as though they were fitted much before tubes and tyres could be cut out of them. And the seats offer as much seating comfort as you would get if you were sitting with full-blown hemorrhoids.

So the best bet for you to come off as an expert is the tried and tested athletic events. This, along with the swimming races, are the ones that have some commonsense logic attached to them. But all the details about the participants, records and assorted trivia are these days available at a press of a keyboard button. Also, talking about Usain Bolt’s exploits is a waste. Everyone else will also be. You, as a thinking-man expert, should come up with an insight or opinion that should be different and contrarian, but not totally deviant as you may run the risk of sounding like some kind of sporting Subramaniam Swamy.

So when you sit in front of your Twitter feed, which is when you get the biggest urge to sound off like an expert, you start off, rather casually, “Who is the better Olympian, Bolt or Phelps?” This comparison, in itself, is silly. But it is exactly the kind of thing that works well on social media platforms. Or if you want to be even more nuanced, you can perhaps try, “how many medals would Bolt have won if he were a swimmer?” Or its cousin question, “Would Phelps have been an acclaimed great if he had chosen athletics over swimming?”

And slowly you move up the order and ask, “why isn’t African nations able to produce world class sprinters?” And you follow it up with, “is it because, as one recent study in Scientific American said,  of genetic reasons and elongated thigh bone?” The point to note is that there may not have been any such article in Scientific American. Nobody who actually reads Scientific American is ever on Twitter. So no worries. But by dropping that name, you will be a) giving important evidence that you have a cool scientific bent of mind b) actually giving idea to Scientific American to undertake such a research for the sake of getting more grants.

Remember there are no real answers to any of these questions. So you keep coming up with these to generate pointless chatter and controversy (This is also the editorial policy of all news channels). Soon enough, you become an expert. The only caution you have to take is that you don’t become, well, a Shobhaa De.