The View From The Armchair Expert


The word is bandied around all too freely these days. It used to be that to become an ‘expert’ you needed to work at it. Usually over some considerable period of time. You wouldn’t want, for example, to find out that the ‘expert’ lawyer you have hired tro defend you at your trial was a street sweeper three months ago until he saw an old recording of Rumpole Of The Bailey on UK Gold. Or that the ‘expert’ surgeon hadn’t previously been closer to a scalpel than the Hobbycraft Hour on QVC.

There are some things, however, that you CAN become an expert on, simply by sitting in a comfy chair with a mug of tea and a tv remote control.

I’m talking, of course, about Minority Olympic Sports.

I’ve personally gained ‘expertise’ in several sports over the past week. Beach Volleyball is one. True, there are always reasons for watching Beach Volleyball. One is the incredible architecture that surrounds the temporary stadium built in Horseguards Parade. I couldn’t see it myself, but as soon as a Men’s match started, it was much more obvious. I also know the rules now. Each game is best of three  sets, played to 21, 21 and 15 respectively, with end changes after every seven points (five in the third set) and a mandatory time out halfway through the set. I know what a ‘spike’ is, and all about blocking, covert signalling, and setting. I’m also becoming quite the ‘expert’ on uniform, although not for the reason you’d imediately assume. OK – not only that reason. There’s a culture surrounding Beach Volleyball that lends itself to loud music, raucous crowds, and beachwear. Whatever you may think about the decisions to make female players wear swimwear whilst playing, there is at least one view point from where it makes some logical sense. Wimbledon, it ain’t…

I’ve also been watching Handball, something I only ever do every four years, and yet again I am left wondering why this is. It is a fast paced, quite physical sport, and can probably be best compared to Basketball and Water Polo. But where Water Polo is slow and players hang onto the ball for ages, and where Basketball players seem to get free shots to the net for even the slightedt brush with an opponent, Handball involves barging, grappling, throwing to the ground, penalties taken with the opposing goalkeeper less than fIve feet in front of your face. There’s passion, unbridled aggression, and no little amount of personal grudge-matches going on. And that’s just the women…

Of course, what has been most evident is the moments of Team GB success. It took a little while, but they came in the end, and in some style. Rowing brought us our first gold, swiftly followed by old Wiggo on his bike. and earlier today, we saw gold again in the canoe slalom and the double-trap shooting. All in all, it’s hotting up heading into the evening session.

I wonder where the next gold will come from. To be honest, will we care? Probably not – as every success is being cheered from the rafters, even it seems by those who previously sat on the fence as Olympic nay-sayers.

The football teams have both progressed to the quarter finals unbeaten, the divers still have their chance of success, Andy Murray is in the tennis semifinals where he’s bidding to be the first British Finallist at the All England Club since last month, and on top of all that, we’ve not even started the track cycling or the athletics yet.

I’m looking forward to becoming even more ‘expert’ in the coming days…


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