Disclaimer: I’m going to offend a lot of tennis fans by displaying my absolute ignorance of the sport in this post. Anyone who loves the sport very much can give this post a miss.
I watched the Australian Open 2017 Final match today. At the risk of sounding like Harvey Metcalfe when he spoke about the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, I cannot really say I know the game or any other details about it. I have never watched a tennis match in my life except when I was flipping the channels to get to a channel that showed a cricket match or, at best, some other sports commentary.
I have no real aversion to the sport itself. I just did not feel any overwhelming urge to follow it. But this final match being special and all, (two tennis legends facing off, etc.,) and with many recommendations, I sat down to watch the match. Thankfully I had already been spoon-fed information about which channel telecast it, and I settled down to watch it sometime into the match.
As the time wore on, I relied on three important things to understand how the match was swinging
The score display
The little I knew about tennis came from playing video games (see? They’re informative) and I did know the basic rules and the scoring limits of the game. So with the help of the score display, I was able to make out who was gaining and who was not.
The audience’s reaction
The groans, exclamations of surprise, awe and the sudden shouts were my cue to notice what had happened on the field. I must be the first person in history to understand how the game was going on by noticing the reaction of the audience. But this was more informative than any other commentary I could have (sensibly) listened to.
The players’ faces
Then there was the ultimate scale that helped me best when I lost track or focus. The look on the players’ faces served as the best display by which I could gauge the mood of the game. It is from this that I finally understood how tight the game had been. The look of intense concentration as some spectacular rallies were played, the forlorn, dispirited way in which some serves were returned and most importantly the ultimate jump of joy that told me the game was over were all the visual cues that made the whole game much more entertaining.
I know I sound like a book reviewer who writes reviews by just looking at the book cover. Or perhaps a movie reviewer who reviews the movie based on inputs from their friends who actually watched. But truth be said, I neither know, nor understand the game enough to give my ‘expert comments’. I also do not want to pretend otherwise. I could have at least noted down some words from the commentary (the live ones and those that appeared later online) and tried to insert them here just for the sake of sounding knowledgeable. I would have had much company there. From those ‘fans’ who only watched the match for the players or because they wanted to use the #AussieOpen2017 #Finals #Psyched #TeamRoger #TeamRafa hash tags. But that idea did not appeal to me.
Did I enjoy the game? Yeah I really did. But it was the enjoyment people would probably have had when they watched Interstellar (the movie) for the first time. I did not understand much of it (the game, not the movie. I have not seen the latter yet) but I enjoyed it because even beyond the cloud of obvious ignorance I knew that this was a historical, important game. And even my ‘cave(wo)man existence’ as far as tennis was concerned was no excuse to say I did not know who Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal were.
Would I watch tennis games again? Yes, probably. Because I think this is one game I might warm up well to. It was much easier to follow than other sports I am following. Though this might probably be due to the fact that the focus area was considerably lesser and there were only two focal points. For one thing, I don’t think I could have followed a cricket match or Football with purely the above recorded stimulus if I didn’t actually know about the game.
And finally, I fully understood the importance of having to focus on things other than the main aspects of the game. I was often unfocused on the main serves and volleys and returns or whatever they are called but I could garner much with the other stimulus I relied on. Sadly agreeing that I’d have to educate myself about the game further to completely enjoy it the next time, I watched as Federer picked the Goblet of Fire… I mean the huge cup with an equally huge grin on his face.
Here’s hoping my blog post about the Australian Open 2018 (make no mistake. I’ll surely write) would not be such a comedy of errors.
P.S.: Do I get to apply for the sports commentator / analyst position in some of the leading national dailies? I have done a fairly decent job than some of them, on retrospection. Reader advice solicited.