May 5, 2003

I believe that any sport, when played at the highest level, can sometimes provide even the most uninterested spectator a great deal of joy and evoke a fleeting understanding of that sport's appeal. I first realised this a few years ago while watching a few matches of the Rugby World Cup, the contests involving Australia, New Zealand and South Africa provided sporting excitement of a high quality. Backed up by good television coverage and insightful commentary, it made an impact that lasted the duration of the tournament. I am still no Rugby fan but I still carry in my mind the interesting sidelights of referees' decisions being broadcast on air because of the on-field mikes they wore, the seemingly upright ad paintings on the ground, the magic of the drop-kick and the bewilderment of how the mighty men, despite possessing all the necessary instruments for a good fight, usually desist from that, at least at a rate lesser than football.

This belief of mine also applies to Formula-One: I must be one of the few in-betweeners to follow the sport. People seem to either love it or hate it, there are very few casual followers as far as I know (unless they're faking an interest to seem trendy, which also seems to happen a lot in F-1).

My interest in the fortnightly race is limited to watching the beginning of each race (whenever I can) and the last few laps: for a person like me who likes to maintain only a casual acquaintance with the sport, these two are the points in the race that may offer higher chances of excitement. This is of course not always true, but as I'm not into cars, the technical aspects don't interest me. It is the competitiveness that interests me. I do remember one Grand Prix (Australian perhaps? It was in 1999) where Rubens Barrichello won a very intriguing race which was rain-affected: it was very riveting even for a person like me.

My introduction to the world of F-1 came from endless re-runs of old Monaco GPs that DD used to fill space in the Metro channel pre-1995 years. The actual micro-interest stemmed from some of my friends; Harish, Sujay, Gaurav et al used to bring F-1 discussions to the inevitable pre-BC quiz gatherings. This and some F-1 questions in quizzes sparked off a more regular viewing of Race Day. I still don't understand much of the technical stuff (people like Sumeet would drool over the technicalities), but it helps that F-1 is a continuously flowing game like football where the commentary doesn't stop for every moment of play (unlike cricket or tennis which follow a discrete format); the easy-to-follow non-stop commentary has helped me to keep staring as the riders make their seemingly unending trips around the chicanes and corners, with stewards flashing their flags at them: the amount of information overload with minute durations allowed for comprehension that these drivers have to account for is quite a remarkable aspect of this sport.

I cannot hold a conversation on F-1 racing, but I sure can listen to one without being too baffled. All that talk about monotony hasn't scared me off, at any rate.

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