The answer, of course, is that they can't. But the position is not hopeless. Just by learning a few key phrases you can fool other people into thinking that you understand what is going on and are even taking a keen interest in it. I am bringing you today a list of intelligent-sounding comments which, as you gaze at the television screen, can be used in almost any context . . .
'That looked a fair tackle to me.'
'They're leaving it rather late.'
'She's left it a bit late.'
'They'll have to move up a gear now.'
'They'll have to raise their game now.'
'So what's been happening in Orlando?'
'This should be enough to see them through.'
'Goal difference will be absolutely crucial.'
'How on earth does she keep the spare ball tucked up behind her like that without it falling out during a rally?'
'They'll have to score at least one more goal if the 0-0 draw in the other game in Dallas is the final result.'
'That looked long to me.'
'They're knocking it around very nicely, but. . . '
'I don't know what the guy who designs the Mexican goalkeeper's costume is on, but I'd like to try some of it.'
'It's not the Brazil of old.'
'Have you noticed at Wimbledon there's always a nearby court where something much more exciting is obviously going on?'
'It's not the Holland we used to know.'
'That looked out to me.'
'That was never a yellow card]'
'Of course, the scoring has to be different in the World Cup, because they can't use the away goals rule. Every team is playing away in the World Cup]'
'That didn't look up to me.'
'What happens if the ball falls out of the back of her belt during the rally, and she hits that instead, and nobody notices?'
'They're playing the possession game now . . .'
'She's really got to get a higher percentage of her first serves in.'
'Of course, the seventh game of the set is absolutely vital.'
'That looked offside to me.'
'They're not the Cameroons of Italy 1990 . . .'
'Except the USA. They're playing at home. So all their goals are home goals . . .'
'I don't believe it]'
'God, what a wally]'
'Their natural game is defensive, of course.'
'Her natural game is baseline, of course.'
'His natural game is clay court, of course.'
'There must be at least 100,000 Irish people in the stadium tonight.'
'Boris Becker's off to the bathroom again for another lie- down and massage.'
'That looked like hands to me.'
'They'll have to throw caution to the winds soon.'
'She'll have to go for her shots soon.'
'This result won't be good enough if Bulgaria pick up another point.'
'This is her last chance to win Wimbledon again.'
'This is his last chance to score in a World Cup.'
'I sometimes think that one of them goes down injured so the other 10 men can get another drink of water.'
'She's done really well just to get this far.'
'That looked like a let to me.'
'Of course, it's not the Martina Navratilova of old . . .'
'If Boris Becker drank as much water as the Irish team do, he'd be off to the bathroom every five minutes.'
'This is it.'
'This is the moment of truth.'
'If she can just keep her nerve. . . '
'If they can just play their natural game. . . '
'The 90 minutes are up now. . . '
'The final set is wide open. . .'
'I can't believe how much time the referee is adding on for stoppages. . .'
'Not a great game, maybe . . .'
'. . . but very exciting . . .'