About The Mooch and Me

The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE - Stephen Rosen­thal

WHAT DO for­mer White House press sec­re­tary An­thony Scara­mucci and I have in com­mon? As it turns out, more than I’d thought. We’re both for­mer gov­ern­ment spokes­peo­ple (I lasted three years. Him, 10 days). But more broadly, the Mooch and I re­cently learnt a sim­i­lar, painful life les­son: namely, you can’t fake ex­per­tise. With six hardy col­leagues, I re­cently par­tic­i­pated in a 100 kilo­me­tre char­ity bike ride. Re­s­plen­dent in be­spokely de­signed, state-of-the-art cy­cling ap­parel, on bikes that felt like they’d been de­signed by NASA, we hon­estly looked — and felt — like Olympians.

Be­hind his podium, The Mooch looked fab, too.

At the start line, eye­ing up the rid­ers, some with their own bikes, zero per cent body fat and those clippy-in shoes, I re­mem­ber think­ing “I look af­ter my­self. I’m not a mil­lion miles off th­ese guys.”

I reckon The Mooch felt the same as the press lobby filed into the White House brief­ing room last week.

Only prob­lem is, un­til two years ago, I couldn’t ride a bike, and then I’d never rid­den a sports bike and hadn’t cycled fur­ther than from home to the tube sta­tion. Un­til two weeks ago, The Mooch was a banker. In­evitably, 30 kilo­me­tres in, I briefly stopped for an un­planned, to­tal body, tar­mac-based skin ex­fo­li­a­tion.

Ap­par­ently, a snazzy kit/suit and bike/podium do not a cyclist/spokesman make.

Lick­ing my wounds at the side of the road, up­turned bike wheels still spin­ning, I learnt that there’s a sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence be­tween a “cyclist” and “some­one who can ride a bike”. Be­tween an ex­pert and an am­a­teur dressed as one. Sit­ting in a dark room some­where, the Mooch is prob­a­bly think­ing much the same.

You can’t fake ex­per­tise. Dress­ing up as an ex­pert al­ways leads to egg (or in my case, gravel) on your face.

I’ve no idea if it’s ge­netic, but Jewish peo­ple have a pas­sion for de­bate. We tend to quickly take firm, of­ten rad­i­cal po­si­tions. Around Shab­bat ta­bles, on so­cial me­dia and, in­creas­ingly, in “open let­ters” ref­er­enc­ing “heretics” and “abom­i­na­tions”, more and more of our com­mu­nity are claim­ing to be po­lit­i­cal an­a­lysts, diplo­mats, his­to­ri­ans, ex­perts, Br­ex­perts and Dweck­x­perts, when — and they know it — they re­ally aren’t.

I don’t know if you, like me, have Face­book ac­quain­tances you’d or­di­nar­ily de­friend but for the cu­rios­ity of see­ing what in­sane view they’ll post next. Mean­while, the com­ments and con­ver­sa­tions they trig­ger tend to quickly go south, un­earthing a thread of re­sponses that range from illinformed and batty, to down­right trou­bling.

In the heat of it all, it’s of­ten for­got­ten that any­one can see it. See­ing some of this rub­bish, from com­mu­nal lead­ers and “Jews in the pews” alike, you couldn’t blame a non-af­fil­i­ated per­son read­ing it for feel­ing neg­a­tively to­wards us. And it is “us”. As much as we hate it, we’re all tarred with the same brush. We’re all judged.

I’m man enough to ac­knowl­edge now that any ex­pe­ri­enced cyclist would have nav­i­gated the road that was my un­do­ing with­out even flinch­ing. There’s a hu­mil­ity in know­ing what you don’t yet know. And yet, with next to no ex­pe­ri­ence at all, I got my kit on, took a selfie, and con­fi­dently set out on an elite-level chal­lenge I was, let’s face it, woe­fully un­der-qual­i­fied to tackle.

So please, I beg of you, learn from the mis­takes of the Mooch and me. Cher­ish the ar­eas you’re al­ready ex­pert in. Qui­etly take the time to de­velop the ones you cur­rently aren’t. If you don’t, it’s only a mat­ter of time be­fore the pelo­ton leaves you and the other Sun­day rid­ers in the hedgerow, wheels spin­ning and red-faced.

There’s a MRÞN[NWûN be­tween an ex­pert and an am­a­teur

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