Justin Peters covers the Olympics professionally and has spoiled events for friends
Peters recommends creating an information vacuum to avoid spoilers; noise machines help
Peters says if you can avoid social situations at work, or work itself, you can prevent spoilers
He suggests switching from a smartphone to an older cell phone with no text or Internet
Editor’s Note: Justin Peters is an editor at the Columbia Journalism Review.
I am covering the Olympics for Slate this year, and, as such, it’s my job to know what happens at the Games as soon as it happens. No waiting for the tape-delay broadcast for me; I wake at 4 a.m. to watch archery and stay in front of the screen until the sun sets on the British Isles. What this means is that I have personally spoiled at least seven people’s enjoyment of the Olympics by blabbing prematurely about who won what event. “Did you see that Michael Phelps came in fourth?” I ask. “No, you jerk, and thanks for ruining it for me. I was going to watch that tonight,” they respond.
For this and myriad other moments of spoiler-related thoughtlessness, I heartily apologize. And in order to make amends, I hereby offer 10 tips on what to do and how to prepare if you want to avoid having the Games spoiled by careless obsessives like me.
1. The key to any good spoiler-avoidance strategy is practice. Construct a training space in your basement or backyard, and prepare yourself for the challenges to come. See how long you can resist the urge to check your phone for swimming updates. Practice walking with your fingers in your ears while shouting “I can’t hear you! I can’t hear you!”
2. Fun fact: Casual commuting is responsible for 75 percent of sports spoilers. When you’re walking along the street or sitting on a subway, you often can’t avoid overhearing other people talking about the Games. So be sure to take the necessary precautions before you leave the house. Map your route and follow it to the letter, making sure to gaze straight at the ground the entire way. Some might recommend that you also don a heavy pair of earmuffs, but there’s no need for you to go outside looking like a freak. Carrying around a portable white noise machine will be fine.
3. Your smartphone is your enemy during these next two weeks. If you carry it around, you will be tempted to check the Internet, and you risk receiving spoiler-laden text messages from your gymnastics-loving friends. Switch to an older phone for the duration of the Olympics, preferably one that is decades old, is shaped like a brick and has a wan green display that can handle neither text messages nor the Internet. You could also take this opportunity to rediscover the joys of pre-cellular communication devices. Bag up some quarters and see if you can still find a working payphone. Fire up your old CB radio. (Nobody on the CB radio is talking about the Olympics. They’re all talking about speed traps and convoys and such.)
4. Streamline your social media feeds. You can probably divide your Facebook friends into “people who are likely to follow the Olympics” and “people who are not.” Hide all status updates from the Olympics-following friends. This should leave you with a Facebook feed composed entirely of elderly relatives, local merchants and new mothers posting photographs of their children. Abandon Twitter entirely, or, at the very least, unfollow everyone except Jose Canseco.
5. Implement and rigorously follow a household media blackout: no radio, no television, no newspapers, no Internet, no virtual reality devices. Mollify your children by telling them it’s Dictionary Month, and promise a handsome prize to whichever child memorizes the most words. If your spouse complains, cut her off by shouting irrationally “Who did you marry: me or Comcast?! It’s like I don’t even know you anymore!” If a full-fledged media blackout isn’t feasible, then at least limit yourself to the stations that are least likely to air anything having to do with modern times: the radio stations that play big band music and old-timey radio programs. On television, the TV stations that specialize in old reruns of “Mama’s Family.”
6. Your friends and family are likely to try to spoil the Olympics results for you. Thus, it is critical that you do your best to alienate them for the duration of the Olympics. Avoid bathing and repel them with your hideous smell; refuse to answer their phone calls, e-mail messages or direct questions. If they start talking about London, cut them off immediately with a brusque “I don’t want to hear ANYBODY talking about the Olympics. MY GRANDFATHER DIED IN A DECATHLON ACCIDENT!”
7. The office is bound to be a prime place for Olympics spoilers. Stay away from the water cooler; go thirsty if you must. Arrive 10 minutes late for every meeting, to avoid any obnoxious spoiler-laden pre-meeting chatter. Take the stairs instead of the elevator; it’s better to be a bit winded than to risk picking up untimely information on those stupid elevator televisions they have. Really, the best thing is to just not go to work for a couple of weeks. Now’s the time to cash in those “Olympics days” you’ve been saving up. Jobs give their workers Olympics days, right?
8. Don’t go to the gym, either, because the gym is filled with armchair Olympians who like nothing more than to discuss the day’s sporting events. Do your exercising outdoors, instead. If you must visit the gym, be sure to only use the unpopular equipment, like jump ropes and medicine balls. And, for goodness sake, stay away from bars, because bars are a prime location for loose-lipped sports talkers. Instead, you should drink alone at home. If you find yourself craving the tavern experience, all you need is some plywood, a few milk crates and a couple of cases of Keystone, and, presto, you’ll have your own makeshift wet bar. (Home improvement projects are easy!)
9. If you are handy, you might consider building a Cone of Silence, like they used in the TV show “Get Smart.” This is basically just a hard plastic fishbowl that you wear over your head. (This will certainly stop you from hearing any spoilers, but also, if you wear it, you may asphyxiate.)
10. You know where nobody’s talking about the Olympics? In the forest. Take these next two weeks as an opportunity to go back to nature. Pitch a tent in the woods, and commune with the stars and the seedlings. Bring a battery-powered television that gets only three channels, and fire it up every night around 7. You’ll be able to watch the key moments of the Games in peace and quiet. And, despite what you’ve heard, it is quite unlikely that you’ll be eaten by a bear.
How are you avoiding spoilers during the Olympic Games? Share your recommendations in the comments section below.