The choice of location had a kind of skewed logic. BSKYB picks up most of its audience for football from the pub, so why not be in the pub before the audience gets there? Of course, on a normal night on Channel 5 you could fit most of its audience in there with the production team, and still have room for a hen party. But this was the channel's first big night since its big first night, and for once they were broadcasting in the certain knowledge that somebody out there was watching. The importance of making an impression was not lost on them. Hence the line-up of pundits. Where the BBC gives you Alan Hansen, Channel 5 comes up with Jo Guest. Plus a lot of people called Diamond.
In other words, they'd invited the hen party along after all.
Before the game, the referee had ordered England to change their strip, on the grounds that it clashed with Poland's. From this end, courtesy of Channel 5's ever reliable transmitter, it looked as if they swapped red for a green and pink design with a juddering wave motif, the internationally recognised colours of the sick parrot. By an extraordinary coincidence, the England rugby team playing Argentina half a planet away, in a match broadcast immediately afterwards, were wearing exactly the same kit. As were Argentina. As, back in Poland, were Poland.
Barred from the party and sent along to the match itself was the commentator Jonathan Pearce. He was hired from Capital Gold for his ability to make watching paint dry sound exciting. This effect is achieved via the simple technique of turning the volume up so high that said paint is stripped even as it dries. He is essentially a local radio ham, which is why his commentary was both a cesspit of nationalism and a statistical goldmine. Radio commentators rely on words to fill the airtime, and unlike their counterparts in television, are not used to letting the football do the work. Thus Pearce had made it his task to ensure that by the final whistle even Jo Guest could name the back four of Legia Warsaw.
At a distant extremity in the galaxy of sports coverage came Cricket - First Test: England v Australia (BBC1 / 2, Thursday). This year's Wisden has criticised the BBC for its hopelessly staid Test coverage - lo and behold, the Corporation has discovered razzmatazz. In between occasional balls, an inset on your screen will randomly deliver an interview with a cricketer, then rudely fade it out before the next ball is bowled. Then, at the end of each session, someone on the boundary rope with a microphone will nab a player and squeeze him dry of cliches. And in the middle of the tea interval, rather than go in for anything as piffling as match analysis after perhaps the most exciting first two sessions in Ashes history, they will give you 10 minutes of a 12-year-old innings from David Gower.
For those who wonder what the gentleman / players divide must have been like 40 years ago, they need look no further than the varieties of approach by BSkyB and the BBC. At the resumption of the ancient sporting rivalry, Sky would have been on the air since breakfast time, champing at the bit, slavering at the prospect of a red-blooded engagement. The BBC drifted in with just 10 minutes to go till start of play - the scheduling equivalent of a lazy swat outside the off stump. And once on air, the only hint of loin-girded bias germane to most cricket broadcasts was confined to Geoffrey Boycott's comments on fellow tyke Darren Gough, who can clearly expect a proposal of marriage some time during the luncheon interval today. On the plus side, there was a weather report with snazzy graphics, predicting rain. They got that wrong too.Reuse content