Sunday, 4 March 2012

FourZeroFourSix does FourZeroFive: The mad world of Sky Sports News

As I write, an authoritarian Russian with views on making sure his empire is known throughout the world has flexed his political muscles and demonstrated just who is in control. If you’re watching BBC News, ITV, Sky News, Channel 4 News (and maybe even Channel 5 News); you’ll recognise that description as being Putin. If your goggle box is switched to a certain ‘Sky Sports News’, however, I have just summarised Roman Abramovich firing Andre Villas-Boas (by far the best dressed man in football; not that competing against Tony Pulis’ cap is considered a challenge). Sky Sports News operates in its own universe. No real events in the news ever infringe upon the importance of Rooney’s latest misadventures or the ‘Iliad’ of our times; the Tevez affair. So let’s get the clich├ęs out, and examine the fine broadcasting carried out on channel 405.

Sky Sports News relies on the weird, wacky and eccentric characters that you can only truly create when paying a footballer the cost of a nice detached house in the Midlands per week. Players such as Wayne Rooney, Mario Balotelli, El Hadj Diouf; and, of course, Carlos Tevez are the lifeblood of SSN. One wonders just what exactly would have filled the INNUMERABLE hours the channel dedicated to covering one man refusing to turn up to work; had Tevez simply seen sense. But, as he had a strop, Sky Sports News adopted the kind of serious depth of coverage usually reserved to international man hunts. Tevez wasn’t simply ‘not turning up for training’; he was portrayed as the sporting world’s equivalent of Lord Lucan.

Our parents had the moon landings. We had Tevez.

The channel brought in lip-readers; to help analyses whether he really had refused to play a football match. The extraordinary thing was that Sky Sports News managed the impossible feat of extracting blood from a stone; and turned a small dispute into the BIGGEST NEWS STORY OF THE DECADE. In the space of the Carlos Tevez Saga: 100 people were killed in a car-bomb in Mogadishu; Gadaffi was found dead; Libya liberated; Spanish separatists ETA down arms; Turkey was hit by a 7.2 magnitude earthquake; the global population reached 7 billion people; the war in Iraq ended, the Queen spent 70 years on the throne and there were two Eurozone bailouts. But yet, the biggest story was Carlos Tevez.

But of course, Sky Sports News isn’t just about football. Oh no! Its name is ‘Sky SPORTS News’. However; a little like the pork content in bargain sausages, the proportion of non-football ‘SPORT’ on Sky Sports News is remarkably low. Now, for someone who doesn’t really give much of a care for sports much beyond football; this is no problem for me. For others, who may prefer ‘hitting balls with sticks’;

‘chasing oval balls’;

or ‘hitting different balls with a range of different sticks’;

Sky Sports News doesn’t try overly hard to cater for your needs. If the sport you’re interested in is currently broadcast on one of Sky Sports’ plethora of channels, then you’ve got a chance of seeing a brief 40 second round-up of the match you’re interested in. If not, then good luck! ‘Sport’ ends after Sky Sports 4. But, this does mean that considerable time is dedicated to sport that may not widely receive much coverage. Like speedway; which appears to be some variation on ‘Rollerball’; played on a dystopian post-apocalyptic wasteland (on later investigation, this appears to be Coventry). I’d also class boxing here; which Sky Sports News state are global, internationally relevant sporting events that can only be accessed through Sky Box Office; coincidentally.

Scene from Rollerball (1975)

Sky Sports have revolutionised the presentation of sport. Whereas before a man in a brown suit would sit in a brown studio and discuss with another man (wearing a similarly coloured-suit) the results in Division One; before having to make way for a show inevitably presented by Bruce Forsyth; Sky Sports News made reading out a load of scores exciting, sexy and LOUD. Look at transfer deadline day. A 24 hour period full of enough sound effects, CGI graphics and men looking serious in front of fancy technology to keep Jack Bauer in business for a dozen or so more series. Every transfer window feels exciting if there are enough people telling you it is exciting! But that’s why Sky Sports is so successful. It takes the mundane minutiae of the sporting world and blows it up to such extreme proportions that you can’t help but be engrossed. There’s something rather comforting in pretending that the biggest issue in the world isn’t the possible nuclear intentions of Iran, the global economy teetering on the precipice again, or the uncertain future of the UK; but instead whether or not Harry Redknapp may or may not have been approached for the England job, and whether he would or wouldn’t take it. It may be as far removed from the real world as you can get, but it’s hard not to be taken in by the world of Sky Sports News.

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