With apologies (from me) to Daniel Miller for the above headline, there’s a million places on the web where you can read about Manchester United’s 1-1 draw with Blackburn, thus clinching their 12th Premier League title in 19 years. There’s probably just as many outlets that properly covered Manchester City’s FA Cup Final triumph over Stoke City, a match that began shortly after the title was clinched at Ewood Park. But there’s not many other writers as uniquely qualified to dissect Sky Sports’ coverage of the former event (or ITV’s presentation of the latter) as the Guardian’s Barney Ronay, who calls today’s televised smogasbord, “one of the most confusingly fretful armchair football interludes in the history of the modern armchair game.”
Sky kicked off at midday, helmed by the amiable Ed Chamberlin (above), who still resembles the type of baby-faced junior estate agent who hasn’t yet been taught how to be evil properly and instead spends his days pootling about in the heavily-branded office Toyota Twinkle. Chamberlin is also the master of the apparently arbitrary dramatic pause. “They’re 90 minutes away … from a huge celebration!” he announced by way of an introduction, seeming for a moment as though he might have jammed, or short-circuited, or got co-pundit Dwight Yorke’s luminous golden pocket handkerchief caught up in his smarm-circuits.
Pretty soon we were off, ushered into a frantic five hours of Manc-wrangle by the smooth sounds of Martin Tyler, who despite two decades at the heart of Sky’s bombast is still the best commentator and who, alone, seemed simply to be watching a game of football rather than inveigled in a countdown-to-global-volcano-death type scenario (“Look! Look at the space Ryan’s got there!” Chris Coleman exclaimed on co-commentary, overlooking the single founding principle of all television, that you already are looking, and all at the same thing).
Before anyone got too comfortable it was time to flit to Wembley for the start of ITV’s coverage, a full we-shall-not-be-moved two hours before kick-off. “Wembley. FA Cup final. Goose bumps.” Adrian Chiles announced, giving up on the standard welcome-to-the home-of-football intro in favour of simply spooling out vaguely appropriate-seeming words. “We’ll be wallowing in nostalgia,” he said, teeing up the flashback bits and expertly buttering up the unstarry but engaging punditry pairing of Dennis Tueart and Shaun Goater. Plus of course Gareth Southgate, who since his ascent to FA eminence always seems to be very patiently explaining things in a slow, talking-to-foreigners voice, and edging closer to the moment when he says, “basically, Adrian, the idea is to propel a plastic sphere using only the feet through a netted wooden rectangle.”