I remember when Sky first happened. They showed American Football (then very fashionable in the UK), NBA basketball, WWF (wrestling), and all sorts else besides. It would have been amazing to have a dish, but Mum wasn’t interested in that. She claimed that she didn’t want a dish on the side of the house, and this may very well have been true, but I suspect that it was also true that we watched more than enough TV as it was, and the subscription fee (which I’d have been oblivious to) was not inconsiderable either.
So we never did have Sky. The village butcher, David Chartress, taped me some NFL (I particularly remember a Monday Night Football game between my Raiders and the Chiefs at Arrowhead – the Chiefs won, as they always did against the Raiders back then). He also got me some WWF, which seems silly now but which was entertaining enough at the time. Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior were at their respective peaks, and while everyone talked about it being fixed, I was secretly quite frightened of the Warrior, concerned that it was all well and good fixing his bouts, but by jiminy, look at the fecker; he does as he pleases. You might think you’ve fixed it, but the Ultimate Warrior does what he wants. Or so I presumed anyway.
A friend at school taped me NBA Action and the games of the week, so I got to see plenty of basketball, too. This was peak Jordan time, so we got all the fun associated with all that, as well as the Detroit Pistons at their bloody best. After this supply ran out, my friend Daniel got games taped by someone he did gardening for. We loved these tapes, and managed to see much of several seasons of NBA games as a result. (After this we actually built a basketball hoop and pole in his back garden. It wasn’t a big garden, but luckily his parents didn’t mind us messing around, so with a combination of all kinds of wood and a bit of effort we put up a ‘for real’ basketball rig. Amazing. I can’t believe it even now, but we did it. Dan used to win more often than not (he was even taller than me), but then it was his garden, right?)
Cricket got taken away in various stages, and I always remember Rodney Marsh (the wicketkeeper) trotting out the same line on Radio 4’s Test Match Special: “there’s no law to stop people buying a dish if they want to watch, right?” with such damn-fool certainty. IF ONLY IT WAS SO SIMPLE, RODNEY, my inner voice would scream. I liked the radio coverage but in those days I’d have stayed up to watch on TV all night if I’d had the means. I vowed that as soon as I was able, I would have Sky.
Then I got it. In our first house after university a few of us cottoned on to the power of cheapish cable, and had it piped into our house. A couple of years after that Hade and I got an ITV digital set top box in our flat, and with that Sky Sports became possible.
But it wasn’t what I’d hoped it would be. For one thing, the world of the grown up, whatever stage of grown up you might be, is not the same as the world of the schoolboy or the student. All the hours I had to fill as a teenager, all the hours when Mum and Dad happily knew that I was “elsewhere”, these suddenly weren’t so free anymore. So while I could spend all summer holiday watching test matches when I was thirteen, when I was 23 I didn’t have that summer holiday. (Now I don’t even catch the highlights most nights). Monday Night Football was so thrilling when I was just turned eighteen and in the Pump House on Bedford’s High Street (an exciting chrome bar to a eighteen year old; the stuff of nightmares to a 35 year old. Me anyway), watching Luton Town v West Ham or whatever it was, with a fresh Andy Gray dramaticising the whole shebang and whooshing noises coming at you from lord knows where to accompany replays. WOW! Scotty Oakes has scored again! This was living alright. We watched the Man Utd v Blackburn title decider in The Bedford Arms while playing pool. Again, for a youngish lad from a small village this was the epitomy of growing up. Sky was important in all that.
But with the ITV digital box it soon became clear that you could have too much of a good thing. I wasn’t interested in watching Bolton v Blackburn on Monday night, or Southampton v Norwich the next Monday, or even Manchester United v Spurs the next one. If Hade was out I’d put it on, but soon be doing something else. I couldn’t spent five hours watching American Football on Sunday nights. I couldn’t watch cricket because I was at work.
So Sky is not for me. The real world has well and truly taken over, and even if it hadn’t, I don’t know that I’m committed enough to make the most of it. I like to think that I’m interested in La Liga, but really I’m not. I want to watch Fulham, and thanks to the joys of a season ticket and the various means open to us for away matches, generally I don’t miss a thing. Beyond that, what is there that Sky can offer me that I want, and that I can consume?
I want to watch the cricket, but how and when would I watch? If there’s a football match I want to see I generally watch it anyway. There’s nothing else.
So there we are. I’m not sure what this is all about. I used to covet Sky; I don’t want it anymore. I am grateful for everyone who taped me sports, and for Sky for making those sports available, but in the here and now there is no time for these things. If the world as we know it broke down and we abandoned the concept of money and of work things might be different, but unless some Bertrand Russell disciple gets into power we’ve no chance of that. So… yeah. Do you have Sky? Do you watch it?