Sky

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?

This post was inspired by Steve’s excellent post about picking the results of Wrestlemania.

16 thoughts on “Sky

  1. Love this post. In my student house in Nottingham, a friend and I have chipped in to get Sky Sports and ESPN to the tune of about £15 per month each. Not too bad considering how much we watch it.

    As this is my final year, the real world is creeping up on me and I have absolutely no idea what I want to do with my life. Everybody keeps talking about the need to find a “career”, as well as banging on about how difficult it is to find a job in the “current economic climate” (hate that bloody phrase). It’s terrifying.

    Right now, I realise that being a student is quite a wonderful existence. Sure, you have no money. But you do have free time, and lots of it. Which means plenty of time to watch sports. I know that I’m just about to go through the transition you describe. Soon, my time will not be so free anymore. And I hate that thought. Fulham provide a modicum of comfort to cling to, something certain that has never gone away during my (relatively few) years so far, and hopefully never will.

    Bugger it, I might just go travelling for a year to postpone the inevitable. Who wants to enter the “real world” anyway?

    1. Yes, don’t rush into the “real world”, it’s not all its cracked up to be. I wish I’d taken a year off to travel either before or after uni. Do it. There are plenty more years to come, and they won’t be as vivid as the ones in your teens and twenties.

    2. You have no idea how much time you’ve got. Seriously most people don’t even come close to putting themselves on apathy until their late 20s early 30s. Just keep yourself occupied doing interesting things (if you think of the ubiquitous “travelling”, go work abroad instead, for instance) and you can stave off true sedentary adulthood for a good while. Just don’t waste your time (like spending all day for weeks on end watching sky sports and smoking/drinking yourself into a near coma) and it’ll all be fine. Your 20s are the best time you’ll ever have.

  2. Rich,

    First off, thanks for the link back… that was one of the most typo-laden, divergence-ridden things I’d written in a long time, but it was a lot of fun and very sidetracking. I can’t count how many times I got lost on Youtube searching for a particular clip and being sieged by other clips of fond memories.

    I love the direction you took in this post and the narrative, especially the descriptions, given. It’s always interesting looking back at that one defining moment of a particular topic (perhaps the Hogan/Warrior match here) and comparing it to the trajectory of where you’re at now (how you’ve begun to grow tired of the over-saturation of “important” sporting events). It’s funny how much nostalgia rules over what we love now, and what we choose to remember loving in our youth.

    Great stuff. So glad that I could inspire such an excellent piece of writing.

    1. That’s part three of three. For the first two parts they were probably doing all kinds of exhausting things. That’s why it was such an apocalyptic struggle, I imainge.

  3. You come out the other end of this adult responsibility thing.

    My kids have left home. Workwise I’m the boss and if I feel like coming home early to watch cricket I can and do. You also get to the point where you really don’t care much what others think and don’t feel the need to impress or “get on”. That’s where freedom starts to kick in.

    The downside is that you’ll soon be dead.

    I hate Murdoch and all his doings and was disdainful of Sky for years but getting to the Premier League coincided with my 50th birthday and Sky was my present. Suddenly we were going to be heavily featured on TV and I didn’t want to miss out.

    Cricket arrived soon after and I couldn’t be without that and Sky’s coverage is truly excellent in every respect. A commentary team that you actually want to listen to. In contrast TMS has gone downhill especially when Sir Geoff is talking about his favourite subject – himself. Interminably.

    I watch a lot of Sky football because every Prem match has some impact on us. I’d prefer it without commentary and analysis but the pictures are essential for me. The cost is excessive and sport apart Sky is mostly a waste of time. Sky Arts can be good but the films we watch would work out cheaper if we rented them.

    The reason Sky will continue to pay a fortune for football is that their non sport content is such crap. I was looking forward to Sky Atlantic with the HBO catalogue but you get 5 minutes of ads for every 10 minutes of programme and that’s an insult. I could of course pay extra for Sky Plus but sod that.

    Wall to wall football and cricket is worth £50 a month for me and whilst I recognise that as something of a sell out I’m past caring.

  4. I never had sky whilst growing up, the parents refused, but of course once you get to university/house sharing, Sky becomes a cheap way to spend a vast proportion of your time. Oh how I miss the ability to watch 4 games of international football in a row (2 European WC qualifiers, 2 South American WC qualifiers) all whilst playing football manager to my hearts content.

    In September I move in with my Girlfriend, the end for compulsive sports watching probably, the inevitable victim in the rationalisation of my season ticket.

    The truth is, when I was at home during the holidays, I never really missed sky. Watching lots of football is great, but if I cannot, then I find I miss it less and less.

  5. I had Sky for a year, and basically never got any work done.

    I especially enjoyed the playoffs, and the daily “best derby matches in the World” feature they used to have.

  6. I get free Sky and barely watch it outside of some live sport, so if ever there came a point where we’d have to pay for it it would be out instantly.

  7. I only got Foxtel (Australian version of Sky) when Fulham made it into the EPL … and naturally have had it ever since. I get to see about 40 live games a year … About 50 last season. Brilliant. That and the net keep me as close to FFC as possible 15,000 miles away.

    1. That’s live Fulham games BTW. I also check CCNewsround a few times a day. Visit it more then the official Fulham site in fact. Brilliant website and comments,

  8. This post reminded me of a show that was on here in the States (ESPN Classic) with the Sklar brothers…Cheap Seats. Kind of a Mystery Science Theater 3000 but instead of movies from the 50s, 60s and 70s they’d rag on old sports shows. The spelling bees, American Gladiators episodes and the crossover CBS type sport competitions (where people like Carl Lewis and Tom Seaver would be contestants and do obstacle course events) were always my favorites that they’d beat to death. The great part was that these were things I’d watch in my youth and it was always a good time to reminisce but wonder why I’d wasted my time watching them (except for the spelling bees, never understood the fascination of watching 12 year olds try to remember out how to spell words like Eponymous).

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