My sporting weekend began with me deliberately ‘passing’ on the opportunity to watch both Saturday’s Six Nations rugby matches because I was engaged in a wide variety of domestic matters – a move partly inspired by my experience of finding the sport increasingly boring and mundane as the years go by.
Next to the Fury-Wilder grudge match Part 2 from Las Vegas.
To be honest with you I was in two minds about this one. On the one hand I was interested in watching the potential drama of it but then, on the other, when I looked it up on the ‘live events’ section of my cable TV service and saw it was going to cost me £24.99, I decided I couldn’t be bothered: I’d listen to it on Radio Five Live instead.
By then I’d gleaned the information from somewhere that it was due to take place at about 5.00am on Sunday morning and so – after completing my night shift – I retired to bed at about 4.00am and began listening to Dotun Adebayo’s Up All Night programme as I sank beneath the sheets …
It was at this point that I unintentionally made my debut for the cult club that sometimes gets mentioned on this website – the much-fabled Great Fights I Have Slept Through feature that used to grace the pages of a now long-deceased but legendary boxing magazine.
I next ‘came to’ at about 4.50am with a start – at first I thought perfectly in time for the Fury-Wilder action – but then discovered a series of unwelcome facts.
The first was that Dotun handed over to the next Radio Five Live programme – coming from Broadcasting House or wherever, and what I’d describe as ‘standard Radio Five Sunday morning fodder – and not (as I’d expected) the dulcet tones of the high-tension but always compelling commentary team of Mike Costello and Steve Bunce – but a newsreader announcing that the Big Fight had just ended after seven rounds with a stunning technical knockout in favour of the Gypsy King.
It turned out that Radio Five Live must have lost out in securing the radio broadcasting rights to the fight in a clash with Talk Sport, whose radio frequency I am unfamiliar with.
Lastly to Sunday afternoon where – having strapped myself into my favourite armchair with a cup of tea and two toasted hot cross buns and turned up the volume on my quadraphonic sound-system to the equivalent of Spinal Tap’s famous heavy-duty concert speakers’ control knob that goes up to “11” instead of “10” – I was able to watch but eighteen minutes of the first half of ITV’s coverage of the England v Ireland clash at Twickenham.
What happened was this. At that point the entire TV screen suddenly dissolved into a heaving mass of multi-coloured rectangular blocks that “snowed” frenetically. At first I thought it was a joke – or a rogue camera at the ground – but then the accompanying match commentary began sounding as if it was coming from a broadcasting booth about five leagues beneath the surface of the Atlantic Ocean off one of the Canary Islands.
Frenzied ‘trial and error’ diagnosis techniques on my part then identified that It wasn’t a case of just a rogue camera – or even a rogue ITV broadcast – at all. Every single Virgin Media cable television standard was pumping out similar dancing, multi-coloured and hazy blocks.
It transpired later that the Virgin Media service to the entire south-west of London area had succumbed to one or more gremlins for a period that the Daily Mail website later confirmed was five hours.
As a result I missed the next fifty minutes of the England v Ireland match … and only managed to watch the last ten minutes of the game on the tiny screen of a borrowed iPhone 8 which contained an ITV App that was broadcasting the live ITV feed which itself was working perfectly normally.
I learned later from friends that the game – effectively over by half-time at which point England were 17-0 to the good and also out of sight – took place in front of a strangely subdued but sold-out crowd.
The lesson? Great sporting occasions – and great sports-watching moments – only transpire when two evenly-matched contestants or teams lock horns with the outcome hopefully uncertain throughout until the final knockings.
Watching Italy play (and lose by 40 point in their first outing) in the 2020 Six Nations is neither great rugby nor a great watching experience – in fact, it fundamentally detracts from the competition’s reputation at a time when it is being marketed as the supposedly the greatest rugby tournament in the world and the next round of negotiating the broadcasting rights is already on the horizon.
That one of the glories of sport isn’t it? You can do all the planning and preparation you want – the fans included as they look forward to the next instalment – but, on the day and in all the circumstances including the weather, you never quite know whether it’s going to be sensational … or a desperately disappointing anti-climax.