Column: Hey, BBC...Quit milking the FA Cup

Despair for Owls - no magic of the Cup for Lucas Joao
Despair for Owls - no magic of the Cup for Lucas Joao

It’s the FA Cup, anything could happen…

Yes it could, especially when anything includes the BBC’s cheapening of the very competition it’s seeking to promote. ‘Yes but it’s the FA Cup!’ They bleat, as an underdog goal sends the marketing men into meltdown again.

‘It’s magical!’ they say in slightly preachy but reverential tones that mean: ‘If you don’t think it’s magical you are disrespecting one of football’s ‘great institutions’.

And to make absolutely sure we ALL know about the ‘mystery and magic’ of the Cup they break down that ‘magic’ into consumable chunks, expose its sleight of hand and ‘romance’ and wash them in broadcasting bleach for intimate inspection by all.

The easiest way to take the magic out of a magic trick is to:

A) Tell everyone that it’s going to be the best thing ever 500 times in advance.

B) Repeatedly try to pin-down and de-mystify the previously elusive thing that made it mysterious in the first place.

C) Only go on about how magical it is when your channel is covering it. It wasn’t nearly so magical on the BBC when ITV had it. Likewise on ITV now the BBC has coverage rights.

D) Make cringeworthy promotional videos milking the life out of a football ‘institution’ and then cry ‘shame’ when other people appear to be ‘devaluing’ that football institution. Then repeat ad infinitum.

There was real magic in watching the Cup Final as a kid with the curtains closed because the sunny day outside meant the black and white telly picture was only properly visible in a darkened room.

Heroes like Bobby Smith, Bobby Charlton, Bobby Moore, Bobby Hope, Bobby Stokes and Keith Houchen.

10am TV start, 6pm finish, a drink of milk (straight from the bottle like the players if your mum wasn’t watching) and out playing on the street with your mates. Definitely magical. But magic because it really was magic.

In our box-ticking, message-sending, market-trending, image-promoting world it has to be SEEN to be seen to be magical, which sort of undoes all the magic.

The FA Cup actually is magical through men like Charlie George, Ray Crawford, Chris Waddle, Alan Cork, Roy Essandoh, Ben Watson, Jon Stead and a thousand others.

But the more the BBC’s FA Cup meta-magic tries to conjure up real magic the weaker the spell becomes.