The Sky Sports Creative Process
"Maureen? Let's get some coffee in here, it's gonna be a long night!" barked Ed Stokes, fearsome head of Sky Sports' crack marketing department, at his long-suffering, but devoted secretary.
"Certainly Mr Stokes. You must be busy, what with the top four teams in the Premiership playing each other this weekend and you boys having to come up with a catchy yet sufficiently portentous tag-name for it all."
"That's all, Maureen. Make it snappy with that coffee!.....Right fellas," Stokes sneered, surveying Tristan, Clive and Dean, his trusted triumvirate of 'ideas-men'; the three-pronged imagineers with whom he had conceived Showdown Sunday, Judgment Day, Day of Vengeance, Clash of the Titans and many more of the triumphs which had earned him a place on the Big Man's Christmas card list.
Keep creating the dreams of a nation,
From Rupert and Wendy.
Mid-January and the card still sat on his desk, obscuring the photo of his unsmiling son, Ben, who was obscured from his father in real life by the terms of a harsh custody settlement with his former wife.
"Fellas, we need something big...really big. Liverpool and Chelsea, Arsenal and United. It's the weekend we were born to market. Dazzle me, or clear out your desk!"
Clive coughed and leaned forward on the leather-upholstered sofa, nervously opening a folder which had been hitherto clutched to his chest. "Well, with the whole Rocky thing being very now, I thought we might go with a classic play on boxing. Something like "Battle of the Heavyweights", or "Big Four Knockout Weekend."
It was poor, and Clive knew it. But he'd had rubbish like Showdown Sunday accepted before and knew, when all else failed, that a boxing theme was a failsafe to impress Stokes.
"Clive, do I look like a field of potatoes?"
"Er, no boss," trembled the underling.
"THEN WHY ARE YOU SHOVELLING MANURE ON TOP OF ME!!" Stokes screamed, blowing over the Big Man's Christmas card with his spittle. He quickly re-erected it before fixing Clive with a furious glare.
"Tristan - make it good, or make it your death warrant!"
"Clearly, boss, we need to ratchet up the intensity for this weekend. We need to charge into the second half of the season with all guns blazing - and we've got to steal back the thunder from CBB and that racism angle they're working. It's bloody genius." Tristan spoke confidently, knowing that talking the talk washed big time with Stokes.
"Deathmatch Doubleheader," he whispered menacingly, after an unbearable, pregnant pause.
Stokes' features softened. "It's good, Tristan, it's good." By this point he'd wandered around to their side of the desk, and he accompanied his judgement by grabbing Tristan's face paternally and staring at him intently.
"Deathmatch Doubleheader." He turned and aggressively scrawled the words on the flip chart in the corner of the room. Stokes stared at the words as if transfixed by their power. But after a few moments he began to slowly shake his head, then ever more quickly.
"No, no, no, no...." he said, first in a whisper, progressing to a growl. "No! It's been done!" He wheeled around and fixed his footsoldiers with a thousand-yard stare, looking beyond them and back into his own ragged soul.
"Norwich City v Ipswich/Middlesbrough v Sunderland, Sunday 4th February 1998." He spew out the words as if possessed, or in a trance. Then he turned his head towards Tristan and snarled: "I don't mind you stealing my average stuff. But don't ever, ever touch my best work!"
Dean was hot right now. He'd been seconded to the darts recently and had gotten serious kudos for the Taylor/Barney final.
"Boss, seems to me we're looking for the right woodlouse under the wrong stone." He smirked at the cleverness of his metaphor.
"How so?" replied Stokes.
"We're looking for explosions when the powder's damp." The others looked at each other, and then at Dean, confusion reigning.
"Spit it out or get out, Dean," said Stokes impatiently.
"Four-play!" exclaimed Dean, his hands thrust in the air and his eyes wide as if in evangelical ecstasy.
"Jesus Christ Dean, do you think we're gonna get Richard Keys to say 'Four-play' every five minutes on the telly. Don't get me wrong, I like your moxy. But Keys is a stiff - he'll never go for it," Stokes said sadly.
Just then Maureen knocked on the door. "Now boys. Coffee and some of my home-made fairy-cakes for the hard-working lads. Have you come up with anything yet?"
"Coffee over here. Just leave the rest over there Maureen, that'll be all," Stokes said dismissively, grabbing a cup.
"Oh it must be so hard, such a big important weekend," Maureen continued. "The top four teams playing each other on the one weekend - amazing! It's like, what do you call it, a Grand Slam weekend for the football isn't it?"
The four men looked at each other. Stokes' grip on his cup loosened involuntarily, and it tumbled onto the desk, knocking over the Christmas card from the Big Man and drenching it in hot, brown liquid.
Grand Slam weekend.
Stokes gathered himself.
"Clean that up, will you Maureen."