The third round of the FA Cup is like Christmas to me. There’s always a surprise or two that you never expect. Plus, I usually get up early in anticipation of the matches that are before me. And this year, it was great to see the added touch of snow across England to make the games more festive.
However, I’ve come to the realization that the third round of the tournament is best enjoyed not by watching television, but by listening to radio.
Let me explain why.
After the initial disappointment of the Bristol City against Cardiff game being postponed on Saturday morning, I ended up with two hours to spare to get into the FA Cup spirit, so the first place I went to was BBC Radio Five. It’s not often I get a chance to listen to Five Live anymore especially on matchdays when the broadcasts are blocked for listeners outside the United States, but since the early kickoff was postponed, the Beeb reported from all over England about the weather conditions, interviewed managers and chairmen and told us which other games were being postponed. Plus, we got to hear from legendary broadcaster Stuart Hall reporting from the DW Stadium in Wigan, and that’s always a pleasure.
With the build-up to the kick-off, I fell back in love with radio until the BBC cut the broadcast for international listeners, as they always do, when the 3pm local time matches kick off. No surprise there, but still frustrating.
So I began watching the two matches on television — Sunderland against Barrow on Setanta, and Middlesbrough versus Manchester City on Fox Soccer Channel. Despite an extremely impressive start from Barrow, who brought 7,000 jubilant supporters to the Stadium of Light, Sunderland took the lead in the first 15 minutes and it was only a matter of how many more goals would Sunderland score after that.
Watching the two matches, I had the sudden realization that this is not the optimal way to experience the third round of the FA Cup. The chances of an upset appearing in either the two games shown on television was slim. But the chances of an upset happening in one of the other games was much more.
So, I turned to TalkSport and listened to their commentary instead in the hopes of hearing about an upset from any of the FA Cup games throughout England. Reports came in from around the grounds in England. York City taking a shock lead against Stoke City. Carlisle equalized against Everton at Goodison Park. Middlesbrough were still 0-0 against Manchester City.
The spontaneity and excitement of hearing a goal going in via a radio report is so much better than watching a TV match of the FA Cup third round except when that TV match is the one with the upset. But it’s so rare to see FA Cup upsets live on television especially in the third round when there are simply so many games played at the same time.
As it turned out, the 3pm games in England didn’t generate any Premier League upsets. There’s still hope in the remaining games from the weekend that a shock may happen, but we’ll have to wait and see what happens.
For me, I’ll continue to watch the FA Cup matches on television but when the third round comes around again, I’ll be listening more intently to the radio. Maybe even the fourth round, too.