Deadline Day... and Paddy was all across it
'We're right across the story," said the Sky Sports man on Transfer Deadline Day. "We're right across every story."
Hold it there. I think we can officially declare a new entry in the dictionary of corporate babble.
In its original form this word "across" has existed for a very long time, and it has served us well. It has had a clear meaning, best illustrated by the image of someone "walking across the road" – a child could understand that, indeed it is very important for a child to understand that, as soon as possible.
But by that fascinating process which is becoming so familiar to us, we have been hearing it used more and more in a different way, mainly by members of the executive class. They sort of take a fancy to some word or phrase, and they stalk it for a while, and then they just make off with it to the Land of Eternal Bullshit.
Of course they already had words which did the job perfectly well, but being the kind of guys they are, they had to have another one.
Until recently, they would say that they were "on top of the situation", or that "the matter was in hand", or "we're covering it", or perhaps simply, "we're doing it". But that wasn't good enough for them.
So now they're "across" it. At first, just one or two of them were "across" it. You'd hear them, perhaps on the Morning Ireland business report, reassuring their shareholders about all the things that they were "across". And soon, like Hitchcock's The Birds, it was everywhere. And everyone was across everything.
As always, it's got to have something to do with sex. While being "on top of the situation" had an obvious connotation in this regard, being "across" it sounds somehow more extravagant – it suggests a kind of a sprawling action, and it seems to involve more than one manoeuvre. But it also has that certain vagueness which is so pleasing to the corporate mind. They could just say that they're doing it, they're going to do it, it will be done. But when they say they're across it ... .well, that doesn't sound so definite does it? There's a kind of a fuzziness there.
In fact it could mean nothing at all, it could just be noise. And so they love it.
Who knows exactly where these things start?
Wherever it was, it can't have been too far away from the studios of Sky Sports News, on Transfer Deadline Day.
When there's nothing much happening, for a long time, and they need to give the impression that everything is happening, right now, it is then that they are not just "across" every story, they are "right across" it.
And sitting there next to the business-end presenters Jim White and Natalie Sawyer, right across everything that Sky was across, were Niall Quinn and Darragh MacAnthony, a young man with a Dublin accent who is chairman of Peterborough Utd.
It was a night for Paddy to be proud. Always, we worry about what other people think of us, especially now that we've been downgraded somewhat in terms of our executive prowess.
Yet here on Sky, on their big-swinging-wonga night of the year, they brought in Quinny and they brought in MacAnthony. With the clock running down towards closing time, they looked to Paddy to take it home.
And take it home he did. There was an anxious moment when MacAnthony, a man less accustomed to these top, top, top studios than Quinny, used the word "birds" to describe women.
Not a grave offence, you might think, yet Sky has this terrible prissiness about it, the fake morality of the executive washroom that comes alive whenever a streaker – "some idiot" – enters the arena, or one of their reporters is engulfed in fans making rude gestures. Earlier one such crowd of scamps had been condemned by a Sky presenter as "an unruly mob", and she apologised profusely for any offence they had caused.
So for a terrible moment I wondered if "birds" was now on some list of proscribed words, if they were going to apologise for MacAnthony's little indiscretion, taking all the good out of it for him, and for Paddy as a whole.
But the moment passed – Mezut Ozil was being sold, and they were right across it.