TWO hours before kick-off, the BBC Sportscene team took to the airwaves and began weighing the odds of green and white colours garlanding the cup by the end of the afternoon. Pretty likely, they decided unanimously.
It all started with a sombre voice-over spouting pretentious nonsense about defeat being etched like scars on the skin and the world stopping this day.
Cut to the avuncular Rob Maclean in the glass box overlooking an empty Hampden promising, or threatening, two hours of big-match build-up which turned out to the televisual equivalent of keepie-up as they ran through their checklist of items.
Dink – Celtic desperate for double.
Dink – Hibs are last year’s losing finalists.
Head – Wanyama doesn’t play.
Head – Griffiths does.
Dink – unsteady video shots of goals from early rounds.
Dink – team buses arriving.
Dink – tracksuited players on pitch dancing to private music.
The collar and tie experts in the box had been chosen for their ‘been there, done it’ gravitas: a line-up of Gary Caldwell (ex-Hibs and Celtic – tick), John Hartson (ex-Celtic – tick) and Pat Nevin (childhood Hoops fan turned Hibee in later life – tick).
They chipped in occasionally with their green-tinged empathy, balanced prejudices, and instantly forgettable comments. The gist was that Celtic were favourites but Hibs might swing it if they got lucky.
Out in the stadium Liam McLeod and summariser Billy Dodds (ex-Rangers and others so just about tolerated)introduced themselves and retreated behind the microphone, perhaps to hide from more pretentious guff, including Shakespearean quotes in Nairn and Sean Connery references at Bonnyrigg Rose.
Outside Hampden, the celebrity count began with a Hibs-supporting Proclaimer announcing his other half was too nervous to come to the game but that Hibs would win if Celtic didn’t.
Next up was a Celtic-minded Susan Boyle betraying a total lack of knowledge about football in an ad hoc interview that couldn’t end quickly enough.
Half an hour to kick-off and Sky joined in with a portentous introduction about Hibs trying to shake off the historic mantle of cup losers. Then came a musical backdrop to a quick Leigh Griffiths Hibee biopic balanced by a pre-packaged interview with ex-Celtic legend Henrik Larsson.
Then Sky celebrity watch offered a quick glimpse of Hibs supporter and Hollywood star Dougray Scott in the crowd. Celtic-daft Rod Stewart couldn’t make it but he was there in spirit, in the adverts for his new album.
In Sky’s glass box David Tanner had only two experts to juggle as the stadium filled up behind them: John Collins (ex-Hibs and Celtic – tick) and Neil McCann (ex-Hearts and Rangers – just about tolerated). Behind the microphone Ian Crocker and summariser Andy Walker (ex-Celtic – tick) provided the footballing wisdom.
Sky’s experts concurred with the BBC team that Celtic had the momentum but Hibs could rise to the occasion as they had failed to do when contesting nine previous finals in the last 111 years.
But Hibs didn’t even get off the ground when the serious stuff started and they went two down. Both match commentators strained their vocal cords to herald the goals, but these were the only blips on the blood pressure meter. Both summarisers agreed it looked bleak for Hibs.
You got a little hint of how it was panning out from regular cutaway shots of the managers: Celtic’s Neil Lennon smugly impassive and Hibs’ Pat Fenlon ready to burst into tears.
In between the commentators calmly laid breadcrumb trails of facts and stats, carefully rationed so they would last the full 90 minutes.
At half-time the message from the experts was that Celtic were now even stronger favourites. The cup sponsors wouldn’t be taking many bets on a dramatic turnaround with Hibs destined for the dustbin, not the trophy cabinet, of history.
By full time the facts and stats had been exhausted, the commentators’ forced enthusiasm drained, and the experts proved right. Celtic celebrations were duly documented by BBC and Sky and filed away for future reference. Hibs’ desolation was a private affair, hidden away in the dressing room as post match keepie-up took the form of Celtic players echoing each other in describing how great it all was.
Neil Lennon, a little more smug and a little less impassive, went in front of the cameras to praise his double-winning team and be magnanimous in victory. “How do you better this,” he was asked. “Good question,” he replied.
Pat Fenlon, a little closer to tears of frustration, was finally hunted down by Sky to close their programme. “The better team won the game,” he said. “No argument.”