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Sky’s the limit in the dizzying drama of Survival Sunday

When all Sundays are "super" and every encounter is a "showdown", lesser broadcasters would struggle to know where to go next. Not so Sky Sports, which always sells the next 90 minutes of football as if they were the last.

In years to come, media studies students will refer to this as "Bryan Adams syndrome", named after that high-intensity Canadian singer-songwriter - all climax and no crescendo.

Sky has been doing its stuff for two decades now, and though its metaphorical vocal cords may be stretched and strained, it will always reach for the big notes, however ill-suited to the moment. So the lack of meaningful games at the top of the Premier League was never going to ruin the last weekend of the season.

The three-headed "race for the title" graphics had to be packed away on 8 May ("Hat-Trick Sunday", since you ask). Instead, on 22 May, we had a five-headed "Survival Sunday", the more common "Super Sunday" having morphed into a similarly alliterative relegation battle, in which five teams could go down and only three would survive. Move over, Ferguson, Ancelotti and Wenger; step forward, Martínez, Holloway, McLeish, McCarthy and Kean.

In the event, Survival Sunday almost lived up to the billing: four of the five teams involved changed positions 14 times in total during the course of the afternoon. It was dramatic stuff.

Sensory blitzkrieg

By now, the choreography of relegation is familiar and Sky's coverage is well honed - the manager, anxious and impotent, shouting unheeded instructions; the fan in the crowd, face contorted, clasping a mobile phone or portable radio to an ear (the age of the smartphone has added "the iPhone/BlackBerry glance and grimace" to the gallery of images); the dislocated cheers as results come in from elsewhere; the tears on the faces of those relegated; the suits of surviving managers, soaked in the spray of a dozen Lucozade-branded water bottles.

With Richard Keys and Andy Gray disgraced and departed, it was up to the identikit presenter Sky Bloke (I forget his name) to crank up the tension before kick-off. Inevitably, there was a riff on Charles Darwin, in case we were struggling to grasp the theme of the day. A Shakespearean actor was on hand (again, inevitably) to provide the words - "survival of the fittest", "fear", "fight" - that floated over a black-and-white montage.

Then, in what felt at the time like a handbrake turn, we were invited to go "behind the red button" for Spurs v Birmingham City. Could we resist such delights? Not in my household. What we found was a dizzying visual concoction, the likes of which will be familiar to viewers of CNBC, Bloomberg and other business channels, where share prices, Standard & Poor's downgrades and well-groomed presenters compete for attention.

On offer was the opportunity to keep an eye on all the results as they came in: to wonder at a league table that updated automatically according to the latest scores and watch three games at once. It was information overload in high definition.

As it turned out, Sky was felled by its own sensory blitzkrieg. When Blackpool equalised against Man United late in the first half, the "As it stands" league table insisted incorrectly that Blackpool, and not the Wolves, were heading for the Championship at that moment. The table was removed.

But this interactive chaos had an upside. It meant that we could avoid listening to Ray Wilkins, the co-commentator at Old Trafford. Wilkins: nice guy, terrible summariser. But that's unfair. He's a great summariser, if you're after someone to précis the action you've just seen - a verbal action replay.

The problem with Wilkins is that he's all chumminess ("Scholesy", never Scholes) and a master of the bleeding obvious ("Got to be careful, Blackpool. They don't want to lose too many goals too early") when what you crave is a bit of insight and some biting criticism.

Meanwhile, out on the terraces, one set of fans sang "You're not secret any more" at a superinjunction-possessing footballer. Now, that's biting.

Hunter Davies returns in August.

Jon Bernstein, former deputy editor of New Statesman, is a digital strategist and editor. He tweets @Jon_Bernstein.