It has been a very busy first 12 days of June in the world of sports. The start of the month has been chalk full of major sports events and new sports broadcasts. Here is my rundown of the month so far, in particular the past few days.
- IndyCar had a very good idea in having back-to-back half distance races at Texas last night. The only problem was the execution. After the first race, there was a draw for starting positions for the second race. This process took over a half an hour. Even though I’m a huge IndyCar fan, I simply lost interest and went to bed between races. Had there been one race, I wouldn’t have even considered it. A suggestion for next year, have the draw during the pre-race show and make it a bit quicker.
- Also on Saturday, 2011 Indianapolis 500 champion Dan Wheldon made his commentary debut on Versus. He was filling in for Wally Dallenbach who was busy with NASCAR on TNT duties in Pocono. I thought Wheldon did spectacular considering it was his first crack at commentary. Wheldon also brought in a sense of humour when Wade Cunningham crashed his Indy 500 winning car during the first race. He seemed to stay unbiased and had a good inside view of what the drivers thought on issues.
- The Formula 1 Grand Prix du Montreal took place earlier today. I was fairly vocal of what I thought of TSN’s coverage (or lack-there-of) last week. However, based on the coverage they did air, they did a good job. For the most part commercial breaks were kept to a minimum and were inserted at good times. Of course this was easy since more than half of the four hour broadcast was spent under red flag conditions or behind the safety car. Fox also deserves credit for sticking with the broadcast past 3pm ET, instead of moving it to Speed.
- BBC’s Martin Brundle and David Coulthard had the impossible job of keeping viewers entertained for 2, commercial free, hours of the rain delay in Montreal. For the most part they did a good job. The broadcast did hit a low when David asked Martin if he knew that “racecar” is spelled the same way frontwards and backwards.
- TSN was also stuck with the impossible situation of having its coverage of the big England-Spain game at the 2011 UEFA Under-21 Championship delayed due to the Formula 1 race running over two hours long. I don’t think they made the right decision by delaying such a big game to midnight ET, while only showing the 2nd half this afternoon. I would have replaced the Ukraine-Czech Republic match at 6pm ET on TSN2 with the England-Spain affair. Then they should have aired Ukraine-Czech Republic at midnight on TSN.
- And that leads to my next point. TSN has almost grown to the point again where they have too many broadcast properties. This was first an issue a few years back when NASCAR fans constantly bickered with IndyCar fans, while soccer fans bickered with tennis fans about what sports should be shown live, and which ones should be forced into late night oblivion. The creation of TSN2 alleviated these concerns from all sides and fans of all sports have co-existed in peace for the past few years. However, now TSN is slowly starting to run out of space again. Fans might benefit from an online version of TSN, much like ESPN3.com in the States.
- TSN has tapped Nigel Reed to cover the UEFA Under-21 Championship. Reed, a regular in the past on CBC’s MLS coverage, has now appeared on CBC, Sportsnet and TSN this year, along with a weekly radio show on The Fan 590. He may no longer have full time employment, but he is certainly keeping busy.
- While Reed may not be the best football commentator in the world, he much better than the alternative: the UEFA provided commentary feed. Anyone who has heard Tim White or John Bradley (who called the games on Saturday for the international feed), knows what I’m talking about.
- TSN will produce a pair of MLS doubleheaders in July. The first on July 6 and the second on July 20. Luke Wileman and Jason de Vos will obviously be one of the commentary crews. At least half of the secondary crew is now known; former Canadian National Team coach Dale Mitchell should be the analyst. Either Nigel Reed or Vic Rauter could join him in the booth.
- The newest edition to Sportsnet’s Blue Jays broadcast crew has brought some good and bad. Alan Ashby is a very good analyst and I thought he worked well with Buck Martinez during the Blue Jays-Royals series. On the other hand, he is a terrible play-by-play. Watching the Red Sox-Blue Jays game yesterday was grating. He asks unclear questions of his analyst – there were multiple times where Tabler had to ask him to clarify what he was talking about – and he talks too much in general. Baseball is a game that can tell its own story. There is no need to fill every second with chatter.
- Amazingly, I have been turned back to CBC’s coverage of the Stanley Cup Finals. I can’t really pinpoint whether their coverage has been better this year than in the past, or if NBC’s has been worse. I think it is probably a combination of the two. Jim Hughson and Craig Simpson have been superb. Glenn Healy has been better than usual (maybe the right word would be, not as grumpy) and Don Cherry has (surprisingly) made some good points. And, of course, nobody can beat the pre-game atmosphere that CBC creates. They let the game tell the story. Meanwhile, NBC has tried to create storylines that aren’t there (ex. USA vs. Canada) and Mike Milbury has referred to the Bruins as “we”.
ABC’sESPN’s coverage of the NBA Finals has been okay. Mike Breen and Magic Johnson continue to be bright spots. It is also nice to see Stuart Scott, who is battling cancer, working these broadcasts. Otherwise, ABC’s coverage continues to lack behind NBC’s coverage from 10 years ago and TNT’s current coverage.
- Also over at ESPN, #1 analyst Mark Jackson has been hired by the Golden State Warriors to be their head coach next season. ESPN will have a couple of choices of what to do with the top team. One choice would be to leave it as a two-man booth with Breen and Jeff van Gundy. Another would be to throw Hubie Brown on the Breen/van Gundy team. Personally, I’d take van Gundy off the top team and have Breen/Hubie work the big games, with Mike Tirico and van Gundy working as the secondary crew.