A Busy Weekend of Sports: In Need of Review

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’s ESPN’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.

15 thoughts on “A Busy Weekend of Sports: In Need of Review

  1. strange thing during the rain delay in Montreal, TSN was showing different (presumably live) images of the rainy racecourse but the audio was of an old race

    • What happened was BBC was showing highlights from earlier in the race (hence the audio of motors running etc.), but TSN only had access to the international feed pictures. It happens occasionally when TSN uses the BBC feed, especially during delays.

  2. I agree with you about Alan Ashby. He is absolutely great as an analyst with Buck. Both of them were Major League catchers and that makes them work together very nicely. I almost prefer him working with Buck over Pat Tabler. Ashby’s play-by-play, as you pointed out, is terrible. That being said, I think he is much better than last year’s fill-in play-by-play guy, Sam Cosentino

    • I have to disagree with you guys on Alan Ashby, although part of it might be because I listen to him regularly on radio. He usually does the play-by-play of the 3rd, 4th and 7th innings (and the 10th if necessary), and I find him quite pleasant to listen to. I also watched most of Saturday’s game against the Red Sox, and thought he did just fine calling that game. He has a good voice and vocabulary. Perhaps his problem is not recognizing that on TV he can let the pictures tell the story. He also doesn’t have a color commentator on radio – Jerry Howarth or Mike Wilner sometimes lurks in the background, adding a comment here and there, and sometimes Alan is essentially on his own. On TV, he may feel that he needs to give Pat Tabler equal time on air – hence the silly questions.

      I must have odd opinions on the Jays broadcasters – I think I’m the only one who absolutely cannot stand Gregg Zaun during the game. Putting him and Jerry together on radio just doesn’t work. Give Gregg his minute in the Blackberry Booth every few innings, that is plenty for me.

      • “Perhaps his problem is not recognizing that on TV he can let the pictures tell the story.”
        I think this is exactly his problem (or at least part of it). He calls a game on TV as if he is calling it on radio.

        I’m not a huge fan of Gregg as a booth analyst either. I think he does better in studio, much like Campbell does.

        It will be a shame if Sportsnet doesn’t use Jamie Campbell as their main host for the 2012 Olympics in London IMO.

        • I wonder what will happen with Jays coverage during the Olympics. They can certainly put the games on Sportsnet One, and if Jamie Campbell does go to London, you either bring in a freelancer or one of the Sportsnet Connected hosts to host Jays coverage during that stretch or maybe just get Buck and Pat (or whoever is calling the games next year) to double as game hosts.

  3. The only good thing about CBC’s NHL coverage is their picture. & to say that those 3 have done a superb job must mean you are: A. a Canuck fan
    B. a Canadian
    C. a derogatory term

    I’d like to see TSN get a shot. At least Pierre analyzes the game in an unbiased way.

    • I’m not a Canucks fan, in fact I hate them. I don’t know a single Canucks fan who likes Simpson, so not sure where you’re coming from there.

      You may very well see CTV (with a TSN production) get a shot by a few years down the road when CBC’s contract runs out. As long as they use Cuthbert and not Miller on the Final, then I’d be more than fine with that.

  4. I’d actually prefer to see CBC retain Saturday Night/OTA rights, but it would be great if Saturday had main games (7 & 10) on CTV, and any 7PM regional games on TSN and TSN2.

  5. What do you have against Vancouver? They are a very good team and I would cheer for them over Boston any day. Boston is a hack and whack team and gets breaks. The league obviously wants boston to win from the way the game is called by the refs.

    • I don’t really like Boston either. Boston is Original Six, and there is still something special about an Original Six team winning the Cup. I’d say Boston is a talented team. Just look at the depth up front. Scoring 4 goals in 9 minutes isn’t getting breaks. That’s nothing against Vancouver’s talent, they are deep too.

      As someone who has sat through the NHL playoffs as a complete neutral (I like Ottawa and Colorado), I don’t buy that the refs are trying to make one team win. I didn’t buy it all playoffs and I certainly don’t buy it in the Final.

  6. As a Boston fan I can’t watch CBC during actual play. With Jim Hughson as play by play. Said in a blog post, he’s for the Canucks but it’s to be expected. He’s from BC, called their games for years so it be weird if he wasn’t for Vancouver. I don’t hold it against him like some who rant about “CBC being for Vancouver”. It is the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. Plus we have Don Cherry/Milbury obviously on our side.

    I wouldn’t expect Habs fans to watch NESN Jack Edwards call games either. LOL. Jack is even a bit too much for me.

  7. Don’t you think the Boychuk hit on Raymond deserved a penalty and suspension??? He pile drived Raymonds head into the boards. The hit was just as bad or worse than the Rome hit which ended up with a 4 game suspension. And you say the league doesn’t want Boston to win??? It is very obvious to me that the league through the referees that they want the Bruins to win the cup. After watching this final I don’t know if I can watch a Bettman run league again.

    • I don’t think it was quite as bad as the Rome hit. The Rome hit was open ice and an obvious blindside hit to the head. It reminded me of the hit Scott Stevens laid on Eric Lindros a few years back (well 10 years back now I think). I thought that was one of the dirtiest hits I’ve ever seen and the Rome hit was almost as bad.

      The Boychuk hit, on the other hand, was a bit of bad luck. Raymond tripped a bit and ended up in a really awkward position. I think Boychuk should have got 5 (for boarding), 10 minute misconduct and a game misconduct, but I think think it was a suspend-able offence.

      I honestly think Vancouver fans are looking for someone else to blame for their team that plays like crap on the road. Here is the penalty breakdown by game (not including all of the fighting majors and 10 minute misconducts)

      1 – 7 for BOS; 5 for VAN
      2 – 2 for BOS; 3 for VAN
      3 – 9 for BOS; 7 for VAN
      4 – 10 for BOS; 8 for VAN
      5 – 3 for BOS; 5 for VAN
      6 – 8 for BOS; 7 for VAN

      So please don’t say that the refs have been biased towards Boston. Vancouver has had plenty of powerplay chances.

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