For a sports fan there is no better time of year. In hockey the Stanley Cup playoffs, especially the first two rounds are as usual, a sight to behold. Need I mention the Memorial Cup and the world championships? The basketball playoffs are underway too. Baseball has started. Soccer is winding down in Europe, heating up in North America and the World Cup is on the horizon. The football drafts have just passed and fans are looking ahead to their favorite teams’ prospects in the upcoming season. Tiger is back patrolling the greens and fairways. Horse racing’s “triple crown” has begun. Heck even the lacrosse playoffs have started for those who are interested. I believe it can be described as a cornucopia of sports stories, events and action, certainly enough to more than fill the one hour sportscasts produced by TSN and Rogers’ Sportsnet.
Then why am I so turned off by both productions? I am a huge sports fan. As proof I offer up the fact that I still buy tickets to the Jays and the Argos. That should prove I am more than a fan, I’m a glutton for punishment. But I can no longer take most of the punishment dished out by Canada’s two biggest sports broadcasters.
Based on the great ratings and the huge profits TSN and Rogers’ Sportsnet are raking in I must be in the minority. Nevertheless, I cannot believe the viewers that are over 18-years-old are impressed with what is being aired. Yes, both networks are adept at producing highlights. Thankfully, at this time of the year there are plenty of those. I think they are what keep the fans tuning in. If I watched the hockey game, the baseball and basketball highlights give me an opportunity to see the best plays I missed and keep me up to date on scores and injuries.
What turns me off, though, among other things, are the incessant panels that fail to tell me anything new. Listening to the same guys drone on and on making the exact same points they made last October and have repeated ad nauseum throughout the hockey season is a waste of my time and I would hope a waste of your time to. Panels are a poor excuse for journalism. Opinions are interesting when they are fresh, when they tell me something I don’t know or haven’t heard, but when it boils down to predicting who will win the series, who will score the winning goal in overtime, and TSN’s ludicrous, “the quiz”, can anyone pretend there is any journalism or real value in what is being spouted?
The question all sports fans should be asking is: where is the journalism? Where are the reporters seeking out the stories? Where are the great stories about the interesting characters in the games? ABC’s Roone Arledge brought this concept to television more than 35 years ago. On any given day the sports sections of The Globe and Mail and The Toronto Star have more real stories and journalism than six months of SportsCentre on TSN. I understand that TSN is basically a highlights show, fine, but they claim to be a newscast too, so other than the recaps, where is the news? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, sports journalism is an oxymoron on television. The newspapers do a great job, The Fan radio and radio stations like it across the country, especially Bob McCown’s show, does a good job of trying to find the whys and wherefores. The print and radio guys actually try to speak to the sources, the people making the news. They get interviews and quotes from and with the newsmakers themselves. TSN and Rogers’ Sportsnet have panel discussions.
I hate the glib insider talk and repartee that passes for hosting at both networks. The hosts kid each other, they banter, they fill air space. The talk is seldom relevant, it’s supposed to pass for show business and it is almost always juvenile. Guys, when you kid each other about your Alberta roots or the losses of your favorite teams, I don’t care.
I’m not crazy about the fact that most TV sportcasters seem to think the hockey fights are as important as the goals scored and the results, Rogers’ Sportnet being the worst offender.
Finally, a particular pet peeve of mine. The hockey game goes into overtime. It ends at 10:14 pm. TSN begins SportsCentre at 10:17 with tease: “Can the Habs continue to roll against the dominant Caps? Can the Caps finally put away the upstart Habs?” Hello! Is there a single person who tuned to TSN at exactly10:17 just to watch the sports news? Hasn’t every single viewer seen the game winning goal in overtime? You look stupid when you treat the audience stupidly. I don’t know if is sheer laziness, you produced the opening an hour ago and you don’t want to change it, or you just don’t care. I suspect the former.
Sports news on television plays to teenage boys. Sure adults watch too, but I find it hard to believe they, the adults, are anything more than casual observers who don’t have anything else to watch until CTV news comes on at 11.