Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Pass on the Dutchie (and the Hedger too)

It might be a little early in the season for this rant, but we'll launch into it nevertheless.

Last night, as we settled down for our evening slumber, we flipped on the tube and headed up to the 400's on our digital dial to see if we could catch some baseball highlights. What we encountered was the following: Hockeycentral, Hockeycentral, blacked out hockey game, blacked out hockey game, Sportscentre and WWE Raw.

(Oh, and in case you were needing to find out which half of the NHL teams are going to the playoffs, you could always check in the 24-hour hockey channel, the NHL Network. But we'll come back to that point in a moment.)

Left with little other choice, we sat through a good twenty minutes of Sportscentre, or roughly just short of the amount of time that it would take for our head to explode as a result of watching TSN's signature clipdown.

Look, we get it. Canadians love hockey, and they just can't possibly get enough of it. That's fine. We can live with that. But what kills us is the way that the sports channels in Canada deal with baseball. You're lucky if you get more than a handful of games in the run of a show, and most of them are cut into 45 second packs that remove everything except for a scoring play, a strikeout and an error and give you little or no sense of what actually happened in the game.

Frankly, a meaningless scripted punch-up between two palookas who toil on the fourth lines of NHL teams gets more screen time than most ball games. And of course, we always get the full analysis of said fight from the Hedger-o-Matic Fight Highlight Script Generator:

"The two heavyweights square off...Palooka gets in a couple of solid rights before Jabroni gets back into it...We'll give the decision to Palooka, and that scrap inspires his team..."

And of course, you have to throw from this nonsense over to the panel of a half dozen hockey analysts and "insiders", who fill the air with so much blah-blah-blah, ultimately signifying nothing.

So fine. If TSN and Sportsnet and the Score and everyone else feels this is the only way that they can continue to sell putrid beer and pickup trucks to the throngs of latent homosexual hockey fans, then so be it. But how about an option for those of us who want to see some in-depth coverage of baseball? How about something for those of us who want to see what's going on around the Majors, along with some real honest to goodness analysis?

Of course, there is the promise that some time in the future, we might possibly get the MLB Network, or Rogers' Canadian version, the already licensed Baseball Channel. But given the current state of Canada's media industry and the dried up advertising resources, the chances of Rogers moving forward on a launch for their service seems remote, and unfortunately, the MLB Network won't get carried here until Rogers gives up on their license. That could literally take years.

And not that we want to be that guy who rails against the CRTC for denying us the pleasures of ESPN, but seriously, what we wouldn't give to sit down and watch Baseball Tonight. To our American readers, who are probably sick to death of listening to John Kruk's inanities on the World Wide Leader, you have no idea how much we envy you. Yours is truly a land of plenty.

Sadly, we have to come to grips with the fact that we'll have to wait until the Stanley Cup playoffs conclude sometime in mid-June before we get anything resembling actual baseball coverage in Canada. Groan.

A few quick thoughts on last night's game come-from-behind barnburner
-It's interesting to watch Scott Rolen dig in with his subtly tweaked batting stance. He looks a bit more upright in the box, and seems to be getting to the ball as quickly as ever, as evidenced by his eighth inning blast last night. Now if only we could dissuade him from the Coldplay entrance music.

-We keep waiting for Aaron Hill to show signs of...well, something less than good. Thankfully, he has looked great in the field (notwithstanding last night's botched tag play), and he's hitting the ball as hard as he did in his 47-double 2007 campaign.

-When B.J. Ryan struck out Marcus Thames in the ninth last night, Jerry Howarth made the call that he threw a "country fastball" by the Tigers' DH. We're not exactly sure what a country fastball is, but we like the sound of it. And if for the Beej, a country fastball is one that comes close to 90 MPH, then all the better.


Layth said...

That might be the best rant yet!

I enjoy hockey just as much as the next average Canadian but seriously enough is enough. Show a little love for Baseball now.

Wiffleballs said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wiffleballs said...

Tao, I feel your angst. Last night I missed all but the last inning of the ballgame and tried to see the highlights on Sporstnet Connected. It took about 25 minutes to get to any baseball highlights, and then they showed Ryan Dempster's start for the Cubs first and made a big deal of him bowing out of pitching for Team Canada. THEN, they showed Jays highlights, interspersed with several condescending remarks ending with a sarcastic statement along the lines of: "In all of sports the walkoff sac fly has got to be one of the more exciting plays of all."

Look, I understand that they are playing to a percieved endless hockey audience, but for #^CK sakes can they stop patronizing baseball fans? I sent a similar rant to Wilner's blog last night, but it may have been too colourful for him to post it.

Tao of Stieb said...

Yeah, on TSN this morning, there was a lot of "Hey look! There's a Canadian pitching" tomfoolery between Bedard and Dempster.

Then again, we've got a bit of a soft spot for Jay Onrait's particular brand of tomfoolery, if only because he drives overly serious sports fans batty.

(Message to Onrait: More monkeyshines please!)

Anonymous said...

go to youtube for a video of jennifer hedger french kissing another lady. lots of tongue and very hot.

Navin Vaswani (@eyebleaf) said...

It's never too early for a rant. As a die-hard Leafs fan, even I was searching for Jays highlights.

And which Coldplay track is Rolen coming out too?

Tao of Stieb said...

Viva La Vida. Not their greatest moment.

We're going to have a longer post sometime soon about best and worst entrance music, so any suggestions are welcome.

stonedog said...

I was in southern Indiana recently, and I found to my astonishment that on basic cable down there was a sports channel dedicated to the Big Ten Conference. That's it. The Big Ten and nothing else. On basic fucking cable.

Yet Canada can't have a frigging baseball-only channel. I love hockey, but sometimes I hate it, too. For the reasons Tao has so eloquently stated. Sometimes I think the NFL gets better coverage up here than baseball. I wish at least the Score would man up and dedicate some real time for some baseball highlights - I mean, they're supposed to be a highlights channel, for Christ's sake. Would it kill them to give us a little more than the standard 45 second pathetic recap?

dave said...

The rally last night was just so sweet against my cynicism. I'm all "Pennant!" with everyone else but after the home opener the thought in the back of my mind was "well, tomorrow they'll probably get one." And then they had none.

But sweet sweet Aaron Hill came through.

The Ack said...

The best part of business trips to the US (from April to October) is most definitely Baseball Tonight after a long day slugging it out in the (corporate) trenches. I'd watch that shit again in the morning too while munching breakfast and ironing a shirt.

Here? You might get the Jays highlights 25 minutes into Sportscentre (which is usually running late because the hockey game went into OT).

I swear, TSN getting the rights to the fucking HNIC theme song garnered more play than the local nine. The home opener didn't even lead off the highlight package (at least not on Sportsnet).

Ian Hunter said...

I've heard Jerry say "country fastball" before. He mentioned it back in '07 or '08 when Accardo struck out somebody.

dave said...

A Highlight for you, Tao:

Maybe I'm just in a good mood but I didn't mind hearing the lame "Bring-him-home!" chant over and over. Amateur stuff like this is just fun.

Tao of Stieb said...

On our dial, we've got CBS College Sports TV, so that we can watch Division II women's handball...and yet, no MLB Net or CanCon version thereof.

We've got about four soccer channels, harness racing tomfoolery, ESPN Classic...

You know what's fun? Is seeing classic hockey games running simultaneously on the NHL Net and ESPN Classic.

Anonymous said...

I had the same experience yesterday. I was flipping the channels to find some baseball, maybe some Blue Jays action on Sportsnet... Hockey on East, black out in Ontario, blackout in that other sportsnet channel and who knows what in West.

But here's the thing that pisses me off: the blackout channels were blank. BLANK. THERE WAS NOTHING. I'm paying for literally nothing. Couldn't they have showed something? You know, it's sportscenter, the official Blue Jays broadcaster... I would've watched a Pirates game against the Royals gladly instead of a gray screen.

Torgen said...

Rolen comes to bat to a song with the lyric, "I used to rule the world"? That's a little on the nose, don't you think?

Tao of Stieb said...

To be fair to Sportsnet, they will be airing a ton of baseball starting next week, and making full use of the regional feeds to bring lots of non-Jays games.

But wouldn't it be kinda cool if they had a real baseball guy on staff, and they did either a pre-game or post-game Baseball Central show? Can you imagine if they actually put a few resources into it, and brought a guy like Dan Pleasac in as a studio analyst.

Pleasac is doing games for WGN, and is AWESOME. He would totally have the right vibe for the Canadian audience, and he's really smart about the game without sounding like a windbag.

Or how about a simulcast of Wilner?

Or airing the MLB Network studio show after Connected instead of poker.

Really, does anybody in the world need to see another minute of Bill Waters sweating through his makeup on Sportsnet? Cripes!

You see the ideas that we're just handing out for free to the execs?

Anonymous said...

Ya, I guess if the blackout grey screens don't repeat then it's not so bad.

I haven't seen Dan Pleasac as a broadcaster. Personally, I don't know how he is viewed, but I love me some Darren Fletcher in the broadcasting booth.

Maybe because he was both an Expos and a Blue Jays player that I'm fan? I don't know, I love listening to him.

Navin Vaswani (@eyebleaf) said...

Tao, I was thinking about a post re: entrance music as well. I got you covered when it comes to the hip hop.

Archi said...

I can't even believe I'm doing this, but:

To be fair to Sportsnet, in particular, It's a regional network. Last night, they aired a Leafs game, a Flames game, a Canucks game, AND a Sens game. There's a reason that hockey is coming first on the ledger: Nationwide, hockey draws much, much, much higher ratings. Also, there are about 4 games left in the NHL regular season. There are playoff races going on, and most of the games have implications based on where teams will finish and how matchups will look. To say that game 2 of a 162 should take priority is a touch short sighted. You're not taking into account the people across the country who do care how the Flames, Canucks, Habs, and other non-Maple Leaf teams are doing. Especially when its a baseball game that a) wasn't aired anywhere in Canada, and b) couldn't draw 15,000 people to the actual ballpark.

Finally, as for 'Sportsnet should hire a studio analyst and have a post-game show after the Jays games' all I can say to you is this: PLEASE EMAIL THE NETWORK WITH THIS IDEA. I've brought it up myself a couple of times,with people that matter, and here are the road blocks in the way.

- Who is a credible analyst that lives in Toronto?
- When does the show run, in contrast to the usual 10pm version of Connected?
- How can we possibly afford a new analyst, when they're paying the 45 members of the hockeycentral panel?

Now that I'm done wearing my Sportsnet hat, let me just say: I agree with you. I'd love a 24-hour baseball channel. If there ever is one based out of Canada, I am going to work there, end of story.

As you alluded to in your last comment: Just wait until Monday. Once the NHL regular season goes away, the only ticket Sportsnet is left holding is the one that brings you 100+ Jays games, 60+ Yankees and Red Sox games, 50+ Mariners games, Sunday night baseball, and usually any game that goes during the afternoon.

Just don't tune in at 11pm until the NHL is done with. That's hockeycentral's timeslot. I can't advise watching it without a 'suicide partner' to save you from yourself.

Plorgashborg said...

I love hockey as much as the next Canadian, but sometimes TSN can RSN can be too much. The Score is usually pretty decent with coverage of all sports, and even though they will lead off with hockey (and usually rightly so), they will soon show jays/raps highlights after the Canadian hockey teams. During an hour of their highlight show, you can also usually see highlights of every game that last longer than 30 seconds. I have the sports package, so I get every ball game live, and seeing ESPN put on a game is amazing especially with the fanfare of opening day. It's also interesting to see that after every game on a fox sports channel, there is a postgame show about the team that they're covering and from around the league. It sucks that we have to deal with RSN throwing it to their connected show (which is terrible anyways) as opposed to a hockeycentral type set about the MLB.

Also, best entrance music goes to Xavier Nady: "X gon give it to ya."

Archi said...

I believe Wilson Betemit sometimes used to come out to "Betterman" by Pearl Jam.

"We needed a double but he struck out, that's Wilson Betemit"

Anonymous said...

The score isn't as bad as the other stations, it at least showed them home opener before even the hockey updates, and there sports anchors don't want to make me slit my wrists listening to them fumble with every play.

Wow simulcast with Wilner would be amazing, you'd get to see the look of disbelief on his face when he deals with idiots every other call.

Tao of Stieb said...

Thanks for the insight Archimedes. Not blowing smoke here, but we were actually thinking about what you would have to say about this as we wrote the post.

And it is true that once the last of the regional hockey telecasts are done, there's going to be plenty of baseball on Sportsnet. Frankly, there's more than we can fit into our schedule.

The roadblocks you mention are raised are, in fact, reasonable. But they are not insurmountable, especially if the network saw a way for themselves to corner a niche.

And look: The baseball numbers were UP for the opener! How many other sports are getting bigger numbers these days?

There is a precedent in what Sportsnet has done with the Premiership on Saturday mornings. That studio show provides a great template: knowledgeable host, knowledgeable analyst, lots of compelling chat and highlights.

Granted, Saturday morning is a different thing than weeknights...although the first half hour after the Jays broadcast would work well. (10 minutes on the night's Jays game, then the last 20 going around the league...a fantasy baseball minute...You know where we're going.)

Even just making more of JaysConnected would be a start. With apologies to Evanka, the behind the scenes segments would be much better if there were a two headed panel who really spoke with knowledge and a true passion for the game.

Okay, we're rambling...sorry.

Tao of Stieb said...

Sorry, to clarify what we meant about JaysConnected: a panel would complement the behind the scenes stuff nicely...

Which begs a question: are they actually doing a The Season '09 Jays this year?

Layth said...

Love the idea of a post game show. Why not film Wilner's JaysTalk after the game. Sportsnet is willing to show Prime Time with Bob McGowan for an hour a day. It can't be that hard to do the same thing a Jays show.

Paul Konerko use to stroll to the plate cranking Jay-Z "Big Pimpin"

Archi said...

Yep, Jays connected will be back again for another year. I'm not sure if it'll at the same level it was last year, because the main producer left to start his own company, but there is definately still quite a few people running around working on it.

As for the half hour post game show: This has been my mission for a little under a year now. I want to make that happen more than anything else I can accomplish, for all the reasons you and others who have commented here have outline. We deserve it, frankly. I'm privileged to watch a lot of out-of-market baseball games, and EVERY SINGLE ONE has a post-game show, with the exception of the Jays. With Mike Wilner working across the street (who, by this point, has achieved a level of respect from actual baseball fans in this city), Jeff Blair routinely making appearances on Primetime, and the fact that the Jays colour booth rotates between 3 different people, you would think that somewhere in there, you could find a guy to come in and talk baseball for half an hour 4 or 5 days a week.

I've done a lot of cage-rattling and talking with the powers that be, trying to get this seriously looked at, but there's only so much that I can do alone. Please, PLEASE, make your voices heard. Steal words that I used verbatim. Every other Major League team has a postgame show, Toronto deserves one too. 48,000 passionate people showed up to the game on Monday. If we can show the same passion towards getting proper coverage, maybe we can make a difference. We're all in this together. As a hilite maker, and a baseball fan I would be delighted to make extra-long packs that get more in depth to the nuances of the game that other baseball fans can appreciate, instead of going: Pitcher iso, home run, home run, game winning run, in each and every 40 second baseball pack we run during normal shows.

My ideal situation: Someone better than Jamie Campbell does play-by-play, Jamie takes over the post-game show, Gregg Zaun retires, and becomes the analyst. As bad as the broadcasts may be, I found their insights during the World Series to be reasonably worthwhile.

Navin Vaswani (@eyebleaf) said...

I know this is lame, but great discussion, my friends.

And "X Gon Give it to Ya" for Nady is pretty bad ass.

Drew said...

I agree, great discussion. I posted something on my own little corner of the nerd that sums my feelings up. It's not that the networks don't care about baseball or baseball fans, they don't care about hockey fans either. They only care about promoting their own properties as frequently and blatantly as they can.

"What's wrong with looking out for No 1?" - chairman of multinational communications firm accused of orchestrating coup in developing country.

KingofCabbagetown said...

I am currently traveling in the US and my ability to get any Jay info is limited at best…I can’t adequately explain my frustration in having to resort to watching to see if we got a hit or an out…ESPN simply does not show any Jay related clips unless they are playing the yanks or the sox. Believe me Toronto is a Jay-Shangri-La, we need to appreciate what we got.

Stoeten said...

If TSN and Sportsnet and the Score and everyone else feels this is the only way that they can continue to sell putrid beer and pickup trucks to the throngs of latent homosexual hockey fans, then so be it.

Bahahahahaha! Gold!

Tao of Stieb said...

And the day of this rant, Sportsnet runs a Jays pregame show.

Imagine that.

Ian Hunter said...

Rogers must've read this Tao. Way to make it happen!

mathesond said...

Jays lose. Let the wailing and gnashing of teeth begin

bkblades said...

Excellent post about the lack of committed baseball coverage and talk, Tao. And hat tip to those who contributed in the comments here - well thought out stuff. I know railing against Sportsnet/TSN/insert whatever Canadian sports network is the norm (for good reason, I might add), it was insightful to see the sports channel's side of the debate here. First and foremost, it is about the bottom line and like the domination of NCAA basketball, football and the NFL in US networks during their respective seasons, hockey in Canada will be pumped and over saturated to the masses until the demand declines. Only then will people notice the overabundance of supply and see network wide scale downs.

Anonymous said...

I haven't seen Dan Pleasac as a broadcaster. Personally, I don't know how he is viewed, but I love me some Darren Fletcher in the broadcasting booth.

Maybe because he was both an Expos and a Blue Jays player that I'm fan? I don't know, I love listening to him.

April 8, 2009 2:38 PM

I've seen Dan P on MLB network and he sucks. he is stiff and looks terrible on camera. His commentary is good BUT the way he speaks is like a rube from the Midwest. I'd rather watch Mr May, Winfield on ESPN Baseball Tonight weekends.

Stedron said...

If it makes you guys feel any better, I don't get a whole lot of Jays coverage here in the states. Baseball Tonight treats them ALMOST fairly, but they're hardly ever on SportsCentER.

The Big Ten Network is awesome, BTW. I do love seeing my lady Buckeye Volleyball team in action. ROWR!

MK Piatkowski said...

@ dave: the bring-him-home guy was sitting just a few rows in front of me (no you can't see me on the video). Annoying as hell.

As for entrance music, I was appreciating Aaron Hill's choices on Tuesday night. Alex Rios always uses the same song but I like it. And I'm pretty sure Doc didn't get to choose "Doctor, Doctor". It would be nice if he could actually get to use something he likes.

Love all the comments about the coverage. Moving Jamie to a possible post-game show is the best idea EVER. God, we need a good play-by-play man.

Spartie said...

Bah... TSN is absolute garbage as an outlet to watch sports anyway. I gave up on hockey a long time ago, but they have the nerve to air Jays games with Rod Black doing play by play, then they pull the unholy shit of airing Formula 1 races and cutting to commerical in MID SENTENCE. I know BBC doesn't run ads, but don't make it so goddamn obvious. TSN should be replaced by MLB Network Canada

Andy MC said...

Because I live in Calgary, I missed watching my first Jays season opener (live or televised) in 20+ years!! Sportsnet west felt obligated to show a SHIT Flames game! I emailed Sportsnet, and SWORE I would document all their sponsors, and NOT patronize them anymore! If they want to market to their "the throngs of latent homosexual hockey fans", so be it...but the only way to get our point across, is to quit shopping at Home Hardware, or Roger's stores, etc etc

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Anonymous said...

baseball is the most boring sport ever, right up there with golf and with it. move to the southern usa if you like baseball so much