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Tuesday, July 21, 2015


Lets get one thing straight.  I love the CBC!  Always have and always will.  For an educator there is no better resource to use than CBC's excellent News in Review. There is also no better investigative show than The Fifth Estate and their documentaries are outstanding.  For an aspiring broadcaster and sports fan, the soundtrack of my youth was Hockey Night in Canada and iconic voices like Bob Cole, Ron MacLean, Jim Hughson, and Howie Meeker.  For amateur competition the signature voices of Don Wittman on Track and Field and Steve Armitage on Swimming.  That said, at times, you even have to give a little grief to the one you love.  So, CBC, I say with great trepidation, but with strength resolve, You Messed Up!  There, I said it.   

CBC dropped the ball on PanAm games coverage two days in a row.  The first such occasion was not showing the gold medal match between the United States and Canada in Men's Baseball.   Forget the bizarre ending that saw no less than three errors on the final play allowing the hometown Canadians escape with the gold medal.  You had a high profile sport, with traditional rivals.  You had to show that game live on the main network!  Too many story lines to ignore and live sports TV, in particular the PanAm's are all about story telling.   CBC got rapped on the hands by no less than great Canadian baseball superstar, arguably the best position player to come out of Canada in Larry Walker.  Larry went to Twitter to convey his displeasure that there was no live coverage. 

Lesson learned and we move on to the United States and Canada Gold Medal game in Women's Basketball.  Surely the network would not make the same mistake twice, Hold the phone there junior! They did it again! 

Again, a  high profile sport as Canada was going for its first gold medal in PanAm women's basketball AND Kia Nurse, the next great Canadian superstar was a feature performer.  CBC opted for other coverage, and even on Sportsnet who CBC farmed out some of their coverage to, had Men's Soccer and what turned out to be a lacklustre and meaningless game as Canada had already been eliminated from competition and sleepwalked their way through a 2-0 loss to Peru.    You could stream the basketball game, and I am sure many did, but there was a real opportunity to draw a huge audience to a game that turned out to be sports theatre at its finest.  Kia Nurse, 19 years old, and already a star at the University of Connecticut dropped 31 points, Canada won the gold medal and a raucous patriotic sold out crowd made for outstanding visuals.  It deserved to be on the main network.   It was not, and once again people took to social media to vent (myself included).  All Trevor Pilling, head of CBC sports could offer was the fact that the game would be replayed on the main network at 11:30pm.  That did not serve as a great alternative.  CBC has painted itself into a corner as well. As the Men's Basketball Tournament starts, Canada will field an outstanding entry that will include NBA stars Sim Bhullar, Anthony Bennett , Andrew Nicholson as well as budding star and Kentucky commit Jamal Murray.   Should Canada advance to a Gold Medal game, CBC should show a gold medal game on the main network.  If they do, they run the risk of favourable coverage to Men's sports, if they do not, they risk the ire of a basketball loving nature.  

By and large, CBC still does a great job covering international events such as these, and they do it on a budget that is a fraction of what it should be.  Blame old "hair in the fridge" Stephen Harper and the Conservatives for that as they have slashed and burned the budget on the CBC to the point cutbacks are norm rather than the exception.  A recent position paper suggested that CBC seek out its own revenue streams.  No surprise this paper was authored by a large PC contingent. CBC has had to be creative and cut programming while increasing its digital exposure in a country that still craves their programming on conventional TV as well as via online or streaming forums.  

 Basketball is on the rise in Canada.  Both National Team programs are starting to move in circles normally reserved for the World's elite.  TSN has grabbed the rights to Canada Basketball and their quest for Olympic qualification.   Canadian entry into the NBA and WNBA is increasing and two semi pro leagues and the NBA D League will try and establish fan bases all over Ontario. The national network should have recognized this and captured some of the rising tide of momentum. 

Yep, it was hard to take a shot at something that I love, but it had to happen.  Now its time to forgiveness, and if you'll excuse, me I've got some CBC News in Review and Fifth Estate to catch up on. 

Steve Clark- Steve is the play by play voice of the Niagara IceDogs and has called games for the Hamilton Bulldogs, as well as a number of university sports.  One of his fondest memories was calling Canada's Women's Basketball Team Olympic Qualification Tournament in 1996. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015


Happy birthday to me! Well, belated happy birthday to me as I marked my 43rd birthday in Detroit on Sunday thanks to a wonderful birthday gift from the most understanding wife on earth.  There I was 30 rows from home plate in Comerica Park rooting on the Blue Jays who were trying to salvage a game from the Tigers.  I will even ignore the slightly ulterior motive of my beautiful wife Larissa as she has been a huge Tigers fan for many, many years.  This has led to what I call the October ritual of becoming a temporary Tigers fan/band wagon jumper come playoff time as inevitably the Tigers qualify for the post season and just as inevitably the Blue Jays are mathematically eliminated by Labour Day.   This process, by the way, repeats itself around April with the Red Wings and the Maple Leafs.   The game itself was largely forgettable as the Blue Jays built a large lead and lurched their way towards a 10-5 W.  Maybe it was largely forgettable as at the precise time the Jays were laying waste to Justin Verlander with 6 runs in the 5th, I was trying mightily to digest a Coney Island Hot Dog and usher my four old onto the in-stadium merry go round.  All in good fun.

Detroit is clearly on the bounce back from a city that declared bankruptcy.  Comerica Park/ Ford Field , the casino and the Fox Theatre all create a vibrancy in the downtown area highlighted by Chris Chelios popular bar Chelli's which is across the street and has a huge patio party at ground level and on the rooftop.  That said , beneath all of the revitalization around the downtown core lies not a seedy underbelly, but more of an unfortunate bi-product of a city getting back on its feet. Not 10 seconds out of our cab we got approached by a guy claiming to be from the Shriner's, but really was a dude in a wheelchair looking for money, and then by some teenagers looking for a signature for something and also a small donation of some sort.  That sort of scrounging for dollars can be found in most major U.S. cities, but it was a little unnerving having that happen as we were trying to navigate our four year old towards Chelli's for a pre-game pop or two! That said, I'd go back again for sure, maybe leaving behind my daughter and enjoying a little of the Detroit nightlife, which at my age means a sports bar until 11:00pm!

The Halifax Rainmen of the now flailing NBL have declared bankruptcy and are looking for new owners.  The Rainmen have been stalwart members of the league and were the leagues best drawing card at one point.   Attendance and brand credibility have dwindled thanks to the Game 7 that never was versus Windsor as the team from Halifax refused to play in the championship deciding game citing safety concerns after a pregame shoot around dust up . The slew of fines and bans have not helped the cause.  Does Halifax keep its team?  Is there another Nova Scotia city capable of handling a team?  Time will tell. Right now the league has teams in Windsor, London, Niagara and Brampton and Halifax (for now) , PEI, Moncton and Saint John.  That is one unique geographical configuration.  Throw in the fact the Mississauaga Power are no more, ceding their spot in the league and welcoming Raptors905 and the NBA D-League into the Hershey Centre.  Butch Carter's CBL is expected to tip off in the late fall with teams in Waterloo, Hamilton, Scarborough and Ottawa.  If you are keeping score, in Southern Ontario/GTA you have options in the CBL, NBL, NBA D-League as well as the OUA, OCAA.  That is five different basketball options potentially, which is either good news or a disaster waiting to happen as these leagues fight for fans and a foothold in the market.   

Very excited to see an all sports network come to Hamilton.  Can the Steel City support all sports?   You've got a population of over 700 000 to draw from up and down the Golden Horseshoe which is where this station will be looking as it would be a wise move to distance itself from the GTA sports talk audience.   Who knows, maybe there will be a spot for me, depending on what sports they plan on covering.  They've got McMaster U, the Tiger Cats, the Bulldogs (though the rights holders are 900 CHML) and a potential pro basketball team in  Hamilton (see above).  That's a lot of sports, but also a lot of time to fill. Good luck to them. With the TSN brand behind them and a vast city of sports and personalities to cover, there should be no shortage of good content!