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.