Published on November 17, 2008 7:41 PM by cflwatcher.
The 2008 CFL Finals on Saturday improved slightly over the previous week. It seems TSN looked at some of the things holding them back and made adjustments this week. Overall, they provided a much more dedicated broadcast that highlighted the games.
I felt TSN upped their standards for the finals and although there were errors, they were not of a serious nature. Certainly sports fans have dealt with much worse broadcasts. Not everyone agreed with that assessment and felt TSN needs to do better.
The broadcast schedule was the same for the finals as it was the for the previous week’s semi-finals. A one hour pre-game show preceded the East final from Montreal, which last about three hours, followed by a between-game break and the West final, which also lasted about three hours. Improvements for the finals included presentations of both division championship trophies after both games. Analysis of each game was provided after the final guns, with the West final getting about ten minutes of coverage without cutting to SportsCentre. Over 7.5 hours of coverage was broadcast from the start of the pre-game show until the end of the post-game wrap up.
The pre-game show was dominated by Brian Williams’ three feature stories: Mike Labinjo, Danny Maciocia and Marc Trestman. The Labinjo story was well done with an aspect that would not be well known, but I felt it diminished the CFL the way Williams always does. There was little to the Maciocia story. I felt a story on John Huffnagel would have worked better to contrast with Marc Trestman’s journey from an NFL assistant to CFL head coach.
The remaining analysis was standard fare and did nothing spectacular or out of the norm for TSN.
Rod Black and Duane Forde called the East final while Chris Cuthbert and Glen Suitor stayed in the West to provide coverage for the Lions - Stampeders matchup. Black had a much more exciting game to call and that helped him maintain the energy level. Forde was still verbose in his commentary, using ever second between plays to describe the previous play. Sara Orlesky had nothing to report on the sidelines but was cut to regularly to provide player anecdotes. When many of these stories are taken from interviews earlier in the week they have less impact. When Orlesky reported on comments from the sidelines, like at the start of the fourth quarter when Edmonton lineman Dan Comiskey reported they were coming back, there was little surprising information in her words.
The West final featured dual sideline reporters in Matt Dunigan and Jock Climie due to the location of the panel set in Calgary. Again, most opportunities for reporters were canned player anecdotes and reports from both sidelines followed each other after breaks. This hurt the spontaneity of the reports and left the viewer with little interest in what was being said from the sidelines as it was not likely to be important.
Cuthbert and Suitor provided solid coverage of the West final. The close game helped Cuthbert keep the energy level up through out the game. Suitor did keep the talk up between every break in Cuthbert’s words but may have eased back a bit later in the game.
The only technical issue in the game was a penalty on a punt return to end the 3rd quarter, but despite this obvious occurrence, the director decided to take the end of quarter commercial breaks. By the time they returned, a play to end the 3rd quarter had been run and there was a minute or so to kill before time was blown back in. This may have not been all on the director. On field officials may have been confused about the penalty and called the timeout only to be informed the penalty and one final play too late. Thankfully the issue was not too damaging as B.C. had only a short run on the missed play. Had it been a large gain, this would surely be an issue over the broadcast.
In the last three minutes of the West final the CFL‘s Instant Replay System faced its first critical test. The play was an obvious catch by B.C.’s Ryan Grice-Mullen but was ruled an incomplete pass on the field. As it occurred within the three-minute warning, it was up to the request for review to come from the replay booth. Before the ball could be put in play again, the replay booth did request a review and the call was overturned. During the delay, as has happened many times this year, Cuthbert and Suitor kept repeating themselves over and over about the ball not touching the ground and how it should be overturned. It would be nice to have them look at these call more analytically and review all the possible reasons the call may have been made. In this case, could the official have called it incomplete because the player was on the sideline stripe when the catch was made? Anything to better fill the time without repeating yourself 25 times in two minutes while we watch the same three replays.
After two weeks of Saturday starts I have to conclude they don’t work. A day full of football does not have the same feeling on Saturdays as it does Sundays. There is a lack of anticipation leading to the games and a missed feeling of concluding the weekend after two contests on a Sunday evening. While ratings are not in yet for Saturday’s broadcasts, they will hold the final answer for the Saturday experiment. If they are down again after two entertaining contests then there is no doubt the day shift had an affect on the television numbers this year.
The atmosphere and excitement of the coverage increased in the finals, no doubt helped by the crowds in both stadiums. Going into Grey Cup week TSN has an opportunity to build the anticipation towards Sunday’s championship contest with special coverage all week. In addition to TSN‘s coverage on SportsCentre all week, Off The Record will be coming from Montreal all week and there will be eight hours of coverage on Grey Cup Saturday, including coverage of the player awards, team practices, Friday Night Gladiator awards and a special The Reporters with Dave Hodge. With a showdown between the top two teams in the league under the dome in Montreal, I look forward to a great Grey Cup experience.