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(TODD KOROL)
(TODD KOROL)

Usual Suspects

NFL Network orders a steady diet of CFL Add to ...

All indications are that the NFL will solve its labour woes in time for the September launch of their season. But if the negotiators can't find common ground by then, there will be a steady diet of CFL games available on the NFL Channel. The league and the network announced that, starting with next week's CFL season launch on June 30, there will be two games available each week on the NFL's specialty cable network. While some will be tape delayed, most of the TSN productions will be shown live.

In addition, the NFL Network has rights to the playoffs and Grey Cup game from Vancouver in November. The deal also allows for the network to squeeze in some extra games should... you know, lawyer/strategist Bob Batterman convince the NFL to cancel the season the way he did the NHL campaign of 2004-'05.

Two games a week on NFL Network is double the diet of last year's 14 games shown. (Canadians won't see the games on NFLN because TSN has exclusivity in Canada.) So American football fans obsessing over where "former Montana State star Travis Lulay" got to will have their answer this season. Oh, and if the name of NFL Network host Stacey Dales rings a bell - she's the sister of Stampeders punter Burke Dales.

Hot Stuff: TSN is going to have hot mikes on the head coaches and quarterbacks for Thursday's preseason game between Toronto and Winnipeg. The network is promising "pep talks, grunts and groans" (sort of like the women's draw at Wimbledon) for fans wishing the intimate experience of the CFL.

Blue Bombers coach Paul LaPolice and Argos coach Jim Barker will also be miked. Usual Suspects is wondering which coach will have more to say? Hmm, that a tough... Barker. For reasons purely of grammar and syntax, microphones will be on a 10-second delay.

Hear Me Rory: Viewers on NBC were wondering why U.S. Open champ Rory McIlroy had Shane McMahon, beefy son of WWE mogul Vince McMahon, in his entourage Sunday as he walloped the field at the U.S. Open. Perhaps it's because McIlroy is going to need help carrying the weight of the post-Tiger Woods golf industry on his back.

The 22-year-old McIlroy got the Barack Obama "rise of the oceans" treatment from NBC's Johnny Miller and from the PGA Tour this weekend after his record-shattering performance at Congressional in Bethesda. Legendary golf writer Dan Jenkins summed it in a tweet, "I've covered almost 60 U.S. Opens, and this one joins my top five, with Hogan in 1951, Arnold in 1960, Jack in 1962 and Tiger in 2000."

In the nick of time. With a new TV contract due at season's end, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem needs a rainmaker pronto to replace Woods, who's on the physically unable to reform list these days. So how did McIlroy's performance go over with the viewing public? So-so, according to final ratings released on Tuesday.

While ratings were down 26 per cent from last year's Open, it must be noted that the 2010 Open - played at Pebble Beach with Woods finishing fourth - ended almost two hours later in prime time than McIlroy's triumph. Sunday's coronation of McIlroy ended just after 7 P.M. ET. (Precise numbers: Saturday: 3.2/8, 4.6 million viewers/ Sunday: 4.5/11, 7.4 million viewers).

Compared to East Coast U.S. Opens in 2006 and 2009, however, the McIlroy Miracle produced better numbers. (And has a more satisfying ending than The Killing on AMC.) Can McIlroy move the needle sufficiently at the Open Championship in England next month to convince broadcasters he's a star? Hard to say with most of the rounds being played in the early morning at St. George's. But whether he wants it or not, McIlroy is now the poster boy for the sport.

Here's Johnny: While Miller sung McIroy's praises, he wasn't above a few patented Millerisms. On McIlroy's collapse in the final round of the 2011 Masters: "Dottie [Pepper] what do you learn when you shoot 43 on the back nine at Augusta?" he asked. "Everyone says it's a learning experience. To me it's a haunting experience."

Then there was this tart assessment of the swing of 2010 U.S. Open champ Graeme McDowell: "He does not have a good swing, folks, I just want you to know... If you were to pick that swing apart there are about five things he does that are not wonderful. But it is his swing, I'll give him that much. It's all shut at the top, laid off, a lot of things going on."

ESPN's Chris Berman spotted Calgary's Wes Heffernan (who made the cut) and almost nailed a "he could go all the way". "He's 34 years of age from Calgary," said Berman. "Played at the University of Calgary. I'm going to take a stab here. I think they're the Dinosaurs." Okay, they're the Dinos now but half of Calgary hasn't even noticed the change either.

Gilroy Was Here: One possible explanation on Shane O'Mac's presence in McIlroy's entourage lies in the words of his theme song: Here Comes The Money. Having put wrasslin' in his tail lights, McMahon is venturing into sports management and product distribution with Warner Brothers. When he's not hovering like Zach Galifianakis, in the background of high-profile events.

Giant Steps: Stop us if you're heard this before, but another sports league is going Hard Knocks on us: The Movie Network and The Movie Channel are presenting The Franchise: A Season with the San Francisco Giants, a seven-part documentary series following the San Francisco Giants as they defend their World Series title through the 2011 season. First episode Wednesday July 6.

They Killed Kenny: Maybe some athletes need a license to tweet. Tennessee Titan spacebot Kenny Britt- he of the pending criminal charges-- got off his Twitter chain this week with a profane blast at NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who's about to rule on Britt's status for this season. ""Retiring from the NFL. F*** You Goddell." (Always smart to dis the guy about to impose sentence.)

That was followed by a contrite, "Change of Heart. My family is always here for me. I made mistakes and i am sorry i am going to change and become a better person and mentor for all my young fans. I will accept any penalty like a man. The road beings Sept 11 in Jacksonville. ill be ready!!!"

Then, the dog-ate-my-homework of Twitterdom, the claim to have been hacked. "my fbook was hacked with those past 2 status's. i am not retiring and do not have any hate toward the commissioner." No. Never.

Badda Bing: When Canadian pitcher Ryan Dempster retires, he has a future in comedy. Here's the Cubs pitcher doing Harry Caray.



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