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Sports broadcast personality Gord Stellick (Donald Weber/Donald Weber / The Globe & Mail)
Sports broadcast personality Gord Stellick (Donald Weber/Donald Weber / The Globe & Mail)

Usual Suspects

Gord Stellick finds his groove Add to ...

It’s no secret we didn’t always get the Gord Stellick attraction on radio or TV. There was an accidental tourist quality in Stellick’s rise to media prominence, not unlike when he was incongruously promoted by Toronto owner Harold Ballard from PR flack to general manager. But with his move to Hockey Night In Canada Radio, Stellick has found his groove. Being in his comfort zone doing hockey helps. The former morning show host at FAN 590 was never quite at ease stretching into other sports or flogging cars and carpets.

On HNIC Radio he has settled into a rhythm that suits his laid-back manner and self-deprecating humour. As a Leafs alumnus, Stellick is naturally inclined to the Toronto hockey scene. As opposed to some other HNIC fixtures (you know who you are), he still finds enthusiasm and curiosity about the other Canadian NHL franchises as well. His disarming tone also works. It’s remarkable how much more relaxed Cassie Campbell sounds with Stellick than on her TV appearances for HNIC.

The other part of the Stellick’s improved game is the variety of guests on the three-hour afternoon slot on Sirius Radio 157. Stellick is regularly joined by HNIC regulars (Craig Simpson, Kelly Hrudey, Glenn Healy) who are underexposed relative to the churn of TSN and Sportsnet panelists. Stellick’s homework shows off where other Toronto-based broadcasters are plain embarrassing when asked to talk about Western teams. He and producer Jeff Domet can call upon sources in every NHL city for updates.

What’s also interesting is the different tone HNIC Radio has without the distraction of Don Cherry (who does appear on occasion). Minus the pull of feeding Cherry's ego, the mood seems more balanced, less strained. On TV, there’s always that sense of people tiptoeing as Cherry, like James Tyrone in Long Day’s Journey Into Night, rages at the top of the stairs. Stellick’s emergence on the radio side is a sane counterpart to the Saturday sideshow.

There are many, many choices for hockey radio content at the moment, but HNIC Radio is currently one of the best.

Big Ratings: As expected, the telecast of Super Bowl XLVI did boffo ratings. In Canada, CTV/ RDS reported an average audience of 8.15 million viewers (CTV: 7.3 million; RDS: 865,000), peaking at 11 million for the halftime extravaganza featuring Madonna and her bird-flipping pals. That’s a Canadian record for a Super Bowl and 12 per cent higher than last year’s game (7.3 million on CTV/ RDS). We’re told over 18 million viewers - more than one in two Canadians - watched some or all of SB XLVI.

In the U.S., SB XLVI was the most-watched American TV show in history with an average 111.3 million tuning in to NBC, edging last year’s game at 110.0 million on FOX. (The dramatic fourth quarter peaked at 117.7 million.) Still, that’s off the projected 115 million some estimated before the game. Super Bowls are four of the top five most-watched programs in U.S. history with only the M*A*S*H finale crashing the list at 106.0 million - in a very different TV universe, it must be added.

As in Canada, the halftime show peaked higher at 114.0 million viewers. Interesting breakdowns on the NBC numbers. Boston was the top metered market in the U.S. with a 56.7 share. NYC was just 18th, with a 49.7 share. Live viewership dropped from 94 to 91 per cent of viewers. The audience was 55 per cent male with a median age of 43 years. And the top-rated counter program? Law & Order: SVU on USA grabbed a 1.1 million.

Proud Peacock: Didn’t have time Monday to note how clean the NBC production was for the game. With all the crosstalk about cameos of stars and celebs in the crowd, producer Fred Gaudelli went old-school, concentrating on the game. It was - Madonna excepted - a broadcast for purists as NBC left its cross-promotion to before and after the game. Announcers Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth were in control of the narrative in a game that lacked the “Wow” factor but was long on coaching strategy.

Typical was how NBC dispensed with the player introductions in the hallway before the game, preventing the gerbil-on-a-treadmill effect so often seen in them. NBC was stiffed in the postgame by losing coach Bill Belichek (Bob Costas noted his snub on-air) but offered one of the better owner-in-a-box shots of downcast Patriots owner Robert Kraft before, during and after the final play. Another great get was injured Giants TE Jake Ballard trying to cut on his bad knee and collapsing in agony. Great pictures.

It should be noted that the halftime show was produced from a different production truck, so any complaints about that aspect of the show go elsewhere. Quibbles? We’ve grown accustomed to former NFL referee in chief Mike Pereira on FOX all season; it would have helped the contentious moments of the game to have someone like him to interpret the sudden liberalization of pass interference and Tom Brady’s safety in the first quarter.

Like A Sturgeon: It creeps us out more than a little to agree with Piers Morgan about anything, but we have to agree with the lugubrious Limey about Madonna’s halftime performance at SB XLVI. Talking to another nails-on-the-blackboard TV type, Chelsea Handler, on Monday, Morgan said he couldn’t understand the media bloviators fawning over The Material Mom’s faux-Aida routine. “That Super Bowl performance, it was like watching your mad drunken aunt at Christmas,” Morgan told Handler. “Is it just me? I keep reading all these celebrities tweeting, saying, 'Wasn't she awesome?' No, she wasn't. She was gruesome.”

That’s putting it nicely. Dancing is like figure skating. It’s only good when it’s fast and on the edge. Madonna’s stumbling performance moved as quickly as Madeline Khan doing I’m so Tired in Blazing Saddles. The dancers put her down on the stage as if unloading a china cabinet. Unwatchable. Can’t wait till next year when the NFL invites The Beach Boys to honour AARP.

A final note for rapper M.I.A, who flipped the finger during halftime: No doubt your posse was amused, but choosing the SB to exercise your First Amendment rights will prove an expensive indulgence. Every corporate buyer just out a large X next to your name. Cannot play with him. Cannot win with him. Can’t do it.

Jim Class: The following are three consecutive tweets from the man who will make the decision on whether to keep Peyton Manning in Indianapolis. Jim Irsay @JimIrsay “Well the team preacher looked so baffled, when I asked him why he dressed, with 20 pounds of headlines, stapled to his chest!”

“..But he cursed me when I proved to him,then I whispered “not only you can hide..you see your just like me..I hope your satisfied!..”

“And here I sit so patiently, waiting to find out what price...you have to pay to get out of...going through all these things twice...”

Altogether now... Eeoow.

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