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Pittsburgh Penguins' Evgeni Malkin (71), of Russia, slides into Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Jonas Gustavsson (50) of Sweden after being brought down by defenseman Dion Phaneuf (3) on a breakaway in the second period of an NHL hockey game in Pittsburgh on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2010. Malkin was awarded a penalty shot, but did not score. The Maple Leafs won 4-3. (Gene J. Puskar)
Pittsburgh Penguins' Evgeni Malkin (71), of Russia, slides into Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Jonas Gustavsson (50) of Sweden after being brought down by defenseman Dion Phaneuf (3) on a breakaway in the second period of an NHL hockey game in Pittsburgh on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2010. Malkin was awarded a penalty shot, but did not score. The Maple Leafs won 4-3. (Gene J. Puskar)

USUAL SUSPECTS

Leaf bandwagon crowded with media types Add to ...

"Step by step, the first-place Maple Leafs are getting better and better."

Gino Reda on TSN's That's Hockey.

And that was before Toronto vanquished Sid Crosby and the Penguins to go 3-0! Over at the FAN 590, the phone-in topic was "Let's talk about your unbeaten Leafs." Let history record Oct. 14, 2010 - three-82nds into the NHL season - as the date elements of the media jumped the shark, and no, not Joe Thornton.

While the media mancrush was predictable just six days into the season, Leafs Nation is more sanguine. Surprisingly, when the FAN 590 went to the phone lines, many of the calls from Leaf diehards took the cautious approach about the hot start by Brian Burke's reworked club. Nellies! Cowards! Faint Hearts! Take your cue from the press corps. Book off April and May now for extended playoffs and parading. Be of stout heart.

Honestly, there should be a statute of the Geneva Convention that forbids discussion of first place by any media member until said team has played at least a representative segment of its games. Punishable by having to do a lengthy profile on the Dion Phaneuf we hardly know. It's all reminiscent of Aislin's iconic cartoon the day after the Parti Québécois first won election in Quebec in 1976. A rumpled René Lévesque, cigarette dangling, says, "Okay, everybody take a Valium."

Writer Heal Thyself:

Speaking of sports media with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, there's a fine take by Jack Shafer on Slate.com about another reflexive tendency of sports media. Observing the Brett Favre tragicomic opera devolve into an alleged sexting scandal, Shafer noted how many crusty scribes were urging Favre to retire while his legacy tree still had a few ornaments left. Shafer cites a piece by William C. Rhoden of The New York Times. If Favre had retired after his 2007 season with the Green Bay Packers, "where his eccentricities were indulged, nurtured and enabled," Rhoden claimed No. 4 would still bask in his former glories.

"But how many sportswriters take their own advice, abandoning their craft when their greatest glories are behind them?" Shafer says. "I know of only one, and today he's the editor of the New Yorker [David Remnick] … Like other forms of punditry, carping about a player staying too long is just something a journalist writes when he needs to write something."

Five Golden Rings:

No sooner had Usual Suspects speculated about the bun fight between CBC and the private sector over Canadian Olympic TV rights for 2014 and 2016 than news arrives that, like Frankenstein, the Vancouver Olympic consortium is alive. The Globe and Mail's Report On Business quotes Rogers Sportsnet president Doug Beeforth as saying that Rogers and TSN intend to bid again, despite the logistical challenges of Sochi, Russia, (2014) and Rio de Janeiro (2016).

The price for Canadian broadcasters will be interesting, certainly nothing like the payout that maxed out for the International Olympic Committee in Vancouver. Likewise, security of the carrier's signal for the Games will also be a major factor in the cost. As Holman Jenkins points out in The Wall Street Journal, piracy of TV signals is already a scourge for networks in both the U.S. and Canada. While illegal, the redistribution of programming by grey-market forces is becoming increasingly accepted as a way to circumvent sports blackouts and punish what are perceived as exorbitant prices from cable and satellite companies.

Just when one Napster-like source is put down, others spring up. "And because live broadcasts aren't complete files, they aren't digitally watermarked to allow Internet service providers to automatically detect and cut off unauthorized users," Jenkins writes. "We may find out next year how piratical Americans are willing to be when ESPN moves the college bowl games to cable from broadcast [TV]"

While cable and satellite carriers talk bravely of shutting down the illegals, there's no indication yet that they can remain ahead of an increasingly savvy consumer. (Just ask the music industry.) And that includes for the Olympics, a jewel of sports broadcasting.

Then, as Jenkins points out, there is the increasing security ambiguity of "when your smartphone morphs into a universal media hub, allowing you to direct any content [from any source]over a local wireless network to any screen you care to watch it on." That would give a leg up to cellphone companies Rogers, Shaw et al. and doom standalone entities such as CBC, provided networks can continue to deliver secure signals.

As previously noted in this space, sports programming is the last vestige of traditional live appointment viewing on networks. If that bridge is wrecked, all the old assumptions are gone. And the networks could, like Blockbuster, become dated reminders of a gentler time in broadcasting.

 

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