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TSN logo. (Greig Reekie/CP)
TSN logo. (Greig Reekie/CP)

Usual Suspects

Cybulski signs on with TSN Radio Add to ...

If you had James Cybulski in the TSN Radio 1050 afternoon-drive pool, looks like you're a winner.

Cybulski will host the 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. (Eastern) slot with an assortment of TSN worthies such as Bob McKenzie, Darren Dreger and Maggie the Macaque dropping by to bulk up the product. With the FAN 590 ending Prime Time Sports at 6 p.m., it should be interesting to see how TSN exploits that hour. No doubt Cybulski can also use Off The Record material from that day as TSN does its "soft launch" on April 13.

It also now looks as if former Score hand David Bastl will be the update person/foil for The Mike Richards Show when it launches on TSN Radio. Knowing Richards and his edgy humour (his Steve Armitage is a pip), there will be nothing soft about his launch.

TRUE MADNESS

March Madness will be everywhere on TSN this weekend. But to many, the true madness lies in a system that allows schools and coaches to make millions from TV and video games while athletes receive nothing beyond an offer of education for their efforts.

The collateral damage from the U.S. National Collegiate Athletic Association simon-pure amateur policy is ubiquitous in today's media. From the suspension of the Ohio State University football coach for hiding incriminating evidence about his players to former Auburn players describing how they were bribed by school boosters, the tales are tawdry and telling.

Two compelling documentaries this week focused on the inequity of athletes forced to permanently sign away their likeness for video games and historic purposes in an age where the NCAA reaps billions for TV rights. Both PBS's Frontline (which broadcast its show Tuesday) and HBO (which ran Wednesday) use this weekend's Final Four men's basketball tournament as a jumping-off point for an investigation of a class-action lawsuit (now working its way through U.S. courts) brought by former NCAA stars into where the money goes.

In a powerful segment on PBS, former UCLA star Ed O'Bannon recalls a friend asking him about his uncanny likeness in a video recreation of his team's NCAA title game in 1995, and wondering how the NCAA could reap millions from his likeness, his moves ("his sweet left hand") and his deeds in perpetuity while he's left with only memories of making the school and the NCAA rich.

O'Bannon - who now sells cars in Las Vegas - is one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

Both pieces have a wonderful villain in NCAA president Mark Emmert, whose rictus grin and rote answers about the fairness of the athlete's tradeoff lend the pieces an unflinching face of NCAA intransigence. Emmert declines to declare his own salary (estimated at $1.7-million) to PBS reporter Lowell Bergman, while blithely damning players for trading memorabilia for tattoos.

HBO's panel of Bryant Gumbel, journalist Jason Whitlock, former CBS broadcaster Billy Packer and former Michigan football coach Rich Rodriguez debated how the enormous TV cash cow has destroyed the enforcement system. It also dwelt on the role the media plays in exposing athletes while letting schools and the NCAA off without critical comment. (Tellingly, both PBS and HBO have no NCAA affiliation.)

One quibble with the PBS show was the inability of Bergman to frame open-ended questions when cornering Emmert (a nasty habit of 60 Minutes interrogators, too) that would have forced him to answer. At one point, Emmert says: "Is that a question?" after Bergman offered yet another opinion to the NCAA president in the guise of a question.

Clearly, the pieces had some effect, as Emmert announced Thursday he will push for a review of athletes receiving compensation at the NCAA's April meetings.

HISTORY WON'T BE MADE

With the Calgary Flames' loss Wednesday to the Anaheim Ducks, the CBC is probably heaving a sigh of relief that it won't be forced to choose against a Canadian market when it divvies up the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs with TSN.

In previous years, the CBC was forced to give TSN a Canadian series after it chose the first two Canadian first-round matchups - thereby aggravating viewers in Calgary or Ottawa who felt passed over. This year, there are likely just two Canadian franchises in the NHL postseason, a truly stunning result in a country which claims ownership of the sport.

Finally, condolences to Hockey Night in Canada host Scott Oake and his wife, Anne, on the passing of their son, Bruce. Oake is one of the most decent people in the business, and our thoughts to go to him and his family. Donations can be made in Bruce's memory to Simon House, 5819 Bowness Road NW, Calgary, AB, T3B 0C5.

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