Asked about the wonky state of her country’s economics, former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher famously said, It’s all well and good till you “run out of other people’s money.” The same might be said of the decision on behalf of layers of Canadian government to stage the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto.
The dream of the Toronto Pan Am Games dates to the heady days when provincial and municipal politicians still thought there was enough money left on the bureau to fill the gap left when Toronto was repeatedly spurned in attempts to land the Olympics. That fiscal ship has now sailed, but the Pan Ams remain as a ghostly reminder of those optimistic days.
Such is the allure of the Pan Ams that only CBC mounted any serious effort to land the host and domestic TV rights to the 2015 event. As one industry insider with knowledge of the negotiations told Usual Suspects when CBC was announced as the broadcaster, “Safe to say that this is a perfect fit for CBC.”
CBC’s acquisition of the TV rights is a natural fit for the current mandate of placating its government critics first and then trying to make the numbers work. At a time when it is claiming financial distress, the national broadcaster has assumed the assignment of making sense and money from an athletic extravaganza that has seen better days.
Yes, the Pan Ams are double the size of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. But in their current iteration, the Pan Ams are to the Olympics what the MuchMusic Video Awards are to the Oscars. You’d rather have the Paralympics, the world track and field championship or the men’s under-20 soccer championship. They will also conflict with the 2015 world swimming championship, meaning the best swimmers in the Americas will be hard pressed to appear.
CBC says that, as host broadcaster, it will break even or maybe make some money on the Games. The exercise of doing the Games will give CBC Sports a natural lead-in to its return to the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 2016. And, just because the Pan Ams have been a weak gruel lately doesn’t mean they will be this time.
All true. But in an era where TV determines winners and losers, hoping to create a national euphoria similar to Vancouver over the Pan Ams will be a mighty stretch. Here’s hoping CBC gets out without losing money or reputation as Toronto tries to find happiness on the rebound from the International Olympic Committee.
Steeling the spotlight
Another NFL season launched in earnest on Sunday. That means another campaign replete with network pregame shows guffawing their way till kickoff. ESPN (shown on TSN in Canada) corners the market on retired stars to play footsie with the increasingly bombastic Chris Berman. CBS has the inestimable James Brown trying to answer the question, “Why is Dan Marino still on TV?”
The heavyweight champion of morning shows remains Fox TV’s pregame panel featuring Kelly Ripa’s new best friend, Michael Strahan, Jimmy Johnson, Howie Long and host Curt Menefee. But the star of the panel remains the volatile Terry Bradshaw, he of the skull-let. The former Pittsburgh Steelers great is mercurial, funny, moody and a good ol’ boy wrapped into one package. One moment he jokes about his 0-fer in marriage, the next he’s nailing football strategy, as he did Sunday on the new Fox wall board. New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz, he said, “caught more passes in the [TV] commercial than he did [against the Dallas Cowboys] on Wednesday.”
Bradshaw’s blank expressions when comedian Frank Caliendo mocked him was priceless. Or when Menefee told him Sunday he was “trending” on Twitter. But there’s no chemistry on the panel without Bradshaw playing the loveable yokel. No one tunes in to see the other panelists without Bradshaw as foil. Fox knows this and gives Bradshaw more close-up camera love than any other panelist.