That noise you heard late Sunday was TSN executives popping a cork for the Montreal-Saskatchewan Grey Cup matchup. And not just because of the intriguing Darian Durant- Anthony Calvillo showdown. Short of getting the lucrative southern Ontario market for the game, the Alouettes-Roughriders finale is the league's best formula to deliver a huge TV audience for the network. Add in the trampoline effect of the new PPM ratings system introduced this fall, and this year's game may well set an all-time record for viewers.
Those still musing about the relevance of the CFL at Yonge and Bloor in Toronto might do well to digest the following: There were record playoff ratings last Sunday for the East and West division finals. Despite the glitch that delayed coverage almost five minutes the start of the game, the Calgary/ Saskatchewan showdown at Taylor Field, oops... Mosaic Stadium drew a record two-million viewers on TSN (plus 207,000 on RDS, their French counterpart). Meanwhile, the B.C.-Montreal Eastern final drew 1.35 million on TSN and 547,000 more on RDS.
Having the Roughriders in the game will deliver numbers in both host city Calgary (where half the team's followers seemingly live) and on TV. Five of the top six individual game ratings this year featured the Sons of the Pilsener. Add in the Alouettes' Quebec market - which continually delivers more CFL viewers than any other province (RDS averaged 250,000 a game in 2009, up 16 per cent over 2008) - and the advertisers will be satisfied with the product they're buying in tough economic times.
Now if only it would snow. . .
Suits But No Ties
The enduring question after the West final is how the Roughriders keep winning with an offence that features an all-Canadian receiving corps without any identifiable speed while Calgary's offence went dry after it lost deep threat Ken-Yon Rambo earlier this year. TSN's Glen Suitor did a nice job during Sunday's game of explaining how the precise pass routes of the Riders' modest receiving corps gashed Calgary - and will hope to do the same to the Alouettes this Sunday. Using the telestrator, Suitor demonstrated how the disciplined routes of the Saskatchewan corps continually found advantageous matchups in the underbelly of Calgary's defence, isolating Andy Fantuz on slower linebackers.
Suitor - who spends hours breaking down tape during the season - also showed vividly how the Stamps beat Edmonton the week before with a "zone-read" package for QB Henry Burris, and how the Riders were ready to defeat it. Suitor's use of video broke down the strategic battle in terms the layman could understand. He needs to talk to former Detroit Lions GM Matt Millen, whose jargon-laden analysis of NCAA and NFL games on ESPN is impenetrable. That might explain Millen's 31-97 record in Detroit.
Forbes magazine is not impressed with the possibility of the Toronto Argonauts owners Howard Sokolowski and David Cynamon buying the Phoenix Coyotes. "The NHL should be careful since these owners seem to stack up an awful lot like the old ones," writes Peter J. Schwartz.
"Deep pockets? If they have them, it sure doesn't show by the way they run the Argonauts. The pair bought the CFL's most storied team out of bankruptcy in 2003 for only $1.5-million. Still, they weren't willing to stomach the paltry purchase price on their own and borrowed (without notifying the league) half the money from the owner of another team, the B.C. Lions' David Braley, to complete the transaction.
"Motive? Just like the Coyotes former owner Jerry Moyes, who drove the team into bankruptcy on a speculative real estate play, the Argonauts owners have twice tried to leverage their football team to put together real estate deals centred on constructing a new stadium and developing the surrounding land. Both attempts have been unsuccessful (Sokolowski is a real estate developer).
"If the pair moves forward and is successful with a bid, at least one good thing could come out of their owning the Coyotes. Their smoke-and-mirrors routine would be a great opening act should they ever decide to move the team to Vegas."
In defence of Sokolowski and Cynamon, they were the only ones willing to keep the Argos going in 2003-- even if they didn't pony up all the money. And they won a Grey Cup in 2004. But if they're smart they'll wait until the NHL asks for bids for a southern Ontario expansion team - or lets them move the Coyotes to the land of Jim Balsillie.
Melt The Ice
This is what happens when bureaucrats write ad copy. You've probably seen the TV commercials from the Royal Canadian Mint flogging coins honouring great moments in Canadian Olympic history. The current issue commemorates the 2002 gold medal in "ice hockey".
Ice hockey? That's what the sport is called in Belgium or Bangladesh. Or by the mossbacks of the IOC who've licensed the coin operation. Here in Canada the ice part of the title is an embarrassing skin tag. No doubt the IOC is all fussy about including the ice part in the promotion, but the Royal Canadian Mint should know better. Canada invented the sport, let us call it what we want.
Capital Idea So do NHL owners believe in ritual sacrifice? Here's Ted Leonsis blogging on his Washington Capitals as they headed into Saturday's tilt with Toronto: "And because the hockey gods are angry, we play yet tonight - in Toronto - back to back games. I shall make my sacrifices to the hockey gods this afternoon. Try to appease them and make them take pity on our mortal souls. As is said, 'What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.' Go Caps!" And Phoenix, too, seeing as how you're paying for them, Ted.
Way Harsh Deadspin.com honours New York Islanders goaltender Dwayne Roloson. Sort of. Roloson "who made 58 stops [Monday night]to beat . . . oh, I'm sorry, it was just the Maple Leafs. Most of their shots probably just slowly skidded to a stop before they got to him."
Suspension Of Belief
We're used to athletes like Georges Laraque being suspended for various brutalities. Suddenly, media types are being suspended as well. First there was the L.A. Clippers broadcast crew of Ralph Lawler and Mike Smith, who were told not to report for one game as a result of some inane muttering on-air about "Eye-ranian" Hamed Haddadi of the Memphis Grizzlies. (They get to miss a Clippers game and that's punishment?)
Now we learn that ESPN blogging colossus Bill Simmons has been suspended by the network for two weeks from using his Twitter account. Turns out that Simmons - who's been flogging his 700-page tome The Book Of Basketball - called WEEI's Glen Ordway a "deceitful scumbug" in a Tweet. (That's one of the nicer things Usual Suspects is usually called.) Just a little sparring between Boston product Simmons and a Boston radio station, right? No. WEEI is now ESPN's Boston-area partner. As the Shangri-Las sang, "Get the picture? Yes, we see."
High Five Finally, everyone was impressed on Monday night by the performance of Tennessee Titans QB Vince Young, whose poise and decision making led his club to a win over Houston, the Titans' fourth straight win after six losses. Among the impressed was head referee Jerome Boger, who high-fived Young as he left the field on Monday. Texans fans immediately demanded equal treatment for their kicker Kris Brown. Unfortunately Brown missed Boger's outstretched hand wide left.