Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Head to Head with the NFL!

Finally the CFL is no longer running from the NFL Sunday festival of football. This Sunday features an actual CFL game live on a Canadian sports network; Sportsnet will be picking up the Renegades and Riders from Taylor field, offering in all areas of the country except the Sportsnet west delivery area. For CFL fans every where we say Hallelujah

The last two weeks had seen a loyal CFL fan scratching their head, wondering why they couldn’t find scheduled games on their local cable affiliate. Games were played and scores were posted, but try and watch the games and you would be one frustrated football fan.

In a bizarre sense of marketing the CFL limited the games on September 12th to regional set ups in Western Canada and Quebec. This gave football fans without access to RDS or Sportsnet west nothing to do but watch the Blue Jays battle for last place or Mike Weir stumble in Oakville. But football, nope it’s off to the NFL for you football fan.

Now no doubt there are many football fans that were going to be checking out the debut week of the NFL regardless, but there must have been CFL fans wanting to see if Danny Mac and the Ti cats were up to the Montreal challenge (they weren’t) or wanting to watch the much ballyhooed Banjo bowl (which turned out to be a heck of a game). But instead we were left abandoned; the truly dedicated fired up the computer and listened to the net feed of the radio broadcast, others just went NFL surfing.

The game on September 19, received the same treatment this time with no television coverage at all as the Riders (do we sense a bias against the Green machine here?) took on the Tiger cats (hmm them again as well?) at Ivor Wynne, a game that had playoff implications. Once again an exciting nail biter of a game was unavailable on a wide basis. I say wide basis as the Tiger Cats actually did broadcast the game, in a little known event the Cats put the game up on the World Wide Web, a real time feed of the game from the facilities of Cogeco cable. A test of you will of the potential for the web and how it may serve the CFL in the future.

The actual streaming of the game was fairly impressive, though you received better quality video on a smaller picture window in your computer, one shudders to think what the game may have looked like on a huge big screen TV with the computer feed. Not being technically savvy I assume it might have been a tad blurry, but who knows. The play by play was by a couple of local cable TV guys, (shades of Wayne and Garth of Wayne’s World fame) so it wasn’t quite the same professionalism as TSN or CBC would have put on, but the crew tried and did an admirable job.

It made for an interesting way to watch a CFL game, though limited to only about 4,000 web viewers a ratings winner this would not be. One wonders why the web cast wasn’t offered up to Sportsnet or The Score surely one less Blue Jay game wouldn’t be missed in this horrid season for that squad, and for the Score it would make a welcome break from the continual replay of the same highlights over and over again.

Bob Young is to be commended though, he continues to be a leading visionary in the CFL trying out new things and making the presentation of the game the key focus point of selling the game. Something the folks in the head office should take note of, there’s no reason to be afraid of the NFL. All four games this weekend were far superior in entertainment than what the NFL could offer up; it’s a pity that a stumbling broadcast strategy keeps the good news away from the fans.

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