Three downs on the CFL on TSN: analyzing Week 11 television broadcasts

Screenshot courtesy: TSN

Following my own bye week, I’m back to take a look at the week that was for the CFL on TSN.

It was an interesting week for the three-letter network with some solid broadcast booth combinations, the return of an old pet peeve, and the continued use of a new technology.

Here are my thoughts on the first week of the second half of the 2023 season of the CFL on TSN.

First down

It’s been a rough year for the Calgary Stampeders so far, but I think we can thank them for giving us a pretty good slate of broadcast booths this week.

On Friday night, the Stampeders honoured their 1998 Grey Cup championship team. One of the members of that team is TSN’s Duane Forde. Since he was able to kill two birds with one stone, Forde made the rare trip out west to call the game alongside Dustin Nielson.

The game itself was dreadfully boring, as the Stamps are unable to score touchdowns right now and the Blue Bombers seemed content to play down to their level. However, any time Nielson and Forde work together, I’m going to reiterate that they’re TSN’s best duo. Hopefully, we’ll get to hear them call a Grey Cup one of these years.

With Forde making the trip west, it also allowed us to get a double dose of Matt Dunigan in the booth. Dunigan is not only fun to listen to but still knows football all these years later. Sometimes players get a little disconnected from the game as time passes following their retirement but that isn’t the case with Dunigan.

We also got to hear Dunigan work alongside veteran Rod Smith, which doesn’t happen all that often. Considering they previously worked together on the panel a few years ago, it’s not surprising that they also have solid chemistry in the booth.

Sometimes extenuating circumstances lead to positive outcomes. It was a solid weekend in the booth.

Second down

As they say, old habits die hard and it appears TSN’s producers just couldn’t help themselves this week.

We had to endure not one, not two, but three in-game interviews.

On Friday night, we were subjected to two separate interviews, one in each half of the game. First up was Kelvin Anderson, which somehow made a very boring football game even worse. While he was a great football player, the Hall of Fame running back’s interview matched the tone of the game. It was not at all interesting to listen to.

Jeff Garcia did an interview later in the game and brought a lot of energy, which made me wonder if he could do some work in the booth. He certainly sounded good, but it wasn’t the time to talk to him. There wasn’t a pregame show on Friday night but there’s always halftime.

The oddest interview of the week came on Sunday night when sideline reporter Brit Dort chatted with Save-On-Foods CEO Darrell Jones. While it certainly added value for the sponsor, I fail to see what the audience got out of it. Either way, kudos to Dort for handling it well and keeping it brief.

At least a big play didn’t happen during any of these interviews, which usually seems to inevitably occur.

Third down

One common criticism of TSN’s CFL broadcasts is that they’ve remained mostly unchanged over the last decade or so. That’s mostly true, but we’re finally seeing something new.

This past week was probably the best use of the new tracking technology TSN is using in replays. We saw it used at least a couple of times this week in a few different forms.

The version that uses a dotted line was featured for a kick return on Friday night and the spotlight method was used on Sunday to follow a receiver’s route. I’ve been told TSN is testing the technology for CBS.

It’s hardly a revolutionary change for the broadcast, but at least it’s something fresh that the league’s official broadcast partner is implementing to freshen up the product.

Joel Gasson is a Regina-based sports writer, broadcaster and football fanatic. He is also a beer aficionado.