Three downs on the CFL on TSN: analyzing Week 12 television broadcasts

Courtesy: CFL on TSN

The unofficial final week of summer is here, meaning the temperature is about to turn up in the CFL.

Labour Day is on the horizon, which is one of the league’s biggest weekends of the year. It’s sure to be a big week for the league and its broadcast partner.

Before we get there, we were given a slate of interdivisional games in Week 12. This was also the final week of Thursday Night Football (good riddance) and the second-to-last Sunday Night Football game of the season.

Here are my thoughts on the week that was for the CFL on TSN.

First down

There’s one segment that caught my eye more than any other this week, and it came up during halftime of Friday’s game between Calgary and Toronto.

If you missed it, Argonauts’ running back A.J. Ouellette took part in his first official professional wrestling match during Toronto’s recent bye week. He was in a tag team match with the reigning Greektown Wrestling champion and he and his partner won the match, thanks in-part to Ouellette’s spear of one of his opponents through a folding table.

It wasn’t the cleanest spear ever but it was pretty good for a rookie with no training who couldn’t afford to injure himself.

It makes sense that Ouellette’s match made the broadcast, but it was refreshing to see it used as a bit on the panel. Using the spear as inspiration, host Kate Beirness asked Dave Naylor, Jim Barker, and Milt Stegall what their finishing move would be.

Unfortunately, Naylor and Barker were sticks in the mud and didn’t answer, but Stegall stepped up to the plate and gave us everything we ever wanted with what he called the “chocolate plop.” He even leapt off a stepladder to give the audience a demonstration.

It was the pose at the end that really made it. Bravo, Milt.

I know some fans only want serious football talk from the panel, but I like seeing them have fun, too. This was a solid segment and I hope we see more like it.

Second down

Aesthetics on a broadcast matter. They may not have a huge impact on ratings, but how the game looks can go a long way in making it look big time.

We saw the not-as-good and the good on back-to-back nights. The difference between how the game between Montreal and Winnipeg was presented compared to the Toronto and Calgary game was quite noticeable.

The biggest difference came from the presence of the cable cam or “spidercam.” Friday night’s game in Toronto had it, while the contest in Winnipeg did not.

It doesn’t seem right that such a technology isn’t employed in every game in 2023. All the bells and whistles aren’t expected every game, but you’d be hard pressed not to find a football game broadcast at a national level in the United States without a cable cam.

The extra angle on Friday night in Toronto allowed us to see some cool shots of the Canadian National Exhibition in the background. We saw a ferris wheel for most of the night and got a glimpse of a drone show later on.

Little things like that go a long way in making a broadcast feel like more of an event.

Third down

One development on TSN’s broadcasts this year has been the use of reporter Matthew Scianitti as a fill-in host of the panel.

Scianitti has been covering the league for a significant amount of time now. He clearly has a deep understanding of the league, its players, and its history.

This makes him a natural choice to get a shot at evolving into the role and perhaps even taking it on full-time one day. We’ve also seen Farhan Lalji, who is equally qualified, host the panel in the past. Scianitti also has geography on his side as he lives in Southern Ontario, which is much closer to the studio than Vancouver.

Scianitti has felt a little too scripted at times in some of his previous appearances as the panel’s host, which makes sense, considering his lack of experience in the role. Working as a reporter and hosting a live panel discussion are two very different jobs.

I think this was Scianitti’s best appearance on the panel as the conversation felt more natural, along with his ability to get his colleagues in and out of segments.

While I don’t believe that TSN is looking to replace Beirness, it’s always good to have options. You never know what can happen in this industry, so it’s good to see TSN being proactive in this regard.

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