Three downs on the CFL on TSN: analyzing Week 14 television broadcasts

Photo courtesy: Montreal Alouettes

The homestretch of the CFL regular season is here. The leaves are turning, the temperatures are dropping, and the football is only going to get more intense. It’s truly the most wonderful time of the year.

While rematch week isn’t Labour Day weekend for the CFL on TSN, it’s still generally a big occasion for the league’s official broadcaster with two provincial battles always on the schedule and generally at least one important all-East Division match-up.

This week also featured the league’s annual “Super Saturday,” born out of necessity as the league drops Thursday night and Sunday night games from their schedule with the commencement of the NFL. With six teams having played last Sunday or Monday, that means the most reasonable day for most of those teams to play is Saturday. Sorry, Hamilton, but at least it worked out.

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

First down

A week ago, we saw the potential for what TSN could be doing for the CFL.

Without question, the Labour Day weekend is the most important regular season week on the schedule for the CFL and TSN and it showed. Every game that week featured cable cams, different angles, and some games even had drones for some extra fancy shots of the scenery.

With a couple of rematches on the schedule and some important East Division matchups as well, you would have hoped that the league’s official broadcaster would have put as much effort and resources into these games as they did last week’s.

Unfortunately, they didn’t. Every game was scaled back, there were no cable cams, the same old camera angles that we see for a preseason game were used, and there were definitely no drones.

I get things are tough for the big media industry right now — minus the billions in profit their parent companies make — but cheaping out isn’t going to get more people to tune in. The CFL should expect more from their partner. Every game should look and feel important.

No one is asking for Grey Cup-like production every week, but what we saw last week should be the minimum standard.

Second down

Whoever decided that Paul LaPolice deserved to get a shot in the booth should probably get a raise.

TSN has been going through a bit of a transition in the last few years with their play-by-play and colour commentary personnel, as well as some new panellists. We’ve seen the additions of Dustin Nielson and Marshall Ferguson, while Matt Dunigan has seen his usage as a colour analyst increase, but the man they call LaPo is bringing a whole new perspective to the broadcast. The former offensive coordinator and head coach has only worked a few games, but already feels very comfortable breaking down plays in real time.

What I particularly like about LaPolice is he brings us behind the curtain a little bit. He tells us about how he used to do things as a coach in the league, which wasn’t all that long ago so it’s still quite relevant. I particularly enjoyed this week when he had the broadcast show an old half-time form that they used to fill out in Winnipeg. It was something different that the average fan likely hadn’t seen before.

LaPolice doesn’t seem to concern himself too much with getting planned talking points in. It feels like the former coach prefers to just stick to what the game is giving him.

At one point during the Montreal-Toronto game, there was a graphic comparing Doug Flutie and Chad Kelly. The premise was that Kelly is the first quarterback since Flutie to lead the Argos to a 9-1 start. That’s about where the comparisons end, but fine. LaPolice got through the segment, but you could tell he wasn’t entirely comfortable with it.

LaPolice has a bright future in the booth, should he choose to focus on that route.

Third down

Sometimes something happens on the broadcast and you can’t help but laugh.

During that same game between the Als and Argos, Toronto head coach Ryan Dinwiddie was caught on a hot mic yelling at someone.

I don’t really have much to say here, as this stuff happens during live sports broadcasts.

I don’t think it’s a big deal. Some viewers surely take issue with coarse language inadvertently making the broadcast, however this was a pretty good behind-the-scenes moment. You get a sense of the intensity on the sidelines.

I’m assuming this one won’t make CFL Wired, though.

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