Three downs on the CFL on TSN: analyzing East, West Semi-Final television broadcasts

Courtesy: TSN

Remember, remember the first three weeks of November. The time of year CFL fans have been waiting for is finally here.

The CFL postseason kicked off this past weekend with the East and West Semi-Finals in Montreal and Vancouver, respectively.

This year is an interesting test case for the league as they’ve moved the games leading up to the Grey Cup from Sunday to Saturday in hopes of improving attendance and ratings.

While the sample size is small, the first two games of the postseason didn’t elicit much change. Attendance went down a little bit in Montreal, improved slightly in B.C., and television ratings also dipped a little overall.

The games themselves weren’t that exhilarating from a television perspective, and the league should give this experiment at least a couple of seasons to see whether or not it works. With that said, this probably wasn’t the start they were looking for.

First down

The biggest games of the year always bring out the best at TSN. It’s clear the budgets loosen a bit come playoff time and the broadcasts are certainly better off for it.

We got more camera angles, increased use of the cable cam, and even the return
of the 8k camera that provided some beautiful shots from the sideline. Next week’s games will surely see even more bells and whistles before the whole thing comes together at the Grey Cup in Hamilton.

While the playoff broadcasts are beautiful and enjoyable to watch, it’s also frustrating as a fan to know what TSN is capable of producing when they rarely pull out all the stops during the regular season.

As I’ve stated many times, it would be unrealistic to expect a Grey Cup-level production every week, but things like the cable cam and a few more bells and whistles should be the norm, not the exception.

Yes, producing live sports broadcasts is expensive, but the CFL on TSN is also one of the network’s better-performing and consistent draws and it should be treated as such.

Second down

We got a rare glimpse into some sideline conversations during the East Semi-Final between Hamilton and Montreal.

As the game neared its end, Ticats’ defensive back Chris Edwards lived up to his reputation by going after receiver Jake Harty. It caused the benches to clear and it took some time for order to be restored, and punishment dealt out.

During that time, one of the officials went over to Montreal head coach Jason Maas to discuss the situation. Normally, we wouldn’t hear much of what was said, but instead, we got a live mic feed and heard the whole thing. Since much of what Maas said wasn’t family-friendly, I’ll paraphrase what he said.

Maas indicated that the Ticats knew they were going home but his team wasn’t. He didn’t want to see any of his players suspended for the East Final when Hamilton’s player instigated the whole incident. He also wasn’t too pleased when the official said they’d have to do what they had to do to even out the situation.

I’m not here to agree or disagree with Maas or the official but it was a great bit of television that we got to hear it all.

Third down

I think it’s safe to say that Saturday’s West Semi-Final wasn’t Glen Suitor’s finest hour as a TSN analyst. The Hall of Fame broadcaster made some head-scratching comments, which have become more and more common for the Riders’ safety-turned-lead analyst at TSN.

The first came following a horrific collision between Calgary kick returner Peyton Logan and B.C. linebacker Jack Hinsperger once both players had managed to get up and leave the field on the field on their own power. Suitor suggested that both players’ time in the gym was the reason they were able to get up.

Even play-by-play announcer Dustin Nielson initially thought Suitor was praising the training staff for being prepared to deal with a scary situation. It was an odd comment that didn’t make much sense. Both players were lucky to have escaped serious injury and their workout habits were irrelevant given what occurred.

Later, B.C. kicker Sean Whyte had a rare missed field goal and Suitor didn’t seem sure if the miss would affect Whyte’s record-breaking regular season. The answer is of
course not, as playoff stats don’t count for season or career totals. Suitor probably knows that, but it’s hard to understand why he said it.

There’s been a lot of discussion surrounding the future of quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell and whether or not he’s headed to TSN. Many are saying he should join the panel, though I think Mitchell should make his way to the booth.

It wasn’t that long ago that CBS shuffled Phil Simms off their broadcast for Tony Romo. TSN could do the same.

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