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

Courtesy: CFL on TSN

Playoff football is always bittersweet.

The games are generally the best of the year and what we wait for all season. On the other hand, it also means the season is winding down. There’s only one CFL game left in 2023 and that sucks.

Nothing lasts forever, and sometimes absence makes the heart grow stronger, and that’s why football is so great. The season doesn’t last for most of the year. It’s short. You have to enjoy it while you can.

First down

It’s that time of year when we start to see more faces added to TSN’s broadcasts. Division Final weekend is generally when we see the host of many panels James Duthie added into the fold.

This week, they shipped Duthie off to Winnipeg to host a mini-panel with Jim Barker and Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell.

There’s no doubt that Duthie is one of the best in the business in this country and it would be great if we could see him more involved with the CFL on TSN, but he already does a lot of work for the network hosting panels for hockey and other large events. Duthie didn’t make his usual appearance last year as he was working the World Cup, for example.

Between him being busy and needing some time off work as well, it’s understandable why Duthie isn’t used more for TSN’s CFL broadcasts. But hey, one can dream. He’s great.

Second down

As for the work of the mini-panel, once again Mitchell was a breath of fresh air on the broadcast.

No disrespect to any of TSN’s other panelists, but there’s something to be said for having someone who played the game so recently. It just helps to hear from someone with such a fresh perspective, which is different than someone who played five, ten, or twenty years ago. This is why you see NFL broadcasts bringing in newly-retired players all the time.

The very first thing Mitchell was asked was what Bombers’ quarterback Zach Collaros might be thinking about the possibility of not having a number of his receivers for the West Final. Dalton Schoen was ruled out the day prior, while Nic Demski, Rasheed Bailey, Greg McCrae were game-time decisions.

Mitchell, who knows Collaros well from their time together in the league, suggested the issue may come down to comfort. The former M.O.P. quarterback trusts that Demski and Bailey know where to be in certain situations. Would their potential replacements do the same? Mitchell suspected Collaros could be going over different situations with some of his backup receivers just in case.

Winnipeg’s game-time decisions all ended up playing, so it didn’t matter in the end, but Mitchell’s answer was very thoughtful and provided a look into the mind of a quarterback.

There’s no question Mitchell has a future at TSN if he wants it. The question for me is about whether he should be on the panel or in the booth? I’d still lean toward the latter.

Third down

The division finals also mean that we start saying goodbye to some of the faces we’re used to seeing all season.

Once again this year, it appears that’ll be the case with colour analyst Duane Forde. During the East Final, play-by-play announcer Rod Smith thanked Forde for working alongside him for much of the season.

For my money, Forde is the best colour analyst TSN currently has and should be working the Grey Cup. His knowledge of the game is top-notch, he brings the right amount of humour, and is 100 percent authentic — all things you want in a good broadcaster.

Forde has been a trooper for TSN. Many of the names and faces around him have changed over the years having worked with the likes of Smith Chris Cuthbert, Rod Black, Gord Miller, Marshall Ferguson, Dustin Nielson, and more. Through them all, Forde has been there.

I’d really like to see the former fullback rewarded for his consistently good work over the years by getting to work the television side of a Grey Cup. It would be the right thing to do, not only for Forde but the broadcast as well.

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