Three downs on the CFL on TSN: analyzing the Grey Cup television broadcast

Photo courtesy: CFL

Just like that, it’s all over for another year.

The 110th Grey Cup delivered on the field as the Montreal Alouettes and Winnipeg Blue Bombers played an instant classic with many twists and turns that will leave us talking about it for years to come.

It was also another solid broadcast from TSN. When the three-letter network goes all in like they do for the Grey Cup, few do it better in this country. It’s an all-day spectacle that draws millions of eyeballs from coast to coast. There may not be a larger single-day event for the network.

Say what you will about TSN and how it handles the CFL at other times throughout the year, but when it comes to Grey Cup weekend, they always knock it out of the park.

First down

It wasn’t all smooth sailing on the broadcast side, and whatever happened here was noticeable.

Pre-game festivities at these types of events are very time-sensitive and they’re scheduled to the second for television purposes. I don’t know what happened but this year’s pregame show — the actual half-hour or so before kickoff — was off.

It began with a cold return from a commercial break to a random SUV driving onto the field with no explanation. Eventually, the Grey Cup emerged from the vehicle and a couple of RCMP officers slowly and quietly walked it over to its base.

From there, there were a number of long pauses between segments. Nothing flowed. Did we need a commercial break before returning for the anthem? It was odd.

It didn’t help that it was also an absurdly long show that felt like it was dragging on. Kickoff was advertised for 6:00 p.m. EST, yet it didn’t occur until over 40 minutes later.

Second down

This year’s broadcast featured nearly 50 different cameras but somehow still felt a little lacking at times, most notably during the review of Williams Stanback’s first-half rushing touchdown. All scoring plays are automatically reviewed and this one was certainly deserving of a closer look.

I hope the command centre got some angles we didn’t see because nothing on the broadcast gave us much of an answer. Most of the views were from behind or in front of the play. The one sideline view that might have helped was obstructed by an official.

This is the type of moment where the pylon cam would have been helpful. It’s not like this is a new innovation. It’s time TSN brings them in along with down marker cams. Heck, they can probably even find a sponsor for them like most American broadcasts.

Kudos to TSN for getting a great side angle of Winnipeg’s goal-line stand near the end of the first half. Not only was the shot perfect but it also revealed that defensive tackle Ricky Walker should have been called for offside because his helmet was in the neutral zone.

Third down

For better or worse, the officiating was a story in this Grey Cup.

The first half alone featured a controversial unnecessary roughness call to extend a Blue Bombers drive, a borderline no-yards challenge from Alouettes head coach Jason Maas, and a missed offside call on a goal-line stand.

Obviously, TSN has nothing to do with the officiating but it often feels like a downplayed conversation on the broadcast.

As much as I don’t like talking about officiating, sometimes it’s a big part of a game. Colour analyst Glen Suitor was able to make a few comments regarding some of the calls, but overall there wasn’t much about the third team on the field based on the commentary during the game and from the panels.

This is another moment where I think it would have been helpful for TSN to add a rules analyst to the broadcast. It would allow the officiating story to be told without the analysis being over the top.

It’s understandable that the network might not have the budget to carry a full-time officiating analyst during the regular season but for the Grey Cup, it would have been a nice addition.

I wanted to close out this final edition of this column by thanking everyone for following along this year. This idea bounced around in my head for a while and I was glad I was finally able to do it this year.

I hope it added something to your week throughout the 2023 CFL season.

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