Why Raps lost TV-ratings war

JORDAN HEATH-RAWLINGS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:25 AM ET

What is wrong with you people? With the exception of fans in Vancouver and Ottawa -- who still have teams alive in the NHL playoffs -- the rest of this country has no excuse.

When a late-April game between the Blue Jays and Red Sox can draw more viewers than just the second NBA playoff game played in this country in five years, there is a problem somewhere.

One would assume that the remarkable turnaround engineered by Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo would have won over a few more converts.

Yet the Tuesday night Jays-Sox matchup on Rogers Sportsnet drew 351,000 pairs of Canadian eyeballs, compared to just 247,000 for the Raptors doing battle with Vince Carter and the New Jersey Nets on The Score.

The fact the Roy Halladay was pitching hardly mitigates this travesty. It's a baseball game in April, people.

Meanwhile, Canada's lone representative in the NBA playoffs toils in near-complete obscurity outside Toronto, despite the fact that a series pitting Vince Carter against his old team is attractive enough that ESPN has picked up at least three of a possible seven games for broadcast in the United States.

So how does this happen? There are a few possible explanations:

- It could be because of the limited reach of The Score into some Canadian markets, where it is not a part of basic cable packages.

- The lack of a Canadian player hurts the team in the eyes of the casual fans. Come playoff time, basketball fans in Western Canada are slipping on No. 13 Phoenix Suns jerseys. With Steve Nash running the league's most entertaining team, Chris Bosh and Co. end up taking a back seat.

- But more likely the problem is that, even after a decade of ups and downs, basketball has not established a foothold in this country the way that baseball -- with two more decades of play and a couple of World Series championships -- has done.

It takes time to grow a generation of fans. The Score's ratings for Tuesday's game were more than double their regular season average for Raptors broadcasts, which is an encouraging sign. If the Raptors can extend the series by winning in New Jersey Thursday or even move on to the second round, perhaps the rest of Canada will start to notice.

And that would be a good thing, because Roy Halladay is a joy to watch, without a doubt, but you can call me when the game he's pitching actually means something.


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