Close call for CFL viewers

BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:15 AM ET

The viewer will adjust to the broadcast.

But what worked for one day won't work for a whole season.

Those revelations hit me last night at about 8 p.m., emerging through an orange haze caused by the consumption of Cheezies.

My assignment was straight-forward: Watch the two CFL Labour Day games, back to back, on TV. The first game, Edmonton at Calgary on CBC, had no announcers (other than the stadium announcer) due to an ongoing labour lockout. The second game, Toronto at Hamilton on TSN, was shown in the standard way.

Whether announcers actually are needed for televised sports has been a hot topic since the CBC lockout began. So yesterday represented a unique opportunity to compare the two worlds.

Is gab a gift? Which game did I enjoy more?

Well, overall, I think I liked the first game better -- the one without announcers -- but it wasn't directly because there were no announcers, per se. The rub is, I watched the first game far differently than I watched the second game.

When you have no choice but to pay close attention to something in order to follow it, you likely will get more out of it.

DISTRACTIONS

On an average day, distractions are bound to occur as you try to watch a sporting event on TV. The phone rings. There's a knock at the door. Your significant other says it's time for a serious talk. Somebody has poopy pants (hopefully, the baby).

Therefore, the only approach one can take heading into a game with no announcers is to zero in on it. For the most part, I managed to do that yesterday. But it took considerable effort.

The Edmonton-Calgary game became very exciting in the second half, but I still had to focus to enjoy it. No tapping on the computer. No flicking channels. No communicating with living things.

It was the focus making it fun, not the fun making me focus.

Still, I missed the information. Players got injured and I had no idea what went wrong.

I missed the analysis. Edmonton was penalized for pass-interference in the end zone in the final minute, giving Calgary a first down on the one-yard line.

Was it a good call or not?

And I missed the outrage. The Stampeders scored a touchdown and needed a two-point convert to send the game to overtime, but unbelievably, they were flagged for taking too much time and the ball was pushed back to the 10. If ever a situation called for an announcer to go loco, that was it.

Despite those frustrations, I got more "in to" the first game than the second game. Kinda had to.

The Argos and Ticats still were in the first half when my old viewing habits returned. I clicked around a bit. I got up and stretched. I had a conversation with the cat. I was confident the squeaky voice of play-by-play man Chris Cuthbert would rise a few octaves to alert me when something important occurred.

True, it was annoying to hear how "intense" and "special" the Labour Day Classic is, over and over again. We get it, okay?

But ultimately, the no-announcer thing won't cut it over the long haul. Why? It's too much work for the viewer.

If announcers were absent for, say, a full year, the hardcore fans would get used to it. They might even come to prefer it. But casual fans would start to tune out.

With no announcers, you just can't keep a mental grip on what's going on unless you block out everything and concentrate. And while that may be possible for the odd game here and there, who has the energy to commit to that over an extended period?

Bottom line for CBC announcers: You may be encouraged to shut up more often, but your jobs will be waiting for you when the lockout ends.

- SILENT HIGH:

With no chatter from announcers between plays, we heard some cool music over the McMahon Stadium loudspeakers (from Elvis to Eminem). And with all the boos and cheers from fans clearly audible, it felt like you were the stands instead of in your living room.

- SILENT LOW:

Chatter from announcers would have been welcome had it drowned out a Calgary radio personality who was acting as a sideline host. He tried to pump up the crowd with such gems as, "Make some noise." Couldn't that guy have been locked out, too?

- VERBAL HIGH:

The TSN halftime show succinctly summed up the first half of the Toronto-Hamilton game and told us what to watch for in the second half. Halftime in the Edmonton-Calgary game was a joke, with a canned feature and two Grey Cup flashbacks. Won't Leon McQuay ever hang on to that ball?

- VERBAL LOW:

Early in the second quarter, TSN analyst Glen Suitor had this to say after a violent block: "The entire crowd just gave you the 'oooh-aaah' on this baby." Of course, had there been no announcers yakking it up, we would have heard the oooh-aaah.


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