CBC's silence not so golden

PERRY LEFKO -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:44 AM ET

With all due respect to pollsters and one particular media analyst, watching sports on television without announcers is a little too much of the silent treatment.

Last Saturday's Canadian Football League game between the Saskatchewan Roughriders and B.C. Lions illustrated the need for commentators before, during and after the game.

B.C. Lions quarterback Casey Printers, who started because first-stringer Dave Dickenson is sidelined indefinitely with an injury to his non-throwing shoulder, exited the game midway through it, replaced by third-stringer Buck Pierce. He engineered two touchdowns late in the game to pull out a dramatic come-from-behind win.

But unless you follow the CFL, you were left wondering what transpired. Because of the CBC lockout of union employees, the game did not include broadcasters.

In the absence of commentators or sideline reporters, the viewer could only guess what precipitated the quarterback change. Printers had an injury in his throwing shoulder in training camp, but this was his first start of the season, so surely that couldn't be it? Or was it performance related?

Printers threw two interceptions, and there were stories afterward he pulled himself out of the game and it was not the coaches' decision.

But again, there was no way of knowing that, only a shot of Printers on the sidelines without his shoulder pads on and appearing to be hurting.

And what about Pierce? Better yet, who is Pierce? His background clearly needed to be explained because he is a rookie.

After the game, when viewers normally could have heard some comments from a player or coach, the CBC quickly broke away from the broadcast and switched to alternate programming. It was like reading a book without an ending.

Normally CBC's panellists offer post-game commentary. Ironically, one of the panellists, Sean Millington, returned to the playing ranks following a retirement of more than two years to accept a job with the Argonauts. Surely, this would have been included in the overall telecast. The lockout, in fact, contributed to Millington's decision.

Now if you believe a poll that people who are watching the CBC haven't noticed any difference in the programming without on-air personnel -- and this applies to the nightly newscasts -- then surely somebody isn't talking to football fans.

And if you believe a media analyst who claims people are "fed up with the obnoxious, persistent, most unintelligent, almost always ungrammatical and opinionated commentary" of sports broadcasters, allow me to rebut.

Yes, the television audiences have risen noticeably in the first two games without commentators -- I believe the quality of the teams involved contributed significantly along with the fact the games went right down to the final whistle -- but that doesn't mean commentators aren't useful.

OBNOXIOUS

Yes, some are obnoxious and ungrammatical and everything else, but to make a blanket generalization like that is wrong.

The CBC has switched one of its two scheduled Labour Day broadcasts -- the Argos and Hamilton Tiger-Cats -- to TSN. The CBC simply didn't have enough manpower to do both games, but rather than piece off both games, it kept one.

Had both games been presented without broadcasters, it would have been some seven hours without any broadcast information sans the stadium announcers providing the basic down-and-distance information.

Watch the two games back-to-back on Monday and see if there is any difference. Surely there will be some annoying commentary, but it's better than virtual silence.

And if the lockout isn't resolved before the hockey season, let's see what the viewing numbers and/or the reaction is like for the initial broadcasts.

Following the NHL's one-year hiatus because of a lockout -- funny how that word keeps repeating itself -- there are stories that require analysis and perspective, and I doubt Silent Hockey Night In Canada will work.


Videos

Photos