Canadian Football League

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Canadian Football League goes silent

Television screens across the country showed snaps, pass completions and touchdown conversions Saturday night - but who was doing what and when was left for interpretation by the fans with elite concentration and a thorough knowledge of the game.
The lockout-ridden CBC managed to squeak out a television broadcast of the Toronto at Edmonton CFL game without its regular employees, but the format, which lacked the usual colour commentary and analysis, left a little to be desired.
With 5,000 CBC employees walking picket lines rather than sidelines, the national broadcaster was forced to rely on management to run cameras and microphones during its regularly scheduled broadcast of the game.
The CBC dubbed the format the "stadium experience from home" earlier this week because it relied on boosted crowd noise to make up for the atmosphere usually created by play-by-play commentary.
But the screams of beer guzzling Eskimos fans did little to replace the litany of play forecasting, clever team insights and sometimes unimaginable statistical comparisons that usually flood the airwaves during the downtime between plays.
Fans who tuned in to catch the usual pre-game show, instead were offered an animated children's movie.
Once the play got underway, viewers were greeted with the voice of stadium announcer Al Stafford, which was difficult at times to make out in the echo-prone, open air stadium.
Graphics of team lineups flashed across the screen in the usual fashion, but the analysis of who is hot and who is not at this stage in the season was conspicuously absent.
At one point, instructions over a radio telling a cameraman to get closer to the play could clearly be heard by television viewers.
The cameras were at times also a little shaky and the angles not what the dialled in super fan may be used to. However, for the most part, the broadcast did follow the play.
CBC spokesman Jason MacDonald said the network was pleased with the way Stafford's stadium announcements came across in lieu of the usual sportscasters.
"That went a long way to creating the ambience we were hoping it would create with the stadium sound," MacDonald said after the game.
"There were some technical glitches, but certainly things improved as the game went along," he said. "Overall it was a production fans could enjoy."
MacDonald said the CBC will likely have the ratings for the game by Monday.
Meanwhile, fans who logged on to the CFL website were asked to fill out a survey on what they thought of the CBC broadcast.
Questions ranged from whether the lack of play-by-play helped or hindered the production to whether people tuned into radio broadcasts to compliment what was shown on television.
The lockout and subsequent unusual CFL broadcast comes on the heels of several woes this year for CBC sports.
In February the network lost a bid for the right to cover the 2010 and 2012 Olympics. The cancelled NHL season was also a substantial blow, and trouble with curling broadcasts has also hurt the public broadcaster's generally beefy sports department.
MacDonald declined to speculate on whether any future CFL broadcasts during the lockout would follow the same scaled back format.
"Frankly what we are hoping, come this week, is that we can get back to the bargaining table and then it's not an issue."
But with the lockout stretching into its second week and neither camp showing signs of breaking the deadlock, hockey fans - rabid after a losing last year's season to the NHL lockout - are likely getting a little nervous.


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