tabler-buck-july-16Last weekend, Rogers Sportsnet executed its plan to broadcast the first Toronto Blue Jays game of their Spring Training schedule. The response from viewers was as overwhelming as the network’s coverage, which included the full fleet of presenters, announcers and on-field reporters. More than 2-million Canadians tuned into the team’s exhibition game against the Detroit Tigers at some point during the broadcast, with an average viewership of more than 450,000.

To put that number in context, more people in Canada watched a Spring Training game involving the Blue Jays than they did Game Two of the NLCS between the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals. In fact, averaging 450,000 viewers would be an impressive number for a regular season game between Toronto and Detroit.

Despite a drop off at the end of last season, television ratings for Blue Jays games have been on a consistent rise over the last two seasons. Following this off-season’s roster bolstering, excitement among Canadians for the country’s only Major League product is higher than its been in some time. The addition of marketable players like R.A. Dickey and Jose Reyes has only served to add momentum to the following that Jose Bautista and Canadian Brett Lawrie garnered last season.

Shortly after the impressive Spring Training debut, Rogers Sportsnet announced that it would be broadcasting five additional Spring Training games on FX Canada. While the cynics among us immediately wondered if Rogers wasn’t once again using the lure of its baseball content to encourage increased subscriptions to additional cable tiers, doubts were quelled by the fact that Rogers cable subscribers would be enjoying a free preview of the network that represents a partnership between majority owner and managing partner, Rogers Media, and minority partner, FX Networks.

The broadcasts on FX Canada began on February 28th with an afternoon game between the Blue Jays and New York Yankees being televised. Four more Spring Training games airing on March 7th, 24th, 27th and 28th will complete the schedule. While viewers can expect an inundation of advertisements of the network during broadcasts, the motivation behind showing these games on FX Canada has less to do with inducing consumers to up their cable packages than it does for Rogers Sportsnet maintaining a consistent level of brand recognition.

The seven Spring Training games that are airing on Rogers Sportsnet are all produced by the network with the same personalities presenting, calling and reporting the game. In order to air the additional five games – a decision that was reached past a time that would allow them to be produced by Rogers – the feeds from other networks producing the broadcasts would have to be used. Put simply, Rogers Sportsnet is unwilling to air the television feed of another network for a game that involves the Blue Jays.

It makes perfect sense. Rogers has created a strong measure of brand recognition with Toronto Blue Jays Baseball On Rogers Sportsnet, and pushing anything else on its own network would only serve to diminish the strength of this association which has been built up in recent years.

The Dumb Thing That Don Cherry Said

This week’s Coach’s Corner on Hockey Night In Canada opened with Don Cherry commending Daniel Alfredsson of the Ottawa Senators for cross-checking Zac Rinaldo in the face, and getting thrown out of a closely contested one-goal game for “acting as a captain should act.” Unsurprisingly, the Flyers held on to win that game 2-1. Good job. Good effort.

From there, Cherry went on to suggest that the great Sidney Crosby, who is having a special sort of season this year (after returning from serious concussion symptoms that plagued him for parts of two years), would have been playing as well as he is now if only he had listened to him from the start of his NHL career. Of course, it should be remembered that during his last stint as a coach, more than a decade ago, Cherry led the Mississauga Ice Dogs to a .235 winning percentage over 68 games. Let’s go.

In what is perhaps Cherry’s greatest exhibition of a lack of self-awareness, the star of Coach’s Corner followed up on his told-you-so advice to Crosby by rolling a highlight reel of himself over the past three years advising the Maple Leafs to call up Nazem Kadri. The 22-year-old forward is almost averaging a point per game for the Toronto Maple Leafs this season causing Cherry to feel vindicated for his constant whining on the issue. In addition to completely dismissing the notion that Kadri’s success this year might be because of his developmental path, not despite it, Cherry completely forgets about his past criticisms of young players who have faced similar criticisms as Kadri has during his rise to becoming an NHL regular.

In a couple of cases the Kardri criticisms that Cherry criticizes are the exact same ones that he’s used in the past to describe P.K. Subban and even Nail Yakupov only four weeks earlier.

A Keith Olbermann Return To ESPN?

Despite instigating talk of his own return to the network at which he rose to prominence, it remains unlikely that ESPN would want Keith Olbermann to come back to broadcasting on its network.

From John Skipper, ESPN’s president, speaking with the New York Times:

We don’t have a policy that says we won’t bring somebody back. We’re running a great business, and when we think we can get quality content, there’s no such thing as a condemned list. That said, this is not an easy place to get back into. There are not that many successful examples of people who have come back, in part because it’s like water filling a vacuum. When somebody leaves, somebody else fills their place.

Translation: Absolutely not. But maybe. But more likely: absolutely not.

Your Viral Video Of The Week

New Rochelle beats Mount Vernon in high school hoops on the dramatic final shot of the game.

Your Viral Video Of The Week Runner Up

A Berry College pitcher goes berserk when a Hendrix College batter calls time in the box, eventually leading to his tackling of a base runner.

Your Quick Link Of The Week

This is the story of how CBS teamed with several different design groups and animators to create its current graphic standard for sports broadcasts which was unveiled for the Super Bowl.

Your Surprisingly Interesting Broadcast Of The Week

There’s something strangely compelling about the NFL’s scouting combine. You can argue all you want about its usefulness in actually scouting players, but it’s impossible to disagree with the event’s increasing popularity. A new record for television viewership was set with 7.25 million viewers over four days of coverage, an 11% increase over last year’s numbers. My favorite thing to watch is the vertical leap. If it’s onscreen, I can’t turn away.