Archive for the ‘Rogers Sportsnet’ Category

espn-body-issue-gary-player_r640When the subject of sex is broached within the confines of sports, it’s usually followed by snickering. Our false sense of what comprises proper decorum combines with the remnants of fossilized puritanism to create a nervous laughter over the outlandish tally of contraceptives given to Olympic athletes or the reported abstinence of a national soccer team before a pivotal World Cup match.

We seldom discuss the obvious. The strange relationship that sports fans have with athletes – which combines pageantry, pedestals and vicariousness in an unholy trinity – grows more peculiar when we consider the overt voyeurism inherent to the role of sports spectator. We gain pleasure through watching toned muscles and tight flesh exhibit elite physical ability in unison and competition with others.

Fortunately, the typical heterosexual male can remain blissfully ignorant to this portion of his enjoyment thanks to the overcompensation of the generally accepted norms provided by scantily-clad cheerleaders, commercials reinforcing our manly love of Kate Upton’s breasts and the general masculine bro-ness associated with cheering on a sports team.

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Toronto Maple Leafs Head Coach Randy Carlyle Gives Press ConferenceSomething happened when the Toronto Maple Leafs hired Brian Burke on November 29, 2008, that went beyond the change in organizational philosophy that typically accompanies a new front-office regime in professional sports. Burke, whose abilities to articulate are well matched with his impulse to express himself, became the fabled face of the franchise.

The face of the franchise. It’s a funny phrase that’s probably more frequently used by sports talk radio shows than anyone with anything to do with a professional team, but it suggests that fans are prone to assigning someone from the ranks with the role as the representative of the entire club. This isn’t usually a conscious decision, and it’s exceedingly rare for a fan base to anoint a general manager with such a potentially hazardous oil. We’re far more likely to pick a player – someone on the field, court or rink of play – as the person through whom we live out our sports-based fantasies.

However, Burke’s justified extroverted tendencies combined with an exceedingly engaged group of supporters and a roster that – let’s be honest – didn’t have a lot of players with whom fans would naturally choose to identify, placed the head of the Maple Leafs front office in a position which few professional sports executives find themselves. Even after making notable acquisitions to that roster, it was largely thought of as Burke’s team. Even as fans mocked terms like truculence, there was an implicit understanding that Burke was the figurehead most closely identified with the organization that they supported through so many years in the wilderness.

After four more, even as a version of the promised land appeared on the horizon, Burke’s status as president, general manager and face of the franchise ceased to be.

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tradedeadlinedayToday is NHL Trade Deadline Day. For anyone subjected to a steady diet of sports television coverage in Canada, this is a fact that would be difficult to escape. There are few subjects that garner more attention from mainstream sports networks in the Great White North than hockey, and there are few single-day events in the sport that are more conducive to those employed by media outlets for their “insider” status than the last day in which NHL teams are allowed to make trades before the end of the season.

It all sounds exciting. Breaking news. Superstars on the move. Teams going all in. General managers getting roasted. Future lineups being projected.

Trade Deadline Day is a lot like New Year’s Eve. In our minds we imagine that we’ll spend the last day of the year as though it’s 1991, and we’re Axl Rose. In reality, we’re negotiating with a cab driver how much we’ll pay for the vomit that spilled out of our mouths on the back seat of the taxi. Likewise, we imagine today to be about draft picks being exchanged for impact players that will decide whether the current season is bust or boom. In reality, today is about dozens of men in suits fiddling with smart phones trying to be the first one to share the details of a fourth line winger being traded for a sixth round draft pick via social media.

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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.

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