Saturday, February 28, 2009

TV: Review- Toronto Raptors' Broadcasts

The Toronto Raptors of the NBA have limited their broadcasts this year to just five networks, Raptors TV, CBC, The Score, TSN and TSN2.

In essence, the broadcasts break down thusly: Matt Devlin and Leo Rautins do the CBC and The Score broadcasts, Devlin and Jack Armstrong do the latter two. Armstrong pops up in the driver-seat commentating slot for Rautins' shows, Rautins for Armstrong's shows. Sherm Hamilton joins Devlin for the two Raptors TV games and, it seems likely, both Rautins and Armstrong can be counted on to be in the studio for them.

So, how's it going this year, after a decade of Chuck Swirsky dominating the Raptor broadcasts? Not so good.

Devlin's a pro with good credentials and a background in the NBA. He's certainly a change from the voluable Swirsky and isn't suffering from anything close to media overkill. Swirsky had his own weekday afternoons radio show on Canada's leading sportsradio station. To a certain extent, that's good. Devlin never seems to go overboard, getting neither too high nor too low with this chronically underachieving team this year. I THOUGHT that was what I wanted.

I miss The Swirsk. As I understand it, Devlin is quite the over-wrought guy BEHIND the mike. Tales are told of him almost assaulting his fell0w colour-man during games. But what ever physical convolutions he's putting himself through, the controlled meter of his voice never varies much. Add in his complete absence of Raptor history and catch-phrases, and you have, what SOUNDS, like a broadcasting robot. Three quarters of a season in, and I still don't know WHO Devlin is? Likes to eat, because his restaurant escapades are nightly fodder, but beyond that, nothing!

On the other hand, Armstrong is doing more games and, while Devlin dotes on turning Armstrong INTO the game's story during many runaway broadcasts, Armstrong still has enough of the ol' coach in him to at least TRY to make the game be about roundball than him. He's still presciently good at analysis and I put him in a class with guys like Al McGuire who can balance the blarney with good basketball insight. Rautins, a good guy, but a hectoring lecturer as an analyst, isn't anywhere near as entertaining. Less of him is a good thing. Sherm Hamilton still tends to mumble a bit, but he's usually pretty good and gives lucid explanations in the studio post-game shows on Raptors TV.

As for the rest of the studio host/analysts, all are pretty good, with the exception of the occasional appearance on The Score by Tim Micallef, who I loathe as a TV presence in everything he does. He can take his double entendres and stick them where Timmy Don't Shine.

Which brings me to another repugnant topic. TSN2.

Nobody is exactly innocent in the great Rogers/TSN2 screwup. The Raptors could have put language into its contract with TSN requiring main network coverage if TSN2 didn't get carriage on all of the major Canadian cable broadcast systems, of which Rogers is the biggest. And mine. The club didn't. TSN could have arranged carriage with Rogers BEFORE trying to force-feed them the necessity with things like the Raptor contract. On the other hand, TSN2 DOES appear everywhere in the country ... except on Rogers.

And it's ROGERS that is the true villain in this case. The #@(*$&)#*$& network enjoys a monopoly in Toronto and much of the surrounding countryside. It also has five stations of Sports programming of its own to protect against more splintering of the audience. Soooo, the (I'm tired of tying punctuation, YOU fill in the blank) at Rogers won't sign to carry TSN2. Then the (fill in the blank)'s at Rogers try to tell me they are looking after ME, not adding another 45 cents to my bill. I get 200 channels I don't want for my $150, but I need to be protected from the rapacious TSN.

My mother tells me name-calling is the sign of mental bankruptcy. If I could slide this by her, I would start by calling Rogers officials about seven different kinds of motherless cretins, but I can't. I hate that the unashamed same feel I'm too stupid to know when I'm being snowed. It really riles me to complain to the CRTC. I have. But nothing will come of it.

Ultimately, I'd feel madder about missing broadcasts (Yes, I catch the Game-In-An-Hour broadcast later in the night, or even tune into the odd rights-challenged broadcast of the games over the internet), if the Raptors were play-off bound. As it is, with not much to recommend in the broadcasts, save for Armstrong, less than stellar game-play by the team and no desire whatsoever to give the team numbers for its advertisers, I think I can miss more games from here on in.

Any by more, I mean more than the TSN2 ones Rogers doesn't want me to see.

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