The Toronto Raptors have had as successful a December/January as former Republican U.S. presidential candidate Rick Perry, going a scintillating 4-11 thus far, including their current six-game losing skid.
When the TV cameras pan the Air Canada Centre most NBA game nights, there are more empty chairs than people. So it goes without saying the Raptors' TV ratings must be south of 0 C, right?
While the sample size is small, ratings for the post-NBA lockout Raptors are well ahead of last season's averages. According to the team, after three games, TSN was averaging 184,000 viewers compared to 150,000 last year. After five games, TSN2 was averaging 104,000 viewers compared to 96,000 last year.
Rogers Sportsnet, after four games was averaging 198,500 viewers compared to 135,000 last year. And, after just one game, Sportsnet One/Ontario's Jan. 2 game against the New York Knicks averaged 159,000 viewers compared to 67,000 on the channel last year.
Clearly, the Raptors remain a steady if unspectacular TV property. It remains to be seen how those numbers will change if the on-court performance continues in this downward direction.
TALK THE TALK
"Hard work. Defence. Getting after it. Minute by minute. Day by day." Which NBA head coach was Raptors TV play-by-play guy Matt Devlin getting excited about recently: Gregg Popovich, winner of four NBA titles? How about Phil Jackson, winner of 11 championship rings? Maybe it's Red Auerbach, winner of nine NBA crowns as a coach?
No, the correct answer is Dwane Casey, head coach of the 4-11 Raptors.
So Devlin pimps his Raptors. Is that different from Buck Martinez's gentle stroking of the Toronto Blue Jays? Joe Bowen's Toronto Maple Leafs high-volume homer-ism?
No, they're all generally on board with the efforts of the home team (which typically has right of approval on announcers). Just like members of the Boston Bruins media, who were given their day with the Stanley Cup this summer. Combined with the recent BCE Inc./Rogers Communications Inc. alliance to buy Raptors/Leafs owner Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd., these are not propitious times for independent journalism.
While everyone has their conflicts, basketball often just sounds more partisan than other sports.
Perhaps it's the liberal use of first names: "Andrea for three …!" or "Amir with the put-back." Perhaps it's the more casual hip-hop culture surrounding the sport. Maybe it's the imperative to shout as if your left foot is on fire, a la Gus Johnson, or go bug-eyed crazy like Dick Vitale. Maybe it's as simple as Devlin and his MLSE minders feeling he still has to sell the sport to the frozen denizens of Canada.
Whatever the reason, Devlin and his hoops colleagues often push the boundaries of familiarity more than other sports. Judging from the ratings above, however, it doesn't seem to be bothering anyone.
Gee, do you think anyone will read a book from Tiger Woods's former swing instructor, Hank Haney, to be released a week before the Masters?
One person who won't is Woods.
"I think it's unprofessional and very disappointing," Woods told ESPN.com, "especially because it's someone I worked with and trusted as a friend. … There have been other one-sided books about me, and I think people understand that this book is about money. I'm not going to waste my time reading it."