If Canadian hockey fans aren't already irritable enough with Lockout Theatre, they now have to deal with Sleep Deprivation Drama. Bleary-eyed puckheads wanting to watch the world junior hockey championships the next two weeks will need an alarm clock or a rooster to catch live action from Ufa, Russia, somewhere east of Moscow. How far east? Stalin hid entire armies there without detection before surprising the Wehrmacht in 1943. Ufa makes Sochi, the site of the 2014 Olympics, look like a Porter Airlines hop.
Depending on where you live in the frozen Dominion, catching Canada/Germany on Boxing Day entails waking up at 1 a.m. (Vancouver), 5:30 a.m. (St. John's), or 4 a.m. (centre of the universe). You really have to love hockey to watch Canada/Germany in the first place. But at 4 a.m.?
So this holiday season, fans will reluctantly PVR the games or see the replay during civilized hours. TSN has produced cute ads with sleepy fans brushing their teeth with shaving creme etc. to acknowledge the challenge. What's a network to do? PVR is fine for Breaking Bad or Homeland but when it comes to sports, it don't mean a thing if it ain't got that ring (of authenticity).
Ratings from Ufa won't approach the boxcar numbers from Calgary/Edmonton in 2012 or Ottawa in 2009. Still, sponsors eager for the hockey demographic in this labour-scarred landscape will forgive the blip. Ufa is the price you pay for having the tournament in North American time zones three of the past four years. Someone else has to host the WJC once in a while. This time, that someplace is no place for TV ratings. So be it.
Look at it as practice for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.
Novel concept for WJC. They go to where people actually like hockey. The NHL should try that sometime.
Already the knives are being sharpened: " Darren Dutchyshen @dutchysc You take penalties when you are not strong enough or fast enough. This is supposed to be team speed. Who have we been faster than."
IT'S A LION THING
Speaking of criticism, what's it like to be a supporter of the Detroit Lions? Cheering for the Lions against the NFL powers is like cheering for rotary dial-up against wireless. You can't win. But the Lions do have Calvin Johnson, the greatest receiver in the NFL (Don't ask how you can have the greatest receiver and not win. It's a Lion thing.)
Saturday night, Johnson set the single-season record for receiving yards, breaking a record held since 1995 by Jerry Rice. Okay, Johnson smashed the record, getting 225 yards in the game (which Detroit still lost 31-18). However, the performance was accompanied on ESPN's broadcast by equivocation and ho-humming from analyst Jon Gruden and others.
Johnson is a lucky recipient of a pass-happy league that Rice never enjoyed. The pass interference rules make it easier today. Many of Johnson's yards came in meaningless situations. He plays in a dome. We were expecting them to say Johnson doesn't make his bed in the morning. Can a guy and his team get a break?
To Rice's credit, he didn't repeat any of this, acknowledging that Johnson must beat double and triple teams to get his catches. One thing Rice didn't need to say. He set his records while winning Super Bowls. Johnson has yet to even win a playoff game. As we said, it's a Lions thing.
SHOW AND TELL TV
Michelle Tafoya is the best. To illustrate the deafening sound levels at Seattle's Qwest Field, Tafoya used a stationary mike stand on the sidelines during Sunday's win by the Seahawks over San Francisco. By moving back five and then 10 yards from the mike she illustrated how hard it was to hear a quarterback's signals above the roar of the Seattle fans. Great show-and-tell TV.
Then there is NBC's Bob Costas. Interviewing Seattle's super rookie QB Russell Wilson, a blithe Costas proposed to Wilson that he might be bleeding votes in the rookie competition away from Andrew Luck of Indianapolis and Robert Griffin III of Washington. A bemused Wilson graciously ignored Costas' slight, saying he had other priorities.
The presumption that Wilson, who's leading the surging Seahawks to the playoffs, might be worthy of the prize didn't seem to occur to Costas. He might have been the only one who thought that on Sunday night.
EGGNOG FOR EVERYONE
Must have been a heck of a party at TSN Saturday night. As it rolled its menu for the early version of SportsCentre, the return of Steve Nash to the Lakers came up. The headline graphic read, "This Game Sucks".
Having worked a day or two in TV, we figured some bored staffer had punched in the bogus headline intending to replace it later with something pithy like "California Dreaming" or "Doing What Comes Nash-rully". Only they forgot and let "This Game Sucks" roll out. They also let "Headline Font 1" sneak into the public realm, too.
They were corrected in the next version of SC. You had to know this was going to happen when you let Jay Onrait supply the eggnog in the newsroom.
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