Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Serenity Tao

The Tao's call to arms this morning touched on similar ground to something I briefly mentioned (in a self promoting way, of course) on the weekend: the baseball audience in Canada is underserved. Hockey gets so much more coverage and so on and so forth. The discussion that followed is informed and intelligent, with numerous excellent points and suggestions about how baseball coverage can be improved.

Sadly, it never really will.

The Tao's original point regarding baseball highlights being buried during TSN's 11PM Sportscentre is accurate but unlikely to change. In a perfect world, with "journalistic balance" it would be much more attainable. Sadly, Sportscentre is 50% news and 50% brand awareness platform and cross-promotion opportunity. TSN and Sportscentre tell the hockey story first because they have a heavily vested interest in the success of hockey on their networks.

This isn't new, Sportsnet's baseball coverage is more extensive than other Canadian networks, but if Rogers sold the Jays would it continue? Baseball fans don't show up in the numbers (at the ballpark or on TV) that hockey fans do, which is why you'll never see one network walk away from hockey without anyone running to pick it up.

ESPN is famous for this (good discussion on the topic during a couple recent L'Homme du Sport podcasts) most notably the significant uptick in NASCAR coverage right around the time the four-letter increased the amount of NASCAR races on the airspace. The Score covered college basketball far more extensively this season, culminating in the network broadcasting the tournament this March.

We're all at the mercy of the dreaded branders and marketers once again. TSN officially ceased to be a journalistic entity the day the LEAD STORY on Sportscentre was TSN's acquisition of the Hockey Night in Canada theme. Sportsnet will assign more resources to baseball so long as they stand to benefit from our association of Sportsnet and baseball.

The real question remains: is this such a bad thing? We love to hold baseball writers and sports entities hands to the fire with cries of balance and integrity, but at the end of the day they're just games. We love them all the same, but as Joe Posnanski wrote in as many words recently, shouldn't we reserve our ire and desire for transparency for the business section? For the news or editorial sections? Sporting conflicts of interest are harmless compared to the fleecing of a generation. (Sorry, a little too much Shock Doctrine this week.)

In the end, sports fans and lazy slobs alike have it pretty fucking good. I will likely watch more baseball this year than my father watched in the decades that preceded and followed the Blue Jays arrival in Toronto. It's not a bad life, even if we know how much better it could be.


  1. I wouldn't go so far as to say "It will never be improved"

    If there's a market for it, it will be shown. It's the same reason Sportsnet ditched Raptors coverage in favour of more regional hockey games: Numbers showed that more people across the country care about their local hockey team than about a basketball team in Toronto.

    The Jays have a luxury that the Raptors do not, in that they are much more popular in the other parts of the country. Baseball period has a bigger draw in Canada than basketball does, which is why Sportsnet is adding more out of market games every season.

    Weather or not a post-game show will happen is up in the air right now, but I can guarentee you that if no one shows interest, and everyone has the 'it will never happen anyway' attitude about it, it definately won't.

    Sports television networks are whores. All they want is your attention. If enough people say "Hey, someone should have a baseball postgame show, I'd love to watch that!" it WILL happen.

    As for Jays hilites being higher up on the totem pole: Right now, it makes no sense. Even a big-time baseball fan has to admit that game 2 out of 162 takes no precedence over the final week of a hockey season where most games have implications on playoff seeding.

  2. I guess I mean "it will only be improved when the market dictates it should improve."

    When the broadcast rights for the Blue Jays come up for bid again, whoever chooses to ante up will make a concerted effort to raise baseball awareness. But only then. If Rogers offloads the Jays, no chance does Sportsnet continue to show 120 games a year, which will be reflected on Connected.

  3. You're right in that respect. If Sportsnet loses the rights to the Jays, you'll see a diminish in coverage.

    You're also right in this fact: Aside from not having a post-game show, baseball fans have never had it better in Canada. There are 150+ games available for your viewing pleasure this season, and that should be appreciate.

  4. Point taken. We remember when we were growing up, it was Wednesdays and Sundays for Jays games, and that was it.

    And of course, Sportsnet aired a pregame show tonight, and has three games on in total.

    Colour us impressed.

    One thing worth remembering in terms of the "market" is that broadcasters are often too short-sighted to truly read it. Often times, they overreact after the fact to trends. (Hence the NHL trade deadline overload.)

  5. That blog post title is brilliant!

  6. To be fair, I don't disagree with the Tao, or think he's way off base. I just feel there is more to it than "people like hockey, let's give it to them."

    Ahh, the market. More like "The Market", in a Milton Friedman sense.


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