Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Announcer-less Football a Hit

I miss the CFL. That, Tim Horton's doughnuts, and buttertarts are the things I miss most about living in the U.S. My wife found some buttertart recipes, and Tims is reportedly as far south as Louisville, Kentucky. That just leaves the CFL.

Canadian football is my favourite sport. It's far faster playing than the NFL (mostly due to the CFL's timing rules), where the last minute of play matters. Unfortunately, many Canadians (more precisely, the vast majority of residents of Toronto and Vancouver) don't appreciate what they have. I was hoping that digital cable would provide a channel that would, in football mad Louisiana, would at least run a game or two. I was wrong. Fox would rather devote an entire channel to soccer. (No rugby or Aussie rules football for me, either.)

So, it came as a surprise when friend Michael Skeet told me that, due to a labour lockout, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation was running games without announcers... and the ratings are up. Way up. The first announcer-less game had ratings equivalent to the highest rated game of the season. The following week there was a 16% increase over that. What's more, viewers are sticking around. By the fourth quarter the game had half-again as many viewers as at the start of the game.

The announcers are, of course, rallying around each other. So is the league, which probably feels it needs blabbering league-supporting cheerleaders in the announcer chairs. The fact is, though, that people tune in for the games and they are sick of listening to the constant chattering of half-witted commentators.

My dad always hated North American sports announcers. He didn't see the need to yap through every game. British soccer announcers are far more sparse in their yammering. When I went to see CFL games live I liked to know why such-and-such a foul was called, or who had the ball at any given minute. I didn't need someone constantly talking the whole time. It's one reason I preferred going to the games than watching them on TV. Apparently I wasn't alone.

It will be interesting to see if this is just a blip, or if it actually has an effect on American sports commentating. Probably not, but one can wish. At any rate, John Madden better not ask for a raise any time soon.

No comments: