North of the 400

North of Toronto, South of a championship

Craig Anderson’s shutout, the best baseball game ever, TSN2 and more – collected notes from the weekend

with 2 comments

Certainly a great weekend for sports. The opening rounds of both the NBA and NHL playoffs, two classic baseball games and a fun media meltdown – not to mention the NFL draft, too. Good times all around.

Rather then pump out some Simmon-derived column thats 23,000 words and much longer then anything I expect anybody to read, here’s some loose thoughts on the weekend that was.

– Text from my friend Katy on Saturday night: “This is the best game ever.”

My goodness, was that Mets/Cards marathon on Saturday something. 20 innings, pitching by an outfielder, no scoring for over six hours and all on national TV. Awesome stuff.

I think it was Chuck Klosterman who wrote that baseball’s appeal is how it disregards time and goes at it’s own pace. That match – marathon seems like an apt description – certainly did. An obvious point – at 20 innings, it was more then two full games of baseball, being played in April, before the games really matter a whole lot. Seeing a game last seven hours in the playoffs is one thing – my dad still talks about watching the entirety of a four-overtime Islanders/Captials game in the late 80s – but in a regular season game this early in the season? You gotta love baseball.

You have to love just how they handle extra innings, the pure simplicity of how they just keep going until something happens. It’s not like it is in basketball, where the flow and ebb does it’s best to force the game to conclude, or in football or hockey, where a single misstep can cause something to end. It’s awesome. Saturday’s game was a blast to watch.

– While I’m on the topic of extra time (and miscues), Sunday’s game between the Colorado Avalanche and the San Jose Sharks was also something. Let me dust off some cliches to describe Avalanche goalie Craig Anderson‘s shutout: he stood on his head; he was unconscious; you couldn’t shoot it past him with a cannon. Those aren’t just empty words, though.

For what seemed like the vast majority of the third period, Anderson was the focal point of the night. The puck, the Sharks and the TV cameras all seemed to be to in his end, right in front of his crease. He was pounded by shots, probably far more then the 51 saves he was credited with, thanks to a great defence in front of him; there was more then a few times where he was out of position and somebody got down to block the shot, or knocked a loose puck away.

A shutout is almost of the same streak of luck as a no-hitter. A pitcher can dominate and strike out 15, 16 batters, come away with a win but still give up a hit here and there. The rest of the team pitches in too, making a key play here or there. Anderson got some of that help, some of that luck.

In a way, the Sharks constant forechecking helped him out too. While the play was focused in his end, it didn’t seem like a constant attack on him; the Sharks took a shot here, maybe a rebound and the Avs would clear down the ice and it would begin again. He wasn’t constantly being tested, making great saves all the time, just having to make a few here and there.

It also helped the Avs offence, too. Nabakov, in net for the Sharks, seemingly left all by his lonesome, went cold. Half of the time the puck was cleared, it seemed, it went right at Nabakov, who had a hell of a time controlling the puck. When he did get shot at by Colorado, he would give up big rebounds and seemed a step slow. The winning goal, scored on a bizzare clearing attempt, was an ideal example of the Sharks play.

Somebody likened the game to Ali/Foreman. I disagreed at the time, but I can kind of see it now. The Sharks, with thei constant presence on offence, might not have wore themselves out, but frustrated themselves. They couldn’t score, couldn’t solve Anderson and started making frustrated moves. One of the first things I remember being taught in house league hockey was never to put the puck in front of your own net. Why Dan Boyle threw the puck in the direction of his own net, I’ll never know. But a fair guess is that he wasn’t thinking. Frustration tends to do that.

– Speaking of frustration, I’m finding that finding the NBA playoffs is a frustrating experience. Thanks to the second TSN and Raptors TV having a fair share of opening round games and Rogers Sportsnet ceasing coverage a couple seasons ago, a bunch of games are on channels that I don’t get. Nitpicky, I know.

But it represents where sports television seems to be going. An all-encompassing network like TSN seems to be going away slowly, as they start to move to the bigger draws. I once wrote, tongue in cheek, that TSN2 would kill basketball in Canada. It’s probably going to be it’s salvation, actually.

If TSN continues to use it’s two networks to specialize, it can cease being a general network and move to being something that caters to certain audiences. Think of how MSNBC and FOX each report on the same basis events, but do it in ways that two different groups want to see. Think of how CNN tries to be impartcial and has it’s ratings slowly falling. I’d argue it’s the same with sports television, too.

The Score has made a name for itself as a basketball network (and if you think otherwise, you’re kidding yourself). They show two, three games a week, plus Court Surfing on Tuesdays (and sometimes Wednesdays). They have slowly moved from other sports – I remember them airing hockey and baseball at one point – to this; it’s certainly worked for them.

TSN and TSN2 might be going the same way. TSN is the home of hockey, offering national broadcasts almost every weeknight, a move that devotes itself to fans of the most popular sport in Canada. This, combined with it’s strong news and opinion offerings of SportsCentre, Off the Record and American imports PTI and Around the Horn, has assured it the highest spot in Canadian sports TV.

But TSN2 has quickly made a name for itself by catering to a small, niche audience with it’s broadcasts of NBA basketball, NCAA sports and out of market NHL teams. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re cultivating a small but loyal audience of hardcore sports fans, the ones who wanted to see these events on Canadian TV. The numbers may not be outstanding, but I’d argue they’re not going away, either.

Ultimately, I’d like to see TSN2 be used as more then a clearinghouse for stuff TSN can’t fit on it’s own network – a good way to show that would be to create some original content for the network – but for what it is now, it’s looking like a bigger step then I certainly thought it would be.

– The West always seems to have the best playoffs. Not sure why. I’m really liking three of the four NHL series in the West (Detroit/Phoenix, San Jose/Colorado and Vancouver/LA), and what I’ve seen of the NBA’s (Utah/Denver and LA/Oklahoma City), but both leagues Eastern Conference series just aren’t doing the same for me.

Montreal is quickly looking like they’re going to get dwarfed by Alexander Ovechkin and the Capitals. I fully expect Ottawa to be out of the playoffs by the end of the week. And I can’t get into New Jersey/Philly. The NBA is doing the same thing: the only series I’m finding myself really getting into is Boston/Miami.

Part of this has to do with parity, I’m sure. The Cavs are so much better then the Bulls, I don’t expect much drama from that series. I think the Magic are tens of times better then the Bobcats. If Bogut hadn’t been hurt, the Atlanta/Milwaukee series would be way more compelling.

Again, I’m being nitpicky. Excellence is it’s own reward; I really should enjoy watching LeBron James (who had a few great moments on the weekend) because he’s so good, not because of some drama involving two teams I ultimately don’t cheer for. I should enjoy watching Dwight Howard because he’s so good on both ends of the floor. I should enjoy watching Brandon Jennings try and shoulder the load.

The storylines are there, I’m just too lazy to read them. This one is wholly on me.

Advertisements

Written by M.

April 20, 2010 at 1:33 pm

2 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Great read. I enjoyed it. I just want to point out I saw Ping-pong on TSN2 this weekend. NO I AM NOT JOKING PING PONG. North Americans playing Ping Pong to boot. The things you see on TSN2 at times will blow your mind. Thankfully it was just an addition to a package I already get and given my job I have no choice but to have it anyway.

    james borbath

    April 20, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    • Ping pong is the niche-ist of the niche sports

      Mark

      April 20, 2010 at 3:46 pm


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: