How can it be?
How could one of the most exciting Grey Cup games in 104 years, a game that featured overtime and an upset of historic proportions, be watched by fewer people than the previous year? How could it draw the lowest Grey Cup ratings in 11 years?
But before you get all The-CFL-is-on-its-deathbed on us, let’s take a look at the possible reasons for a 10 per cent drop in audience from last year — as well as some hopeful signs for the future.
Even without getting philosophical, the raw numbers aren’t bad. According to Numeris overnight ratings, the game was watched by an average of 3.6 million viewers on TSN and another 254,000 on French-language RDS.
In the grand scheme of things, that’s more than any Stanley Cup playoff game has attracted since 2015 and is among the most-watched sports events of the year, around the same number that watched the Toronto Blue Jays beat Baltimore in the AL wild-card game. The Grey Cup made TSN the most-watched channel in the country on Sunday, outdrawing the likes of CTV, Global and CBC.
There are plenty of possible culprits here, so let’s consider the possibilities.
So although the Grey Cup audience was less than expected, it’s not all negative.
Yahoo Sports Staff at Eh Game 1 mth ago
Vince Carter pays another visit to his old Toronto stomping ground on Wednesday night, but as far as Monday in Memphis, it was all about another visitor: a young woman from China whose longtime dream of meeting him was finally realized.
— Memphis Grizzlies (@memgrizz) November 29, 2016
— Alexis Morgan (@alexiskmorgan) November 29, 2016
Yahoo Sports Staff at Eh Game 1 mth ago
The CFL’s Ottawa Redblacks won the Grey Cup on Sunday night with a thrilling overtime victory over, despite having a losing record (8-9-1 in the East Division) during the regular season. Ottawa became the first team in CFL history to win its conference with a sub-.500 record.
The Redblacks, however, aren’t the only CFL team to win a championship despite a losing record. Both the Calgary Stampeders (2001) and B.C. Lions (2000) won their respective titles with an equally bad 8-10 record. In honour of the Redblacks’ underdog victory, here are the biggest losers to win a major championship:
1938 CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS
There have been bad NHL teams who have gone on to win the Stanley Cup, but none come close to the 1938 Chicago Blackhawks (nee Black Hawks) and their 14-25-9 regular season record. Even with their sub-.500 record, the Blackhawks went on to win hockey’s Holy Grail with a 3-1 series victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs in the final year the NHL had a best-of-five series.
2006 ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
2011 NEW YORK GIANTS
1978 Washington Bullets
The CFL and NFL differ in the number of downs and size of the field, but they’re also apparently far apart on the matter of concussions in football.
While an NFL executive admitted to Congressthis year that there is a link between football and degenerative brain injuries, CFL commissioner Jeffrey Orridge said Friday in his state of the league press conference that the jury is still out on the matter.
Orridge told reporters that there’s no proof football plays a big role in the high rates of CTE among former players.
“The league’s position is that there is no conclusive evidence at this point,” he said, noting that concussions in the CFL had dropped from 50 to 40 this year.
“We continue to work with (the medical world) and monitor the progress that they’re making in terms of getting a greater understanding of whether or not there is a linkage.”
“But at this point, you know, it’s still, last I heard, it’s still a subject of debate in the medical and scientific community.”
The comments sparked an immediate reaction on social media.
It’s been said that a rising tide lifts all boats.
But there’s reason to wonder if the sudden rise of Major League Soccer’s fortunes in Canada might be punching a few holes in the boats of the Canadian Football League.
While soccer has many light years to go before it can come close to challenging the CFL on television, there are signs that at least in Canada’s biggest city it’s threatening to do some damage.
No doubt a few heads turned at CFL headquarters when the first leg of the MLS Eastern Conference final between the Montreal Impact and Toronto FC averaged 595,000 viewers on TSN and 429,000 on French-language RDS.
In addition, after Montreal’s 60,000-plus Olympic Stadium sold out in no time for that game, there were fewer than 1,000 tickets remaining for Wednesday’s rematch at BMO Field next Wednesday.
That’s the same BMO Field where the CFL is expecting a sellout for Sunday’s Grey Cup game, but was still almost 2,000 seats short as of Friday despite having months to flog the biggest football game in the country.
“We know we’re doing the right things.”
It’s a morning ritual that helps Osagie Odiase get through the day.
But the Calgary Stampeders defensive back would give anything to make the need for that ritual totally unnecessary. If only he could somehow magically erase the tragic effects of the senseless gun play that ended the life of his teammate and housemate.
A 23-year-old man, a product of the mean streets of Detroit, playing football in Calgary where guns are rare, cut down for no understandable reason.
Every morning before he leaves for practice, Odiase stops by the achingly empty room of Mylan Hicks. A room where a closet light burns day and night as an memorial to a fallen teammate. A room that contains an empty bed covered in football jerseys and a playbook.
“It’s like a little memorial in his room,” says Odiase, a 25-year-old Californian who will play in Sunday’s Grey Cup game. “Every morning before I leave I go to his room and I give a bow and a salute … just to show my respect. We were like brothers.”
It will be of Mylan Hicks.
But no one will remember him more than his former housemate.
David McPherson at Eh Game 2 mths ago
Flying first class more often is just one of the many little luxuries that lies ahead for PGA TOUR rookie Mackenzie Hughes.
The Canadian golfer from Dundas, Ont., won the RSM Classic in Sea Island, Ga., on Monday; he was the last man standing in what began as a five-man playoff on Sunday night and due to darkness, ended with four players vying for the title early Monday morning. Hughes sealed the deal in an unexpected fashion, the only golfer of the four left to hole his par putt – an 18-footer from just off the green on the third playoff hole.
“I played four years at Kent State in Ohio, so I am pretty familiar with playing in the cold and trying to keep warm,” said Hughes of the frigid, windy conditions the players faced. “I kept telling myself: ‘You are Canadian and this is nothing compared to some of the stuff you’ve played in, so just get out there, get to work, don’t make a big deal of it, and finish this as fast as possible.’”
Everything appeared to be in order for possibly the greatest night in Canadian pro soccer history.
Montreal Impact and Toronto FC ready for playoff game. Check.
More than 61,000 soccer-mad fans in their seats at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium. Check.
Penalty box lines in place. Uh, wait a minute.
Well, actually wait 40 minutes as Major League Soccer’s big night in Montreal turned into a rather big embarrassment. And the Moe-Larry-Curly attempts to rectify the situation only made things worse.
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) November 23, 2016
The problem, somehow overlooked until just before kickoff time, was that the grounds crew preparing the Big O for the MLS Eastern Conference final had left both penalty boxes somewhat short of regulation. Actually, a lot short of regulation.
Needless to say, the problem drew some notice on social media, including one tweet from the Seattle Sounders:
Gavin Day at Eh Game 2 mths ago
MONTREAL – Had it not been for the tremendous first leg between the Montreal Impact and Toronto FC, Tuesday’s MLS Eastern Conference final first leg would have been remembered for the game where we all literally watched paint dry.
But after a 3-2 game that sets up a grandstand second leg in Toronto next Wednesday, the 30-minute delay where the penalty areas were repainted are for now just a colourful footnote – at least until the league levies a fine on the organizers for an inexcusable mistake – that served to only further amp up the tension on a memorable night in Montreal.
It was almost a redux of last season’s 3-0 night at the Saputo Stadium, where the Impact brought a swift end to TFC’s first ever playoff game. But as good as Montreal was at closing down TFC in the first half and taking a 2-0 lead into the halftime break, it was a few minutes where the focus slipped that kept this series alive and gave TFC the few opportunities it needed to stay alive.
With a seemingly comfortable 3-0 lead in the 68th minute, the five minutes that followed flipped the series from ‘all-but-over’ to ‘everything to play for.’
The fall of 2016 may be grabbing headlines for a lot of negative stuff, but it’s shaping up as a pretty good one for Canadian sports networks.
Basically, everybody who broadcasts hockey to football to basketball to soccer is having a strong autumn.
Since hockey rules, we’ll start with Hockey Night In Canada , which saw ratings take a huge dive last season as every Canadian team hit the skids — some of them right out of the gate. Unofficial ratings for the prime-time games this season are averaging just over 2 million, up about eight per cent over the first six weeks of the 2015-16 season. The late game (758,000 average) is off three per cent, but overall that’s a gain for Rogers.
As long as teams like the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs and Edmonton Oilers continue to look like contenders those numbers should hold, if not grow.
Besides, it can console itself with the realization that Sunday’s games drew almost double the audience that watched comparable NFL offerings. So much for the alleged wisdom that the CFL should never go head-to-head against its American counterpart.
THREE TO WATCH