ESPN GOES HEIDI ON THE GREY CUP

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I am a self-admitted Canadian Football League junkie.

I love all of it. The three downs, the one-point rouge, the 110 by 65 yard field and 20-yard end zones, the red penalty flags (and yellow challenge flags), the one-yard neutral zone, the three minute warning and many other subtle differences that gives the Canadian game a unique flavor compared to the U.S. version.

Dieter Brock, Warren Moon, Angelo Mosca, Levi Bo Mitchell, Darian Durant, Pinball Clemons, Tom Clements, Rocket Ismail, Ron Lancaster, Dave Cutler, Vic Washington, Doug Flutie, Jeff Garcia, Cameron Wake. These are among the players past and present who have shaped the CFL game. And could someone resurrect Don Chevier and Don Wittman and have them call NFL games to show Joe Buck how it’s done. Or just give Jim Nantz’s job to Chris Cuthbert.

Sunday night’s game between the Calgary Stampeders and Ottawa REDBLACKS in Toronto became an instant classic – from OneRepublic’s halftime concert (superior to most Super Bowl halftimes) to the heavily favored Stamps furious rally from a 20-point deficit.

Leave it to ESPN to screw it up for viewers outside of Canada. The Stampeders had just scored, then recovered an onside kick and quickly moved into field goal range and touchdown range. Then the screen went teal.

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ESPN ran ads with a scroll running on the bottom acknowledging  technical difficulties. The game returned briefly on standard definition, then with the direct TSN feed just in time to see that Calgary had moved inside the 10-yard line after a pass interference call.

Word from Bristol was that the network had set for the feed to end at 10:00 p.m ET, three and a half hours after opening kickoff. Considering pregame festivities, halftime performance and possibility for overtime – ESPN should had realized the possibility of four hours or even more.

That was not ESPN’s first blank screen of the weekend, a late-night Utah State/BYU game also went dark on Saturday. That hiccup was blamed on-air by high winds in Provo. The Worldwide Leader who has recently lost hundreds of thousands of subscribers per month should feel fortunate that a dropped feed did not occur in the Michigan/Ohio State telecast.

Calgary kicked the game-tying field goal and Ottawa elected to take two kneel downs to end regulation time. TSN’s cameraman went onto the field and next to the line of scrimmage to record the interactions, only for numerous F-bombs from Calgary lineman Micah Johnson to be clearly heard.

TSN features enhanced audio features during games and presents occasional ‘live mic’ games throughout the regular season. It gives insight not seen on traditional football telecasts, but also with occasional language that is part of any pro sports league. My guess is Canadian broadcasters tend to be more lax  than the Federal Communications Commission in the States.

The REDBLACKS won the game on the first possession of overtime on a spectacular grab reminiscent of Tony Gabriel’s catch in the same end zone of what was known as Exhibition Stadium 40 years earlier that gave the Ottawa Rough Riders a title.

Meanwhile fans on ESPN2 were just glad the picture returned in the nick of time.

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