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Away From The Numbers: Sportsnet's Coverage Full of Holes


Friday, Southsider and blogger Michael McColl takes ALL CAPS "Away From

The Numbers" for a fan's perspective on the Vancouver Whitecaps.

The MLS playoffs are like the moons of Jupiter for Canadian football fans.

You know they exist, you can see them, but experiencing them first hand seems like a dream too far.

For some Whitecaps fans, their interest in the 2011 MLS season was over as soon as the Caps gave their last whimper two weeks ago. We've already moved on to next season, as the Martin Rennie era starts to get underway this week.

Those still with an interest have been able to watch many of the playoff games on TV this season, as domestic coverage of our domestic league finally gathers apace.

Thankfully for those of us watching, the games are being shown on TSN and not Sportsnet.

The downside to that is getting America's ESPN coverage and that means listening to John Harkes (there is a reason why he's not doing commentary back in his own country you know!) and Alexei Lalas.

Still, it could be a worse. A lot, lot worse.

Football fans know that they are in the minority when it comes to the other major sports on this continent. We still expect it to be treated with respect though. It is the "world's game" after all.

Column inches are hard enough to get at times, never mind actual primetime airtime.

For too many years, football fans in this country have had to wait till late into sport round-up broadcasts to get any mention of their favourite sport, and when the Caps were at D2 level, good luck getting any mentions on the national shows at all.

We expected all that to change once the move was made to Major League Soccer, and it has. The exposure and coverage of the Caps inaugural season has been refreshing and far reaching.

Most of it has been great, but not all of it has been enjoyable.

The coverage provided by Sportsnet at times this season has been nothing short of appalling.

Airtimes delayed, the start of games missed altogether, matches shown on a channel many don't get and the worst commentary team in North American television, and that's saying something when Nigel Reed lives here.

Too often this season, Sportsnet's coverage of a Whitecaps game has been affected by baseball, and mostly baseball being played by two American teams.

Whilst I acknowledge that baseball has a bigger appeal than football to North Americans, if a local team is playing, surely that should always take precedence on a local channel?

The Sportsnet network has four main channels, and five if you include what was Setanta. Surely they could schedule Whitecaps games on one channel that didn't have baseball on directly before it, in the knowledge that a lot of ball games go to extra innings or are just painfully slow to complete.

If it was just some random channel that was doing this, then you could just put the poor treatment down to ignorance and lack of real interest.

Sportsnet though have paid for the privilege of messing Whitecaps fans around. Not only that, but they are the Caps "founding media partner".

I'd hate to see how they'd treat a team they didn't have a vested interest in.

The delays in away games were also annoying for the community of fans who like to chat about the game online to other fans. With radio and other streaming methods showing the game in real time, spoilers were always a danger and a lot of the camaraderie was lost.

This may just seem like whining for the sake of it, but it did affect a lot of people's enjoyment.

And it's more the principle of the thing.

Sportsnet gave the impression that they treated MLS and football as second class. They were very disrespectful to both the Caps and the league.

It was bad enough that they lumbered us with Craig MacEwen and Martin Nash.

Nash may be a Caps legend and has the knowledge, but he doesn't have the alluring voice or exude authority enough to be a colour commentator. Studio pundit, sure, but keep him away from the mic during the game.

MacEwen was enthusiastic, and very complimentary about the team and fans, which was great to hear. Unfortunately his commentaries weren't. If he's to continue this into next season, he needs to take a course in being a football commentator and add to his seemingly limited descriptive vocabulary.

Watching a Whitecaps goals compilation is woeful, as we listen to MacEwen constantly scream "would you look at that" and "it's in the back of the net" on goal after goal, and sometimes both of them one after the other.

Dreadful stuff.

And to think I was excited at the start of the season that Sportsnet would give us Caps coverage to be proud of. TSN blew them out of the water.

Moving forward, if they were to continue covering the game, Sportsnet need to improve drastically. It would also be nice if they acknowledged their mistakes and apologized for the disrespect shown.

Do they even care? After this season's debacles, If they don't, then please leave covering the sport to a channel like TSN, who do it justice.

About the author:


McColl began writing about football in 1989 and has freelanced for

various newspapers, magazines and websites in the UK. He moved to

Vancouver in 2007 and currently pens two "Away From the Numbers" blogs


a proud member of the Vancouver Southsiders supporters club, though his

views are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the

Southsiders organization.

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