TSN drops the ball on Halladay trade coverage

It was the story that dominated the headlines from coast to coast, above and below the 44th parallel. You couldn’t turn on the television or radio without hearing about the Roy Halladay trade. Yet, one network opted to put this massive story on the backburner: TSN.

Thankfully, other networks like Sportsnet, The Score and even Sun TV did the story due diligence. I sent an email to The Casino Rama Grill Room earlier this week lambasting TSN (more specifically Off The Record) for failing to give the Roy Halladay trade the proper attention it deserved.

The day after the initial trade rumours hit the internet and the airwaves, OTR did address the trade but not until the third segment of the show. They even had Will Hill (former Blue Jays public relations manager) on the show. To make matters worse, following Off the Record, SportsCentre led off the show with a story on a Jason Spezza injury instead of the Halladay trade.

On Tuesday, you couldn’t walk through the city of Toronto without seeing a paper with Roy Halladay on the cover or even walk down the street without people talking about it. Yet TSN decided to lead with the Spezza injury. On the opposite end of the spectrum, The Grill Room devoted Tuesday’s entire show to the Roy Halladay trade and issues focused on the Toronto Blue Jays.

Having been fed up with TSN and pleasantly surprised by SUN TV, I decided to thank The Grill Room for covering the Halladay deal as it should have been covered. Here is a portion of the email I sent to them:

I used to be a faithful viewer of (TSN) but they have become so convoluted with NHL and CFL talk, it makes me sick at times. The Grill Room does a great job of covering all sports, all athletes, and everything that is happening in the world of sports.

Low and behold, they responded and actually went so far as to use my email on the show and actually use it as a topic of discussion for one of their segments. To my astonishing surprise, my tiny little internet voice had been heard!

What happened when I sent an email to TSN earlier this year asking that they talk about more baseball on Off The Record, you ask? Absolutely nothing.

I realize that TSN has a heavily invested interest in the NHL and CFL, but regardless of which league is the cash cow on your network, you should put those interests aside and cover the issues that viewers want to see. When people were tuning into SportsCentre at 6:30pm earlier this week, the first thing they wanted to see was the latest developments in the Roy Halladay trade, not Jason Spezza’s knee injury or Luke Schenn’s lack of ice time.

I would accuse TSN of playing favouritism, but TSN broadcasted 25 Blue Jays games this past season, so it’s not like they aren’t involved at all with the Toronto Blue Jays. TSN doesn’t have as much money invested in Blue Jays broadcasts, but they certainly have a good chunk invested in those games. Why is it that when it comes to Blue Jays news, it’s treated like the weaker sister?

Don’t get me wrong … TSN is a great network and they were the pioneers in sports television. More specifically, Off The Record used to be one of my favourite sports talk shows. However, lately it seems like the show has alienated baseball issues altogether, so I barely tune in any more. From April to September, I could probably count on two hands the amount of times Off The Record talked about baseball.

For a network that prides itself on being “Canada’s Sports Network”, they really don’t seem to have Canadian sports fan’s interests at heart. It’s called “The Sports Network” for a reason, but perhaps it should be called “The Hockey and Football Network, and if we have time … the Baseball Network”.

Ian has been writing about the Toronto Blue Jays since 2007. He enjoyed the tail-end of the Roy Halladay era and vividly remembers the Alex Rodriguez "mine" incident. He'll also retell the story of Game 5 of the 2015 ALDS to his kids for the next 20 years.

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  1. Scott

    December 19, 2009 - 1:32 am

    It's not surprising considering that TSN has nobody, I mean nobody with an ounce of baseball knowledge outside of Will Hill.

  2. Ken

    December 19, 2009 - 12:52 pm

    What short memories Toronto fans have. TSN was long known as The Toronto Sports Network for its unabashed focus on Toronto sports teams. Having moved away from this, TSN is trying to stick to its mandate of being Canada's network. I'm a huge baseball fan and have supported the Jays for over 20 years, but the teams' popularity is not what it used to be. TSN was indeed looking for what the fans wanted to see…. it would just seem that the average Canadian sports fan didn't want to hear more on Halladay…. it's not like they refused to cover it and stuck their fingers in their ears.

  3. Ian H.

    December 19, 2009 - 10:57 pm

    Scott, you raise a good point. Aside from Will Hill, who knows baseball at TSN – Rod Black? It seems like they have 10 expert NHL panelists, half as many CFL panelists, and not ONE for baseball.

    Ken, I appreciate that TSN is trying to appeal to more of a wide audience across the country. However, that Halladay trade should have been front page news – whether it's in Newfoundland or British Columbia. A story of that magnitude should not be bumped for a Jason Spezza injury report.

  4. Jmac55

    December 21, 2009 - 2:10 am

    Although I am a huge fan of baseball and the Blue Jays I can understand why TSN, as a business, would downplay them. When TSN was created back in '84 one of it's main purposes was to prop up and expose a then young Jays franchise.

    Early in this decade Rogers purchased majority shares in both the Blue Jays and Sportsnet. The Jays, and Major League Baseball by extension, have since become the flagship summer product for the Rogers Sportsnet channels and TSN has been forced to look for different products.

    As a business, there's no sense in TSN propping up it's competition's product. If Rogers would sell TSN more broadcast dates I'm sure that TSN would pay more attention.

  5. Ian H.

    December 21, 2009 - 3:33 am

    JMac, from a business standpoint, I totally understand why TSN would downplay any MLB coverage or stories over NHL, CFL, etc. If hockey is bringing in the majority of the money, then obviously you gravitate towards hockey.

    If the shoe were on the other foot, and the Raptors traded Chris Bosh or Thomas Kaberle were traded, you can almost guarantee that would be the lead story across all sports networks. So when it came to the biggest story in baseball (the Halladay trade) I was surprised when TSN downplayed the news.

    While I agree that it doesn't make sense to prop up the competition's product, I think all sports networks in Canada should strive to provide fans the news that they want, and not the news that pays the bills.

  6. Anonymous

    December 21, 2009 - 4:31 am

    not that big of a deal…
    (this issue, not halladay trade)

  7. Jmac55

    December 21, 2009 - 4:50 am

    I should have clarified that I don't actually support TSN's decision. I just understand it.

    Ultimately, I think I sympathize with TSN because I wish they were still covering more of the baseball that I feel Rogers has stolen from them…

  8. Ian H.

    December 21, 2009 - 6:31 am

    Me too – it was nice when Jays games used to be on Sportsnet, TSN and CBC because it provided some variation and broke up the monotony of having every game broadcasted by the same play-by-play team.

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