In For A Dozen: Montréal-Concordia cancelled due to illness outbreak; A new hope for football broadcasts & more focused gun control arguments, please

Stuff that really needs to be on a podcast.
  1. Concordia-Montréal cancelled; Saint Mary's forfeits Week 1 win. Breaking news as the No. 1-ranked Montréal Carabins' have been sacked by "a very virulent gastroenteritis virus," leading to the cancellation of their Thursday home game against Concordia. It shouldn't be a forfeit; the Carabins literally do not have enough people to field a credible team and, pardon playing doctor on the internet, even the personnel who have not evinced symptoms could end up transmitting germs.

    The initial report is that the game will simply be abandoned. Details are very preliminary so it's unclear whether this would affect Montreal's next two games, against Sherbrooke (Oct. 14) and Laval (Oct. 21).
    There was a similar situation a few years ago in AUS and everyone carried on; all one can do is hope the virus is contained before it ends up tainting the season.

    The other news is AUS standings just got a little tighter. Saint Mary's forfeited its win against St. Francis Xavier on Aug. 25 over the use of two ineligible players. It was a self-disclosed violation.

    A forfeit is officially recorded as a 1-0 win, and of course Saint Mary's won the actual rematch against St. FX by one point. There goes the point-differential tiebreaker if both finish 6-2. 
  2. Football and chill? The Panda Game made for great television, what with the raucous crowds, tightly contested game and the cliffhanger finish — not the double overtime, but when everyone watching via TV was worried CHCH would go off-air at the 3½-hour mark. It was definitely something to share with a potential broadcast partner or a start-up streaming service looking for content to populate a schedule, à la TSN in its nascence in the 1980s and The Score (R.I.P.) in the aughts.

    This is as good a time as any to offer a reminder that broadcasters in this country were once required to dedicate funding/hours to amateur sport. And if the light-on-details Liberals can really get a half-billion dollars out of Netflix, what a half-million a year for 10 national broadcasts?
    Until then, the OUA will have to work with stations like CHCH, which will give them the air time for the games if the OUA pays for the production cost. Grace says costs to produce a football game are about $40,000.

    "As to the funding, the federal government providing funding of, I think, $500 million to Netflix last week to help encourage broadcasting and movie producing in Canada, which is great, it’s a great industry,” Grace said. “It would be great if we could get some funding to get ourselves off the ground. It’s a horse-and-cart thing. For us to create a product, we need some seed funding and then we create that great product. We could take it to market and attract sponsorships."
    (London Free Press, Oct. 3)
    (Clarification: it's reportedly Netflix investing the $500 million, not the other way around. Hold off on calling your member of Parliament.)

    The above-quoted mentions OUA's steps to pare the average game time to fewer than three hours. It is one thing for a major property such as MLB or NFL to be unable to guarantee a sub-three hour game, but the little guy has to work harder.
  3. Who are you, Joe Hollywood? Back in the day when people waited until a certain half-hour block of time on a certain night to consume their favourite TV show, broadcast executives talked about a "lead-in." It meant that on Thursdays, you showered, shaved and prepped for a night out during the half-hour between Friends and Seinfeld.

    It is striking that there is a missed opportunity for the Panda Game to be a lead-in for a Vanier Cup in Ottawa (in the future, not necessarily this year when Ottawa has the Grey Cup and an outdoor NHL game). Selling Panda/Vanier ticket packages would have to be approached delicately — i.e., without the shady "if you buy tickets to A, you have to buy tickets to B" sales tactic — but it would be one way to avoid another disaster like the '16 Vanier. 
  4. How about that kickoff reduction strategy? Last week's space mentioned a half-cocked idea to reduce the number of kickoffs in football. The game is always going to need that element of assumed risk among athletes, but is it necessary to have a kickoff after every touchdown and (some) field goals?

    The idea calls for a kickoff to occur:
    • To begin each half;
    • After the first touchdown in the first five minutes of the second and fourth quarters;
    • After a field goal or touchdown in the final three minutes of the half, with a mercy rule (25-point lead).

    Through 30 games, OUA has had 8.47 kickoffs per game. After going through each boxscore and applying the above, it falls to 4.07, or 52 per cent fewer. In other words, there's potential to reduce the highest-injury-risk play in the game by half, without fundamentally altering the sport.

    That's just a working position. Any rule would probably involve some wiggle room to allow for a surprise onside kickoff or for one by a team that's trailing late in the game. 
  5. So will OUA have a pile-up of 4-4 teams or what? The first early elimination game is Waterloo-Queen's on Thursday. The first de facto seeding game might be Waterloo-Ottawa on Oct. 14, with the winner likely securing a quarter-final playoff on its home field.

    Behold, the chain of adequacy:

    • Ottawa (4-2) — The Gee-Gees are on a bye before hosting Waterloo next weekend with a chance to clinch a playoff berth. Their offence is showing some encouraging signs of life and they will have two weeks to prepare, so there is that for Ottawa.

      One wrinkle with Ottawa is that it's away at Western in Week 9 in a potential nothing game for the Mustangs, who will have first place salted away if they are still undefeated.   
    • Waterloo (4-2) — Need to win either at Queen's on Thursday or at Ottawa. A disproportionate share of the 124 points the Warriors gave up across their last two games occurred in the second quarter and onward. Read into that what you will.
    • Guelph (3-3) — The Gryphons got the short end of the schedule stick this season. They need to wrest a W out of their remaining slate of hosting Laurier on Oct. 14 and being away at Carleton for the season finale. 
    • Carleton (2-3) — their path to 4-4 is clear: win both home games against U of T and Guelph. (Yes, their trip to Western is a write-off, although it might take time for the Mustangs to hammer down on the throttle.)

      However, Carleton's fate might come down to point-differential tiebreakers. Their head-to-head advantage against Ottawa could become null and void. 
    • Queen's (1-4) — Queen's needs to run the table against Waterloo, York and away at U of T to finish 4-4. The Golden Gaels haven't lost to any of those teams since a last-play loss against the Warriors in 2006. History is not playing these games, though. And come to think of it, the last time Queen's lost against Waterloo it was also a night game, on Thanksgiving weekend, cue the ominous music.

    The Peak Weird Outcome would be a four-way tie for the final two berths.
  6. Real talk interlude: BAN ALL GUNS is the new "Thoughts and Prayers." The hollow insincerity of the all-purpose homily used by politicians and do-gooders has been deconstructed. In the wake of the mass murder in Las Vegas, though, one prevailing worry is about the lack of  well-constructed smart arguments to stop the NRA in the United States. Or more to the point, how easily those get shouted down.

    Blanket statements such as "why does anyone need an assault rifle?" are just not getting the job done. It's become too easy for the troll/bot/paid liars army to divide and conquer. The arguments need to be much more pointed and specific. You probably need to read through all of the writer Kurt Eichenwald's tweets from Wednesday,  but the crux of it is: bring forth smarter arguments. Otherwise the bad guys keep winning.
    On that same tangent, the whole side argument about what gets classified as "terrorism" is more troublesome than the typical quick-to-feel-guilty liberal such as I would presume it is.

    The dichotomy in how the language the media uses is dependent on the perpetrators' ethnicity and skin colour is obvious. An easy point; almost all mass murderers are male and white. But there still is that working-definition difference between a shooter targeting people at random and attacking a group for the purpose of intimidation.
    I have to be honest, I had not considered that angle. For a word-worker, that's rather embarrassing.
  7. Seguing to sports for the duration, pinky-swear it. Far and away the most important piece of sports writing this week is Jonah Keri — he went to Concordia, so it is U Sports-adjacent! — on the inequities of the selfish and tyranny of the self-involved sports consumer. That is part of the reason for hanging out in the netherworld of university sports. But it's not like it is some throwback bastion of pure sport, either.
  8. About women in sports. The fuck-wittery Cam Newton committed on Wednesday is low-hanging fruit, so goddamn juvenile that it dignifying it says more about the person who feels they need to respond. Far better to promote knowledge women in sports, so here is Rachel Doerrie talking about her breakthrough into the hockey world: Positive women's sports news should get 100 times more attention than Cam Newton's weak sense of humour ... a NHL team taking a stake in a National Women's Hockey League team (sure, only 20 years after the NBA but still ahead of MLB and the NFL) should be much bigger news. Chances are Newton's comments, and the responses and think-pieces, get a lot more circulation than the very cool partnership between the New Jersey Devils and New York Riveters. For the record, the CWHL's Montreal Canadiennes played a regular-season game in a NHL arena last season, and the league also had its all-star game at the NHL arena in Toronto. Point being, media needs to be smarter about reporting athletes' non-sports thoughts; shoot for something higher than giving ourselves a bunch of easy answers.

    It was gob-smacking to see the tweets of Max Domi reported like he was some authority on immigration after the incident in Edmonton last weekend, in which the perpetrator was a refugee (hello, key legal distinction!). That's just relativism and ineptitude raised to the level of newsroom policy. It wasn't news that a 22-year-old would express ill-informed opinions when he should have kept his mouth shut, since everyone is like that age 22.
  9. University puck is a well-kept secret for reasons left unsaid. All three university hockey conferences beginning the regular season on a holiday weekend, when most students will be away from campus, is Peak Canadian University Sport.

    It's a bit ironic to see that in a league where the support and interest often lags behind the high calibre of play. Anyway, this isn't the place for prognostication — for that, follow that Findlay fellow:

    University puck is a great cheap night out. 
  10. Who the ECHL is playing for Canada? The Olympics begin exactly 18 weeks from Thursday — do youuuuuuuu have any idea who is going to be on the Canadian men's hockey team?

    We study history in order to not repeat it. In that vein, Greg Oliver's book Father Bauer and the Great Experiment: The Genesis of Canadian Olympic Hockey, which was released in April, is good sports-book pick-up in advance of a NHL-free Olympics, since it is a portal to a time when Canada got idealistic about international hockey by creating a centralized national team program. The takeaway is to wonder what profile university hockey would have if it was a feeder system for the Olympic hockey team.

    In case anyone has forgotten, the NHL is a distant third for the hard pass on PyeongChang. The gold goes to the IOC for believing it should be able to use the NHL's labour cost-free. As greater minds have noted, the NHL Players' Association should have also collectively bargained Olympic participation.
  11. Bad Idea Jeans brainstorm of the week. Everyone has their "take something from another sport and apply it to this sport" pet ideas.

    All of the team sports, particularly basketball, have their wild-card controversies every year before the national championships. Those could be avoided if the at-large and conference-finalist automatic berths were, instead, decided at a pre-season or midseason invitational tournament which would offer something to a broadcasst partner.

    Such events exist already; why not add something in the interest of high stakes? That concept actually originates from curling, which has "berth spiels" where the prize includes a spot in a more major competition.

    Any change would be better than expanding the tournaments to more than eight teams.
  12. Let the Tanor Ngom narratives begin! Last week, Ryerson landed the ultimate "stretch five" when 7-foot-2 Senegalese centre Tanor Ngom came aboard. The main narrative should be that Ngom's confidence in Ryerson helping him become a NBA prospect reflects that there are a handful of men's basketball programs that are on par with D1 low- to mid-majors. The other, from the Globe & Mail article, is that Ngom could be the ticket to Ryerson dethroning Carleton as national champions.
    Length on defence and three-point shooting are the closest thing to Carleton's kryptonite. Ngom has both, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.
Thanks for your consideration, if you made it to the end.
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  1. Oh I made it to the end. A good read here. Thanks for posting

  2. Thanks. Promising myself to do this every week when U Sports is in season. Or at least through football season!

  3. Jason Cormier gets credit for the edits on Note No. 2.

  4. Your columns are always a treat, man.