Jock talk: My colleague Marty York forwarded me a press release yesterday from TSN, the bulk of which was taken up with the sports network gloating about its continued dominance of the sporting channel niche market in Canada, based on the latest numbers from Roper Reports Canada, the marketing and public polling organization.

In categories like “Best Channel For Watching Sports,” “Best Channel For Sports News” and “Best Overall Quality Of Sports Coverage” it had a handy lead over its competitors, which include The Score, Sportsnet and the major U.S. networks. (Let’s not talk about the conspicuously redundant categories — this is marketing we’re talking about here, a magical beast that can only survive in a thick cloud of statistics, real or manufactured.)

The news, as Marty pointed out, was that The Score had taken a sometimes substantial lead over Sportsnet — three points over the Rogers-owned sports channel in the “Best Channel For Watching Sports” category, and five points in the “Best Overall Quality Of Sports Coverage” slot. This might explain why the independently-owned Score is busy building a fancy new public presence in downtown Toronto right now, on a prominent strip of King Street between the theatre and club districts.

What this means to someone like myself is a mystery of gnomic proportions, since I haven’t watched a televised sporting event since the 1984 Olympics (and then only because it was at this place my buddy Paul was house sitting, which had a trampoline in the backyard.) It’s an embarrassment to Rogers, as Marty points out, who should have the wealth of resources to beat an independent like The Score, and it can’t help but make some folks uneasy over at Rogers corporate HQ.

For the most part, it’s hard for me to tell the difference between the three; they can be relied upon to have a hockey game on when it’s necessary, basketball when it’s worth watching, and soccer when they’ve run out of hockey brawl highlights, one assumes. I have noticed that both Sportsnet and The Score devote a chunk of their afternoon schedule — and I still shake my head in amazement at this — footage of a bunch of guys talking about sports on the radio.

Filming Howard Stern in the studio sort of made sense when there was an outside chance that porn stars might flash him or neck with each other on the air, but surveillance quality footage of guys in golf shirts and headphones hunched over microphones might be the most spectacular denial of a visual medium’s potential since the major networks signed off the air after midnight. If this is considered good TV, then it’s no surprise that TSN maintains a lead as wide as the mighty Mississippi. With that in mind, I’d like to see if I can interest TVtropolis or Star! in an hour every afternoon of me in my cluttered office, struggling to meet the deadline for this column.

I promise to wear pants.

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