Two Sides to Each Story… A Sports Cynic’s Perspective on Toronto TV Commentary

This minor detail turns what is supposed to be an open forum of objective commentary into a form of propaganda that would make Nazi Germany proud.

Toronto Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo faces “tough” questions from Toronto’s sports media authorities

Its unfortunate to report that Toronto has been exposed to a horrible experience in the realm of sports play by play and colour commentary for quite some time. Instead of providing an objective and open perspective filled with facts and clever quips, the many voices of Toronto sports often resemble an amateur booster club; struggling to convince the many fed up and misinformed fans of the teams that the ambassadors of the city are not as dismal as their statistics or results prove they are.

Take for instance the city’s beloved Toronto Raptors, a team that in thanks to poor draft picks, lack of talent, and misguided management has managed to finish above .500 twice in the last ten years.  Somehow despite all of this, a viewing of any of their televised broadcasts will yield an overwhelmingly positive perspective as to the state and status of the team.

An evening with Play by play man Matt Devlin and his color commentary sidekick Leo Rautins will undoubtedly have any casual fan in agreement that the team is headed in the right direction (even during a 15pt thrashing to the league’s worst team Tuesday night).  It takes a trained eye to realize that fabrications about the progression of players and misleading comparisons to superstars on other teams are all standard during a Matt Devlin commentary. Unfortunately, this sort of blatant spinning of the truth is part of a vicious cycle which has seen the Raptors “rise” to the ranking of laughing stock throughout the NBA.

Lead Raptors Commentary team (top) Matt Devlin (right) and Jack Armstrong (left)
Below Leo Rautins (right) performs his duties of coddling the talent.

What should be most disturbing to any die-hard fan is that this push to support the lackluster and inferior teams through outright fibbing seems to not be the fault of the local play by play and color commentators.  As some may recall, the same Matt Devlin did broadcasts for American national broadcasts during last year’s NBA playoffs.  Surprisingly the play-by-play commentator was able to do a halfway decent job in simply announcing the game and not mimicking a high school cheerleader looking to curry favor of the starting quarterback.  Witty analytical observations along with sensible analogies were suddenly evident in the Devlin’s work. Why is this relevant you ask?  Because he was employed only temporarily by the actual television network, as opposed to being employed by an individual team, forced to flatter and sugar-coat a wretchedly assembled squad to keep his high paid job.

The problem here is that the Raptors along with most other Toronto professional sport teams do not garner enough North American support, to maintain anything beyond local television coverage. This minor detail turns what is supposed to be an open forum of objective commentary into a form of propaganda that would make Nazi Germany proud. Those of us able to remember North American televised playoff appearances from any Toronto team (as far and few between as they are) will recall a much less biased and far more objective commentary system, capable of pointing out the shortcomings as a good sportscast should.


Now how does a Canadian team like the Raptors gain major coverage in an American dominated sports world that would rather not acknowledge that they exist? Well unfortunately for the city, primetime television coverage is reserved for teams that get results; a by-product that Toronto teams since 1993 have not been able to produce.  The answer then to obtain a more objective broadcast that respects the sport knowledge of its fans.

Win, and do plenty of it. Sadly, when looking at the batch of Toronto teams for 2012 with the exception of the Toronto Blue Jays, it does not look like any type of “#winning” will be in abundance.

Written for CAVE by Jason Cross



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