Blogs > The Back Page

The musings of a Detroit-area sportswriter in the digital age.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

'Hockey Night' a significant casualty of cord-cutting revolution

Anyone who knows me well has heard all about my adventures in cable-cutting. I got rid of my cable last summer after the NBA Finals, something I never thought I would do. Here were are well into the fall slate I still haven't renewed my subscription. I'm doing pretty well, but one thing I've struggled with is finding live sports.
Sure, every Lions game is on network TV and their Monday Night Football game on ESPN was simulcast on WXYZ-7 in Detroit, an ABC affiliate. So there's really no lapse in coverage on that front, but I work on Sundays anyway, so I'm not home to see the games.
The Tigers, Red Wings and Pistons are all on Fox Sports Detroit these days. The last time I remember not having cable, all three teams were still being broadcast on UPN-50 (now CW-50), available over the air.
As an avid fan, I subsist by watching ESPN for Xbox Live, an underrated way to go, which has live college basketball and football and replays from the ESPN family.
There were a few times the Tigers were the Fox game of the week on Saturday this summer and I got to see much of the ALCS on the network as well.
Often I'm at work or the gym, both places which have cable, during many of these teams' games, so I'm not completely missing out. But the rub comes with "Hockey Night In Canada," a CBC staple that sometimes features the Red Wings. (I would watch games that didn't have Detroit matchups.) I recall getting CBET-9 from Windsor over the air even in rural Springfield Township as a kid, so when I installed my new super antenna, I assumed I would be sitting pretty this hockey season. Wrong.
Over the summer, CBC stations went through the digital transition that was mandated by the FCC more than two years ago in the U.S. It took a few weeks for me to find out why I could no longer receive my target signal, but I got an answer from the network earlier this week via email:
"The digital coverage area is somewhat smaller than that of the discontinued (analog) signal."
So that's it? No more HNIC freebies for Michiganders without cable? It's a sad realization.
There have been some nice things about my adventures sans proprietary service provider, for instance not having a cable bill every month. Also, over-the-air broadcasts come in high definition, so I'm still seeing the same picture (even better in some cases). But the loss of "Hockey Night in Canada," something I've watched since I was a child, is the most significant casualty in my television transformation.

Factual errors, grammar mistakes prove stores should stick to their niche

Last week, CNBC sports business guru Darren Rovell tweeted the first images of a Victoria's Secret t-shirt prototype for a Michigan State t-shirt. If you haven't noticed, leagues are signing over their rights to designers, likely making serious loot in the process. Victoria's Secret, already with a line of NFL items, is making its foray into the college market.
The problem with the planned t-shirt from the company known for its ladies underthings was that it said "Hail to the victors," which, of course, is the slogan of the Spartans' chief rivals at the University of Michigan.
A mistake for sure, but what did you expect on merchandise produced by the world's top lingerie maker? Maybe that shirt will be worth money one day. Probably not, though. 
You may remember a controversy over the summer, where a line of Old Navy college tees, including a U-M shirt, read "Lets Go!" above the teams' logo. This is a common mistake, but "let's" is actually a contraction meaning "let us."
That brings us to this week. Old Navy goofed again, this time, it's listing the incorrect founding years of different college institutions. Last straw for some, just another point for me to make.
If you're buying your college and pro gear at these types of clothing stores rather than a place with "sports" or "locker room" in its name, you've already screwed up and you get what you deserve.
Victoria's Secret needs to stick to what it does (very) well — bras and underwear. Old Navy should continue to supply us with low-cost (and sometimes low-quality), factually-correct clothes. We should all pretend these shirts don't exist and their licenses should be revoked by the NCAA. 
(Photo courtesy of Darren Rovell/CNBC)

New series looks at athletes' real lives

Local TV studio CMN in Troy is producing an interesting series exploring what the transition period for athletes go through while assimilating to "normal" life following their playing careers. The show has already featured former Detroit high school basketball standout Derrick Coleman and will feature Michigan State heroes Greg Kelser and Mateen Cleaves, as well as former Pistons Bad Boy Rick Mahorn.
The series has been picked up by PBS and will begin airing nationwide in January.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Suh stomp gets Taiwanese send up

Watch below, as Suh is portrayed assaulting what is presumably Bears quarterback Jay Cutler in a fashion similar to that used in the video game Mortal Kombat. He also tears the arms off a Packers lineman before being forced into a cage by a lion tamer wearing an NFL uniform. Most appropriately, Suh is seen flushing money down the drain, as he was suspended for two weeks without pay.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

UFC deserves mainstream attention

Many fans feel that way and columnist Pat Caputo agrees:

Thursday, November 10, 2011

UFC on Fox will eventually draw new business to local bars

Several area establishments seemed unaware Saturday's UFC on Fox is not a pay-per-view event like the league's other bouts. Saturday's is the first of the league's seven-year contract with the network.
Typically, only certain bars carry the fights, presumably because of the purchase cost of the event, which is calculated by the venue's seating area. With the Dos Santos-Velasquez bout being free on Fox for the first time, many bars seem to be missing the boat on siphoning UFC crowds away from Buffalo Wild Wings, the established home for that crowd.
While the pre-fights will be available online via Fox Sports and Facebook, the main bout will be carried live on FOX. Network coverage begins at 9 p.m.
"Fox believes millions of uninitiated viewers will get their first taste of the violent, growing sport by tuning into the one-hour show from Anaheim, Calif.," according to the Associated Press. The report estimates UFC is forgoing a $40 million take on the event by shifting to Fox.
The Waterford BWW is, of course, carrying the fight and expects a crowd similar to those for pay-per-view events, which is standing-room only.
"We have a lot of fight fans who come here no matter what," one manager said.
Steve Estmont, assistant general manager of the Troy BWW location, thinks some fans may opt to stay in Saturday and watch from home.
"It's our first experience with a Fox event," he said, adding Saturday's have been lucrative thanks to traffic from surrounding businesses.
Bullfrogs in Ortonville, a safe-haven for UFC fans until recently, will be carrying the fight. The venue used to carry the PPV events until the end of the summer and expects to resume its carriage when business picks up next summer.
"It's not as busy anymore and (UFC) doesn't bring in as much business as it used to," one manager said. "It's not cheap by any means."
Shark's Club in Waterford has never carried a UFC event. It's 17,000 sq.-feet seating area likely comes with an incredible price tag. Sister-location Overtyme in Waterford doesn't carry the events, either.
The Lodge in Keego Harbor doesn't normally carry UFC fights, but will be showing the event because it's on Fox. Lodge personnel said people typically call inquiring about the bar carrying the fight in the days leading up to the event.
Sure, Saturday's coverage on Fox is only an hour, but the network plans on expanding coverage in the future and this would be a good way for other locations to assume some of the traffic that typically goes to Buffalo Wild Wings. UFC plans to have four events per year on Fox when its new deal actually begins in January. As the sport gets more mainstream, which is the purpose of this pact, more establishments will treat the fights like NFL or college football games and plan their business around the event.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Nothing more American than Nickelback on Thanksgiving Day

The above mentioned band hails, like many, from our neighbor to the north, Canada. And despite the protest against them playing the halftime show of the Lions' Thanksgiving Day game, which has nearly 45,000 online signatures, there's nothing more American than their presence on that stage: Promotion to push your new product.
It would seem more relevant to pick a Detroit or otherwise American act. Some names tossed around include: Kid Rock, Bob Seger, Jack White, formerly of the White Stripes. How about Grammy winnter Eminem? Ann Arbor's Mayer Hawthorne, a musician, not a politician, has even declared himself eligible for the gig.
So why pick Nickelback you ask? Are these other artists unavailable? Maybe. Was that even considered? It's possible. What you may not have considered it the fact Nickelback is set to release its latest effort Nov. 21, three days before the fateful game. That alone makes them a credible act to grace the stage in honor of America's finest day of excess — Thanksgiving.
The holiday is set aside for eating too much and honoring the mentality that ultimately led to Manifest Destiny.
And of course, it's set aside to give thanks for the blessings in your life, but I assume there aren't too many Americans who would take a second to give thanks to Nickelback, regardless if they perform at Ford Field.