I think TSN is constantly getting better at bringing the CFL to Canada.  When CBC lost football entirely, I wondered if TSN had it in them to promote the game as well.  CBC Sports did a good job, but it seemed to be run by artsy-types who employed jocks, while TSN seemed to be run by jocks who employed artsy types.  Given that jocks don’t think like artsy-types, I didn’t know what to expect, and it could have turned into some demented wannabe Fox NFL nightmare, but it has turned out really well. Hence, it behooves me to rank the TSN CFL broadcast team, in order of best to, uh, least… best?

  1. Chris Schultz – This guy has it all. He clearly loves and understands the game, and he offers cogent analysis without all the phoney jocularity, false modesty and washed-up geriatric macho bravado that NFL panel members bathe themselves in like cheap cologne (Bradshaw and Marino, I’m looking at you).  He’s really become quite comfortable in the role of senior CFL guru.  I’m assuming he must be single.  Anyway, his speaking and writing have improved since he started.  (I’m obviously no Hemingway, Ernest or Mariel, but Chris formerly used far too many adverbs and adjectives in his TSN.ca articles, but he’s much better now.  He had a habit of writing things like “I truly believe…” and he’s finally dropped the “truly”.  Frankly, he could drop the “I believe” entirely because it’s obvious you believe it if you are writing it.  I didn’t need to use “frankly” there, either.)  It looks like he’s starting to pack on the pounds, so maybe he’s a little too comfortable now.  Hit the gym, “Schultzie”.  His suits have never fit well, but as a guy who is also tall, I find all that suit fabric sometimes clumps up, so there might be nothing he can do.  I suspect that his suits are tailored, but not bespoke.  Bespoke is the only way to go, and get real surgeon’s cuffs, Chris.  What if you have to deliver a baby?
  2. Rod Smith – Like Schultz, another solid guy. He looks like he might get a call-back if he auditioned for a part in a live-action version of Yogi Bear, but it would be unclear if it was for the lead or for Booboo.  His almost overly solicitous manner makes it seem like he should be hosting one of those crappy old Canadian game shows back when there were enforceable Canadian contents rules for television.  (Who can forget Definition with that weird opening song, the inexplicable shot of the silhouetted woman dancing, and the massive $1.50 final jackpot you could win spelling “calamitous” correctly, or whatever was going on with that show.)  I see Rod as a tougher version of Fergie Olver, who hosted that stupid Just Like Mom show with his wife who was way too hot to be married to Fergie, or even a guy named  Fergie. She should have been married to a guy named Rod.  And I just want to say that when I googled Fergie, I discovered two things.  First, his last name is not Oliver but Olver, which is weird.  Second, I discovered that a lot of people think Fergie was some kind of pedophile for kissing the little girls on his dumb show.  Way to go, Internet.  Even Canadian talk show hosts from 50 years ago don’t get a pass.  Anyway, back to Rod, he’s a good host, he knows football, he’s articulate, he lets other people talk and he seems to have as much passion for, and possibly as much knowledge of, football as Schultz.  And he’s smarter than the average bear.
  3. Glen Suitor – As a measure of the high esteem in which I hold Mr. Suitor, I was going to rank him number two, but Rod Smith works every football night and Mr. Suitor does not. Also, I just noticed this year that Mr. Suitor shaved his moustache.  As I thought about it, I realized he probably shaved his moustache years ago, so he lost points for that.  Glen Suitor needs the moustache; at least bring it back for Movember. (And while you’re at it, tell Ricky Ray not to bother trying to grow a Movember moustache. Just make a donation, pal–no one needs to see that… thing.)  Anyway, Suitor’s moustache is indelibly seared into the collective memory of CFL fans, much like 9/11 or the Kennedy assassination, so bring it back.  If they ever do a Smokey and the Bandit remake, Suitor will have to regrow it because he is a shoe-in as the new Burt.  And they could simply recast Sally Field because she looks exactly the same as she did 50 years ago.  One time my friend purposely called Suitor “Ridgway” at The Spirit of Edmonton at the 1997 Grey Cup, and he was really nice about it even though we were kinda being drunken dicks.  He made a good team with C.C. and Lorie Deschene (spelling?) back in the day.  During CFL broadcasts, he throws in just enough technical talk to be informative and helpful without being exhausting to listen to.  I still don’t know what a “Cover B” is or what the difference is between a weak side linebacker and the other kind.    Just get the ball and keep the ball; the rest is bullshit.  “See ya, wouldn’t wanna be ya.”
  4. Matt Dunnigan – Matt is clearly a football man with plenty of passion for the game. His southern-speak blabbering when he is filling in as a colour man for games can be entertaining in a deranged-Don Cherry-esque sort of way.  Matt’s suit never quite fits, but most human clothes are not designed to be worn by people who have the build of a rabid wolverine.  People are always saying that he looks like he could still play the game, and they’re right, if the game is murdering people with your bare hands.  Necks are not supposed to be wider than heads.  If you’re going to spend that much time in the gym, Matt, take Chris with you.
  5. Rod Black – People I talk to regard him as wooden and boring, but I don’t think so. Points for his voice cracking when he gets really excited about some fricken’ thing happening on the field.  He did an entertaining job at the 2013 Regina Grey Cup Saturday night gala, and his video vignette with Pinball Clemons was actually funny.  Give the guy a few beers before each broadcast and I think you might be pleasantly surprised.  Or he’ll be arrested.  I’m good either way.
  6. Milt Stegall – When he started, he looked and sounded like a guy who had a lot to say, but was surprised to discover that his smooth disappeared when the camera was on. Whatever was blocking things up has been addressed, and now he won’t shut up.  Handsome man, and he knows it.  Wins biggest, whitest teeth at the Gemini Awards every year.  He and Schultz are probably the only two who could take down Dunnigan if Dunnigan suddenly popped a bolt and went nuts.  Maybe Ron Smith, too.  Glen Suitor strikes me as the type who would stand off to the side watching the melee and start hitting on some young girls with stories about the last moments of the 1989 Grey Cup (but not the last regulation moments of the last game of the 1989 regular season; damn, man).
  7. Jock Climie – He would be rated higher but he usually looks like he doesn’t want to be there. I don’t know why since his other job is apparently practicing labour law, the most boring of all the laws.  Calculating the length of severance cannot be that much fun.  One month for every year of service; next case please.  And the expression on his face always suggests he thinks someone just farted.  Now, I’m just saying that if someone is leaking that kind of smell that frequently, there needs to be an intervention or TSN needs to get a new caterer (or lay off all the Wendy’s; am I right ladies?).  Jock makes relevant if somewhat overly analytical contributions to the discussions, so his knowledge and insight are not in doubt, but his willingness not to be a fucking lawyer all the time is. And he never pulls any punches when he lays into someone about their crappy play. This is football, for chrissakes, not an Ontario Labour Relations Board hearing. He’s accused of being anti-Roughrider, and while I can see where people are coming from, I doubt it.  I think he just doesn’t give a shit what the audience thinks, and Rider Nation will not be ignored.  He’s almost begging TSN to fire him so he can put his labour law knowledge to work.  I said: one month’s severance for each year of employment.  And no, says Jock, I’m not a consultant.  Employee.
  8. Sara Orlesky – She’s TSN’s Erin Andrews. She’s one of the people who gets the thankless job of annoying coaches and players at halftime with softball questions.  Virtually all of the coaches look like they have diarrhea and need to get to a toilet real quick.  Coach Chris Jones seems outright hostile, like it’s already started.  Coach Hufnagel is one of the nicest, but I’m biased because I still remember him fondly as the frog-footed half of the J.J. Barnagel quarterback duo that terrorized the league for one season (but still fucking missed the playoffs; thank you Joe Barns and Greg Feiger).  I see that they have let Sara hang around inside the studio recently, so maybe she’s been given a promotion.  Or a demotion.
  9. Paul LaPolice – First thing I think about when I see him is the shot of him throwing down his cap in the coach’s booth at the end of the 2009 Grey Cup. The second thing I think of is… there is no second thing.  TSN needs to give him more to do, and it looks like this season they are trying.  He looks like he would be entertaining if he lost his temper.  They should get Milt Stegall to trash talk him until Paul completely loses his shit.  If it’s good enough, TSN can give him his own weekly show where he just goes off on people for 30 minutes.  “How the HELL do you lose a Grey Cup when you lead from start to finish??!!  Tell me!!  What do you mean you’re late for your epidemiologist appointment?!  ANSWER ME, GRANMA!”
  10. Duane Forde – Solid analysis. Talk about being damned by faint praise.  Here’s what you gotta do, Duane.  Get caught shoplifting condoms or trying to solicit a prostitute, preferably a dude.  Nothing too serious, but it will get people talking about you.  Even bad publicity is good publicity.  Jock can show up at your Judicial Interim Release hearing (that’s a Canadian bail hearing for all you old Law & Order freaks;  that show was everywhere and now it’s nowhere; WTF?) and ask for a Mareva Injunction and start screaming “Mandamus, dammit!”
  11. Dave Naylor – He used to look like a grade 9 kid who got high with his buddies and broke into the TSN studio at two in the morning, and he’s all paranoid and thinks the cameras are aliens about to probe him. Then he starts talking and it’s all good. He’s much better now (like he’s at peace with the knowledge that getting probed by aliens is not that bad if you don’t fight it and understand they’re just trying to do their job).  Still, even now, he sorta looks like he thinks he’s about to be fired on the spot, mid-sentence.  He reminds me vaguely of Paul Shaffer in those old 70’s SNL video shorts.  Does anyone know what I’m talking about here?
  12. Gord Miller – He seems like the kind of guy who has a good sense of humour but has been told by management to keep a lid on it. They’re afraid if he shows too much personality, he’ll get snapped up by ESPN 12 like those other two guys, whatsisface and whatsisface.
  13. Chris Cuthbert – Easily the best play-by-play voice when something exciting happens. He seems very earnest, like if you played a really mean practical joke on him, he would apologise for not getting it.
  14. Brian Williams – I get TSN Brian Williams mixed up with NBC Brian Williams of “I singlehandedly won the Iraq War and saved New Orleans” Brian Williams. I still can’t think of the non-lying Brian Williams without CBC Olympics.   Even when he was doing the Olympics for TSN, I think CBC.  His feature reports about the player who helps rescue cats and the coach who shaved his head in support of the cat who got cancer, and the cat who saved the high school football program are always very CBC-ish.  The feature on John Chick and his family was really quite nice but I was left with the definite impression that John has an underground bunker and lots of ammo.  I don’t think that’s what TSN Brian Williams was going for, unless it was NBC Brian Williams who did the Chick feature report, in which case that was probably what Brian Williams was going for.
  15. Farhan Lalji – Another of the regional TSN part-timers who wander around the sideline during games, probably wondering how their lives came to this (especially when it’s raining). He’s very articulate, but really, just kill me.  The general issue I have with these guys is that they don’t typically bring any sideline insight.  They interject something they learned a few days ago:  “I was talking to Weston Dressler last week and he tells me that he still gets mistaken for a 12-year old boy when he tries to get into R-rated movies.  Then he told me not to tell that story because his mom will kill him for trying to get into R-rated movies.  Sorry Weston, looks like the cat’s out of the bag now!” (Cue Suitor laughing like Burt Reynolds.)
  16. Jermain Franklin – Another person who has been stuck dragging answers out of players and coaches at the half while trying to decide if he wants to be fired or not. It’s not usually raining in his part of Canada; usually snow and minus 30 temperature in early September. He should spend his time on the sidelines (between reports on what the athletic trainer told him about taping ankles) roughing up the punters.  What are they going to do?  None of them are over five feet tall.
  17. John Lu – I got nothing. If he wants to make a name for himself, I think he should drop a couple of F-bombs while telling us what kind of socks Odell Willis wears, and we’ll see what happens.    His aggressively stylish and terribly well-fitting suits suggest he may be incapable of swearing, but give it a try.  You might like it, John.
  18. Lee Jones – I rated John Lu higher because I think he might be taller, but that’s just a wild guess; both guys look about 4’11”. Having said this, poor Lee doesn’t even get listed as a member of TSN’s team in their “Talent” section.  He looks so young, I assume he gets mistaken for Weston Dressler. “Weston!  Why aren’t you dressed for the game?  Are you injured?”  “I’m Lee Jones.”  “Lee who?”  “Lee J– ah, never mind. Yes, I’m injured.”  Speaking of the TSN Talent section, it indicates you can book their “talent” for speaking engagements.  Someone should book Bryan Mudryk for a children’s birthday party just to see what happens.
  19. Darren Dutchyshen – I don’t think TSN gives him much of a football role but I think he should be given one. He seems to have a passion for it.  Am I imagining things, or didn’t he host Friday Night Football for a while?  Now it’s Friday Night Videos, or whatever those Top Ten shows are (which incidentally, are pretty good but show up at odds times).  Occasionally he’ll sneak in some comment about being six feet tall.  Not a chance, pal.  He’s the love-child of Matt Dunnigan and Amanda Seyfried, and that rabid wolverine I was talking about earlier.  That would be a weird threesome.  Amanda would be all like “Uh, Matt, get out of here.”
  20. Jennifer Hedger – I am told she is even hotter in person. Perhaps, but wasn’t she part of that weird Canadian version of MTV’s Real Life 20 years ago?  Am I going crazy?  If I remember correctly, she was the voice of reason.  Or she didn’t do as much drugs as everyone else.  It’s all very hazy.  She looks like she’s always about to tell the TSN guys around her that they are all idiots.
  21. James Duthie – Another guy who seems to have been ordered to avoid showing any sense of humor. They should put him and Gord Miller together to call a game.  With two play-by-play guys and no colour man, I suppose they would be talking over each other the whole time.  Then James would try to do a knock-knock joke and the screen would go blank, and suddenly we would get an old grainy rerun of the 1972 Le Mans.
  22. Vic Rauter – I got one word for you:  curling. I’m not even sure this guys does any football, but if he did, he wouldn’t stop talking about how slow the field is tonight.
  23. Kate Beirness – Her part in those CFL fantasy football vignettes was pretty funny. They should do a hidden camera show where she pretends to accidentally run into CFL players and starts talking really dirty to them, and see how they react.  Andy Fantuz strikes me as someone who would have no idea what to do but Jonathon Crompton would be all “Awesome! My place is just around the corner. I own a Corvette.  Wanna see it?”  Then Kate could reply with some filth, and he’d be like “Ah… awesome, so…  you don’t wanna see my Corvette?” (Crompton seems like the kinda guy who would drive a Corvette, at least until he cut his hair this year.)
  24. Cabral “Cabbie” Richards – I want to say he’s a new addition to TSN, but I don’t know. I thought he was on another Canadian sports channel and he seemed to be very Toronto-centric.  I’ll pay more attention this year to see if he pops up in CFL broadcasts.  His CFL role seems to be limited to the Coors Light Summer Games ads, where he appears to be a little too excited to be surrounded by all those pasty white kids.  Most of his non-Coors bits seem to involve him and some anonymous pro athlete (probably a Raptor or a Jay middle-relief pitcher) cracking each other up, but I was never able to follow what they thought was so funny (sort of like what the reader is thinking about this blog post right about now).
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