Excerpt from Toronto Star’s Norris McDonald’ s column:
ALTHOUGH THE BROADCAST ” froze” on me from time to time, I was able to watch pretty much what I wanted of the Rolex 24 at Daytona this weekend via live streaming on the Internet. But it still rankled me that NOT ONE Canadian television outlet opted to show the classic race.
One Canadian, Kuno Wittmer, was on a class-winning team in the Rolex (GT Daytona in a Dodge Viper) but there were at least a dozen other Canadians racing in both the headliner and the Continental Tire support race on Friday. James Hinchcliffe was in a Mazda, Scott Maxwell won the pole for the Continental in a Mustang (he was instrumental in the development of the new Ford GT sports car unveiled earlier this month at the Detroit auto show) and Ron Fellows was there in his General Motors ambassador role. The list goes on and on.
Yes, SPEED used to show Daytona, Sebring and the Petiti Le Mans as well as other ALMS/USCC sports car races but since all the cable companies up here conspired to get rid of that channel, those races are no longer available on Canadian television. I’m sure I am not the only auto racing fan who’s bummed out by this.
It’s not that there isn’t interest in sports car racing. The FOX Network in the United States showed the first two hours live before handing the race off to its all-sports FOX Sports Network affiliate for the remaining 22 hours. As we all know, Canadian protectionist legislation has kept FOX SN out of Canada (as it has ESPN) or else we’d all have been able to watch along.
Most of the major auto manufacturers took part in either the Rolex or the Continental Tire Series races this weekend and surely they can’t be too happy that a race in which they’d collectively invested millions of dollars was essentially blacked out in this country.
You could see it in Europe, Asia and South America but you couldn’t see it in Canada. How stupid is that?
How have we come to this state of affairs? I have a theory.
Throughout my life in newspapers, I have known exactly one sports editor who appreciated motorsport. And I have known a lot of sports editors. The rest of them either knew nothing about it, and couldn’t have cared less, or were so biased against it that they effectively sabotaged the coverage. Yes, twice a summer – perhaps three times – they had to acknowledge its existence (Indy 500, Canadian Grand Prix, Honda Indy) but otherwise it was completely off their radar.
I suspect this is the case with TSN and Sportsnet. Between them, they have upwards of a dozen channels but Sunday afternoon at 1:45, Sportsnet had the same curling match on ALL of its channels (lots of choice there, eh?) and TSN had the Raptors on ALL of its channels except one, which carried a program about the winter X Games in Aspen.
The only explanation for this sorry state of affairs is A) a serious lack of imagination and/or B) an out-and-out dislike of motorsport by the people in charge.
It’s always been thus, by the way. Except for the Indy 500 and one or two other races, CART always had to buy the air time in the U.S. And that might eventually be the only way that Ford, Porsche, General Motors, BMW, Mazda, Honda, Chrysler, Ferrari, Audi and Aston Martin will get their racing on Canadian television: rent (or buy) time on TSN or Sportsnet.
Or else wait for one of those all-sports American networks to launch a challenge against the cultural provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Now, THAT would be interesting, wouldn’t it?