Hewitt Commentary: A look at coincidences and TV ratings in sports
Saskatchewan Roughriders helmet (Twitter/@sskroughriders)
REGINA -- There are many coincidences in life sometimes defying all odds. Let’s take a look back at a few in sports.
The most recent coincidence was in the NBA.
After winning the championship in 2019, the Toronto Raptors went all out to try and re-sign star player Kawhi Leonard.
Toronto’s mayor gave him the key to the city.
Kawhi was offered “free food for life” at several top Toronto restaurants.
A real estate mogul offered Leonard a rent-free luxury penthouse.
Never has an athlete been more popular in The Big Smoke.
The guy was loved in TO more than even the late Johnny Bower.
Kawhi played it like a finely tuned fiddle, teasing Canada’s largest city along with the entire country.
He flew into Toronto twice for talks, always dangling the carrot in view of frenzied media helicopters.
The inevitable result was a two-year deal with the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Clippers caved into his outrageous demands while the Raps, thankfully, did not.
It all blew up for Leonard and his Clippers when they were ousted from the second round of the 2020 playoffs by the underdog Denver Nuggets.
Denver is led by star player Jamal Murray, who scored 40 points in a blowout Game 7 win.
Where is Jamal Murray from?
Kitchener, Ontario, a stone’s throw from Toronto.
In 1965 Jack Nicklaus, who is my favorite all-time golfer, won the Masters. That same year jockey Willie Shoemaker was victorious at the Kentucky Derby, the Celtics took the NBA championship, while the Montreal Canadiens raised the Stanley Cup.
Twenty-one years later in 1986, Jack Nicklaus won the Masters again, Shoemaker rode to victory at the Kentucky Derby, the Celtics captured another NBA title while the Habs took home the Stanley Cup.
Obviously, the Canadiens winning two Stanley Cups is what makes this particular coincidence so good.
Now we can say good-bye to Maple Leaf fan readers who will be clicking off this column right about now.
Leaf fan and former Roughrider great Roger Aldag may be clicking off, but “The Dog” still has the greatest sports quote of all time, at least in my books.
Prior to the 1989 Grey Cup game, Roger stated, “We will bring the Grey Cup back to Saskatchewan where it rightfully belongs.”
Roger did just that, winning the franchises second ever Cup.
Because of the global pandemic we waited for what seemed like forever to watch sports on television.
Recent TV rating results are somewhat surprising.
In the U.S. ratings for the NBA are down significantly, with the Miami Heat's win over the Boston Celtics in Game 2 of the Eastern Final down 21 per cent from a year ago, a whopping 40 per cent decline from 2 years ago.
The game was the lowest rated for an NBA Eastern Final since 2003.
In Canada it’s quite the reverse as Raptor TV audiences have grown enormously.
Raptor post-season games were outpacing the NHL playoffs in the battle for squared eyeballs, especially in the populous Greater Toronto Area.
Only two years ago this would have been unheard of here in the frozen north.
Down south Major League Baseball started very well in 2020 TV ratings but have faded considerably.
Baseball numbers have trended down for a long time dating back to the late ’70s.
A lack of interest by millennials is a huge problem for the sport.
For hockey south of the border NBC is down 28 per cent going into the Stanley Cup Final.
A poor audience was also recorded for the first game of the Finals between Dallas and Tampa.
In Canada hockey ratings were reasonably strong until the Canadian teams exited.
That said, hockey ratings domination in Canada is not what it used to be.
With two sunbelt clubs now playing in the Stanley Cup Final, the NFL currently appears more popular in Canada. In this country 903,000 viewers tuned in for the NFL season opener versus the 744,000 who watched Vegas play Dallas in the West Final.
Not long ago the NFL beating the NHL in Canada would have been unheard of.
NFL ratings in the U.S. remain about the same from a year ago, only a tad up, but keep in mind NFL TV ratings are strongly ahead of any other sport for groggy, listless couch potatoes holding TV remotes like myself.
NFL audiences are growing strongly in Canada which may make some CFL fans nervous.
Once again it’s the millennial interest issue supported big time by fantasy football.
I certainly believe strongly that there is plenty of room for both football leagues in this country.
Golf television ratings are way, way up, in both countries, as much as 40 per cent for certain events.
The pandemic has ironically been great for golf.
So in the U.S. the biggest pandemic TV winner appears to be the PGA while the NBA is the loser.
In the case of golf, the pandemic has been a boon to local golf courses including those here in Regina.
No one is travelling so folks are staying home and hitting the links.
When you play a sport you tend to watch that same sport more on television.
There are a lot of theories out there about the NBA decline.
Some marketing analysts feel the racism stands being taken by the NBA and it’s players are hurting American TV numbers.
I hope and pray that is not true.
If so, that would be very, very sad.
I have another theory.
In the NBA the inmates (players) are running the asylum.
Superstar players band together to form super teams.
These super teams have a huge advantage vying for the championship.
Right now the Los Angeles Lakers would be favored to win the NBA championship.
Lebron James convinced fellow superstar Anthony Davis to join him in Los Angeles.
A ripple effect occurs when other above average players follow.
That is a broken system.
Out of 30 NBA teams, 20 don’t stand a chance.
A national following will eventually fragment.
The best leagues are clearly the ones with hard salary caps.
The NBA and MLB have luxury tax systems and the ratings results are obvious.
The little guy has to have a chance.
Boy, do I ever miss the Roughriders.
Don Hewitt started covering the Saskatchewan Roughriders for CKCK-TV in 1979.