Bulls of the Week
The legalization of sports betting in Canada is closer to becoming reality after the Liberal government introduced a bill that would facilitate single-game wagers.
It’s the second or third substantive attempt to bring Canadian jurisdictions in line with the global movement toward legalization that is decades old in Europe and Asia.
Bears of the Week
There’s the letter of the law when it comes to collective bargaining. And then, there is spirit of intent and partnership between league owners and the players.
That nuance has been exposed again with the NHL asking its players’ association to renegotiate at least a couple of clauses in the return to play CBA that was signed just four months ago. The push back has been understandable and is the main reason why the start of the next NHL season will almost certainly be delayed by at least several weeks from the original Jan. 1 projection.
That has all happened during a week in which Team Canada was placed into a 14-day quarantine in Red Deer, about one month before the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship is scheduled to begin in Edmonton (with no fans in the stands because of COVID-19 restrictions).
Yet no league lost more ground this week than the NFL. While the NHL and the World Juniors are certainly in a jam, the NFL has already been sacked by the postponement of the game that was supposed to be the centrepiece of its American Thanksgiving triple-header; the prime time game between the unbeaten Pittsburgh Steelers (10-0) and the Baltimore Ravens (6-4).
The novel coronavirus outbreak has infected at least one dozen Ravens, including 2019 NFL Most Valuable Player Lamar Jackson, Baltimore’s star quarterback.
The late NFL game on Thanksgiving is typically the strongest of the three in terms of both average and cumulative audiences, usually to the point where more people tune in to it than the first two games combined.
This year, there is additional significance to the strong divisional rivalry that exists between Pittsburgh and Baltimore. The intrigue of whether the Steelers can stay unbeaten is meaningful to a lot of casual sports fans, the market segment that traditionally makes the difference between good and great television ratings. All of that disappeared from the TV lineup Thursday.
The net negatives for the NFL could increase if the game that has been moved to Tuesday night is not playable because of the outbreak in the Baltimore camp.
It would almost certainly create the need for an 18th week in the NFL schedule, which in turn could lead to compressing the two weeks between the conference championships and Super Bowl LV to one week. Delaying the Super Bowl one or two weeks is also within the realm of possibility. That would be a logistical nightmare.
The Super Bowl is the closest thing to Teflon in the business of sport. Regardless of who provides the matchup, it is guaranteed to score well over 100 million viewers in North America. That would probably hold true in the event of a delayed game day, but it wouldn’t be without significant headaches for the league and all of its stakeholders, including Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, sponsors, licensees, ticket holders and, of course, the broadcast rightsholders, CBS south of the border and CTV/TSN in Canada.
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