By Matt Oakes
Crappy For most Canadian sports fans September is a month that gets circled on the calendar. We look forward to the beginning of the NHL and NFL seasons, the U.S. Open and meaningful games in the CFL and Major League Baseball. This September was supposed to be even more special. The greatest spectacle in amateur sport was to grace our television screens with non-stop coverage and endless re-run highlights of our favourite Canadian athletes for a solid two weeks.
All summer I could hardly contain my enthusiasm. After three months of attempting to find some way of getting excited over the unremarkable exploits of the Blue Jays and Stampeders I found myself warming up the VCR for "the celebration of humanity." However, for Canadian fans, the summer games have so far been a "celebration of humility."
We should still be proud of our Canadian athletes; their dedication is admirable and they have all trained extremely hard. We must understand that just being invited to participate in the Olympics is an honour we should all respect, especially due to the fact that prior to the games all their diets consisted solely of Kraft Dinner and Mr. Noodles (amateur athletes are hardly rich).
As my Olympic television junk habit continues, I find my anger and frustration directed not at the athletes or the federal government’s lack of funding of amateur sport, but at the CBC’s insulting and inappropriate coverage. Once again Mother Corp.’s Olympic coverage has degenerated into the "The Brian Williams Primetime talk show." One would think that after the debacle that was the Nagano Winter Games, Williams would have been relegated to either the morning or graveyard time slot.
CBC has always championed ethics in journalism and for the most part they live up to their billing. Yet it is amazing the administration is allowing such a blatant exercise in subjectivity to continue. The lowest point for Williams had to be the interview with Eric Lamaze. It was Williams’ own morality coming through, and it was certainly not objective journalism. The interview (whether you agree with Williams’ views or not) was just as insulting to the viewing audience as the interview of Pete Rose by Jim Gray at last year’s Major League All-Star Game. If we, the Canadian people, want our collective intelligence offended and Williams’ value-laden morality shoved down our throats, I suggest we replace Brian Williams with Don Cherry. At least no one takes him seriously and his antics are mildly entertaining.
Throughout last week, Brian Williams acted as though the Olympics have been a disgrace and he has written Canada off for dead. He has been searching for some type of viewer interest by focusing on drug scandals and the scandalous headlines in daily Australian newspapers. It would be great if we could leave the scandals and the press conferences for CBC Newsworld and maybe the CBC could concentrate on the real reason why we are all watching to see the competitions.
I don’t think I can endure another week of CBC’s antics. In a two or three-minute segment we can expect to be exposed to Williams’ incessant flipping of his notes (without even a glance at them), asking "Joe" the camera man if he "got it," the uncertain pointing of his pen at unseen objects and a wry, mocking smile. Will somebody at the CBC realize they have a much more talented and well respected personality in Ron Maclean?
We will have to wait to see what the CBC does about the prime-time anchor position for the Salt Lake City 2002 winter games. At least then we will have a choice of live network coverage. The Sydney Olympics are winding down and Canadians will probably not remember them as Canada’s best. The disappointing sprinters, swimmers and rowers give us enough to be depressed about, and Brian Williams’ coverage is almost as fun as watching the US Dream Team thrash Angola at basketball.