(April 18) – The start time of a professional basketball game has brought to the fore the national question in Canadian sport.
“One of the competing media conglomerates that owns part of the Toronto Raptors is at least complicit in the team being stuck with an unenviable starting time for Game 1 of its playoff series,” Doug Smith reported in the Toronto Star.
“(Rogers) Sportsnet, which is a part-owner of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, will broadcast Game 1 against the Indiana Pacers at 12:30 p.m. Saturday on its two main networks.
“It will be a television lead-in to — and take away any competition from — a 4 p.m. Blue Jays game in Boston.”
The Blue Jays are wholly owned by the Rogers media monopoly, which pocketed an estimated $600 million in additional TV revenue from the Blue Jays’ lucrative playoff run last year.
“A preliminary TV schedule leaked almost two weeks ago had the three major United States basketball networks — Turner, ESPN and NBA TV — settled on Eastern time zone start times of 3 p.m., 5:30 p.m., 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. on each of Saturday and Sunday. When the NBA released its schedule in the early hours of Friday, the only game outside that nine-hour window was Toronto-Indiana.”
Toronto coach Dwane Casey uttered a gem about how “the playoff game start times disrespect Raptors…“Evidently someone doesn’t feel like we’re deserving of that prime time spot. We have to use that as motivation.”
This year, Toronto won 56 games, headed the Alantic Conference for the third successive year, and is the Number 2 seed in the Eastern division behind Cleveland. For the third successive year, Toronto has been slotted into the earliest time.
“The Lake Erie Express”
Meanwhile, Rogers’ purge of Canadians in the front office of the Blue Jays, who replaced its Canadian president and general manager last year with American executives imported from Cleveland – knick named “the Lake Erie Express” in the sports media – continues as it “dismissed” – er, “resigned” – the senior vice-president of business operations last week. Its roster includes but two Canadian players, one of whom (Michael Saunders) the new management tried to trade to Cincinnati in the winter.
Rogers continues to laughably market the Blue Jays as “Canada’s team,” yet all regular season games are played in one city. It staged the last two exhibition games before a sold-out stadium in Montreal this year, then packed the line-up with minor-leaguers. No matter, the occasion was used by the Montreal Mayor Dennis Coderre to peddle a scheme by private capital for another franchise in MLB, for which taxpayers no doubt will be forced to subsidize a new stadium.
In hockey, no Canadian team has won the Stanley Cup since 1993, and this year no team even made the playoffs. In 2009, Jim Balsillie’s* bid to bring a seventh National Hockey League franchise to Canada from the Arizona desert (the Phoenix Coyotes) was ignominiously blocked by the New York based Commissioner, Gary Bettman, with the backing of the NHL board of governors, including MLSE. The bid was leveraged to blackmail the Phoenix City Council to make lucrative concessions to the franchise.
This wish that a Canadian private pro sports monopoly and Canadian monopoly capitalists be a major power in the U.S. imperialist market, despite the size of its population and economy relative to those of the United States, underscores the Yes Man role Canada is accorded by the U.S. and its sports empires since the expansion of the U.S. major leagues into Canada, and that these private monopolies themselves seek to play within the imperialist entertainment market. Canada’s role is to supply an annexed media, merchandising market and natural athletic talent, and in turn push American culture and turn over the arenas to celebrate or “appreciate” U.S. wars of aggression in which Canadian Forces participate. The U.S. cartels even dictate the composition of Canadian national teams.
Humiliation time and time again, doing yeoman’s service only to be ignominiously discarded when important events take place – that is the role reserved to Canadian sport in the U.S. empire.
Within this empire-building, Canadians do not control their sport and have few levers to exercise any pressure or remedies when it comes to solving problems.
After its April 16th loss to Indiana, Toronto is 0-8 in opening games of playoffs.
*At the time, Balsillie was CEO and owner of Research in Motion, makers of Blackberry. Hundreds of thousands of Canadians signed his online petition campaign promoting his self-serving chauvinist vision which he called “Make It Seven,” that is, seven franchises in the U.S. NHL. In response, I wrote an article titled “Make It One,” in which I argued for a real national hickey league.
Balsillie is former director and co-chair of the Liberal think tank, Canadian International Council (CIC), which promotes Canadian empire-building. On March 15, 2016 Liberal Minister of Heritage Mélanie Joly named Balsillie and hip-hop artist Kardinal Offishall as ambassadors to “encourage Canadians to get involved in the 150th anniversary celebrations” in 2017. The government is paying a private organization to approve and disburse funds for official celebrations.
Balsillie is alsofounder and chair of the Centre for Governance and Innovation (CIGI), and the namesake and primary benefactor of the Balsillie School of International Affairs in Waterloo, Ontario.