The Great Canadian Ratings Report: Blue Jays' last gasp drawing big audiences

·Chris Zelkovich
Hanging around in the playoff race is paying off in ratings for the Toronto Blue Jays. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
Hanging around in the playoff race is paying off in ratings for the Toronto Blue Jays. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

While the days are dwindling down to a precious few, the Toronto Blue Jays are giving their owners a glimpse of what could be if the team were to make the playoffs -- or even somehow get back into the playoff race.

The past week produced some impressive ratings for a team barely hanging on to hopes of making the post-season for the first time in two decades. A miraculous run over the next two weeks would almost surely put those numbers through the Rogers Centre roof.

Last Wednesday, for example, the Jays game against the Chicago Cubs drew an average of 854,000 viewers to Sportsnet -- the largest September rating in the channel's history. Now, it should be noted that Sportsnet didn't exist the last time the Jays were in the post-season, but anytime a game can approach 1 million viewers it's an indication that there's a lot of interest out there.

We can assume that the interest is in the team and not in what colour suit Gregg Zaun will be wearing. Pink? Really?

Things continued on Friday when a game against Tampa Bay average 743,000. While that number is impressive on its own, what was even more impressive was the fact it outdrew the CFL game between Montreal and Edmonton by more than 100,000 viewers.

Outside of hockey, no sport can top the CFL on Friday nights.

While the numbers dropped a bit on the weekend -- there's a lot of competition out there, by the way -- the Jays three-game series against the Rays took three of the weekend's top nine spots.

Of course, should the Jays do what most expect and fall by the wayside, those numbers will begin to drop. But until they're officially eliminated from playoff contention, expect the big ratings to continue.

While the CFL took a back seat on Friday, it still continued to dominate the weekend ratings with some big audiences on Saturday night. Sunday, however, was a different story with the Saskatchewan-Hamilton game at 1 p.m. going head-to-head with the NFL and coming out second.

An average of 531,000 watched Hamilton knock off the Roughriders, while CTV's NFL coverage scored 609,000. What's most surprising about that is the fact that Saskatchewan was one of the teams involved -- a team that usually brings a guaranteed big audience with it. Unless the entire province chose church over football -- not likely -- nobody outside Saskatchewan was watching.

The two games aired by CTV -- New England at Minnesota and Miami at Buffalo -- weren't exactly marquee matchups, making things even harder to explain. It might have been one of those weird blips. It's possible that most of Southern Ontario was watching the Bills, though nothing in the past has indicated there's that much interest in the Buffalo team regardless of its record.

DOGS OF THE WEEK: Toronto FC continues to create more interest for its boardroom machinations than what takes place on the pitch. Saturday's game against Chicago drew an average of 14,000 viewers to Sportsnet 360. Regardless of the possible explanations, that's as close to being a non-entity as you get. Coming close to that kind of irrelevance was Canada's Davis Cup matches against Colombia. They could do no better than 35,000 on Sportsnet 360 on Sunday.

Here are the most-watched sports events on English-language television for the past weekend, according to BBM Canada overnight ratings:

1. CFL, Argonauts at Stampeders, Saturday, TSN: 871,000

2. CFL, Blue Bombers at Lions, Saturday, TSN: 786,000

3. MLB, Rays at Blue Jays, Friday, Sportsnet: 743,000

4. MLB, Rays at Blue Jays, Saturday, Sportsnet 654,000

5. CFL, Alouettes at Eskimos, Friday, TSN: 614,000

6. NFL, early games, Sunday, CTV: 609,000

7. NFL, late games, Sunday, CTV: 571,000

8. CFL, Roughriders at Tiger-Cats, Sunday, TSN: 531,000

9. MLB, Rays at Blue Jays, Sunday, Sportsnet: 502,000

10. NFL, Bears at 49ers, Sunday, TSN: 462,000 (NBC viewers not measured)

11. NFL, Seahawks at Chargers, Sunday, TSN: 335,000 (Fox viewers not measured)

12. PGA, Tour Championship final round, Sunday, Global: 311,000

13. PGA, Tour Championship third round, Saturday, Global: 310,000

14. Auto racing, NASCAR Sprint Cup, Sunday, TSN2: 219,000

15. Soccer, Swansea at Chelsea, Saturday, Sportsnet: 172,000

16. Equestrian, Spruce Meadows BMO Cup, Saturday, CBC: 164,000

17. MLB, Yankees at Orioles, Sunday, TSN2: 130,000

18. Equestrian, Spruce Meadows Suncor Cup, Saturday, CBC: 125,000

19. MLB, Yankees at Orioles, Friday, Sportsnet: 121,000

20. Equestrian, Spruce Meadows CP Grand Prix, Sunday, CBC: 115,000

THREE TO WATCH

Just for kicks: Soccer fans are already polishing their British accents in preparation for the next step on the road to the UEFA Champions League title: the group stage. Action picks up Wednesday with Barcelona taking on APOEL on Wednesday, 2:30 p.m. ET (Sportsnet One.)

Last gasp? While the last nail hasn't been pounded into the Toronto Blue Jays' coffin yet, the shovels are getting ready to spread dirt on their playoff chances. But, as the great philosopher Yogi Berra once said, ``It ain't over till it's over." It could be over soon if the Jays don't win their last two in Baltimore Tuesday and Wednesday (7 p.m., Sportsnet) before heading to New York to say goodbye again to Derek Jeter.

Showdown in Seattle: NFL fans should be in for a treat on Sunday when one of the best veteran quarterbacks, Peyton Manning, goes head to head against the best young pivot in the game, Russell Wilson, as the Denver Broncos meet the Seattle Seahawks (4:25 p.m., CBS.)

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