The Great Canadian Ratings Report: U.S. college football final proves worth of CIS game

·Chris Zelkovich
Alabama head coach Nick Saban gets doused after the NCAA college football playoff championship game against Clemson, Monday, Jan. 11, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. Alabama won 45-40. (Rob Schumacher/The Arizona Republic via AP) MARICOPA COUNTY OUT; MAGS OUT; NO SALES; MANDATORY CREDIT

Maybe it's time to bury a few myths about college football in Canada -- and we're talking about both the variety played on this side of the border and the one that emanates from south of here.

The myth is that nobody but friends and relatives cares about the Canadian version and that millions of Canadians are more attached to Notre Dame or Ohio State than they are to Wilfrid Laurier or the University of Alberta.

While television ratings aren't the be-all and end-all to proving popularity, they are a pretty good indication of what tickles the fancies of your average viewer. And the ratings indicate that the gap between the two brands of football is pretty minimal.

Take Monday's much-hyped NCAA championship game between Clemson and Alabama. It was a heck of a good football game and kept viewers on the edge of their seats for its entirety, with see-saw leads, spectacular plays and plenty of drama.

The game, won 45-40 by Alabama, averaged 379,000 viewers on TSN -- interestingly down 18 per cent from last year's game.  That's not a bad audience, but it was only 68,000 higher than what last November's Vanier Cup game between UBC and Montreal drew on Sportsnet. (Equally interesting, ESPN's broadcast averaged 25.7 million in the U.S., a 23 per cent drop from last year.)

Considering that Monday's game was played in prime time during the post-Christmas lull and the Vanier Cup happened on a Saturday afternoon during the pre-Christmas frenzy, that's pretty much a draw.

In itself, that's amazing considering all the pre-game hype that surrounds the American variety and the fact that excitement is whipped up by all those NCAA games that air on both Canadian and American television. The Canadian game, meanwhile gets next to no hype and scant television time.

Without that kind of build-up, it gets awfully difficult to create an audience. Yet, the CIS game fares well in comparison to the American one.

Taking all of that into account, you really have to wonder how this myth has endured.

Without getting all Sigmund Freud about it, the answer probably lies in our national inferiority complex. Or maybe it has more to do with the higher alcohol content in our beer. Whatever the reason, the time has come to shovel dirt on that myth.

Here are the most-watched English-language sports events from the past weekend, according to Numeris overnight ratings:

1. NHL, Leafs-Sharks/Pens-Habs/Bruins-Sens, Saturday, CBC-Rogers: 1,600,000

2. NFL, Seahawks at Vikings, Sunday, CTV: 1,400,000

3. NFL, Steelers at Bengals, Saturday, CTV: 1,200,000

4. NFL, Chiefs at Texans, Saturday, CTV: 1,000,000

5. NFL, Packers at Redskins, Sunday, CTV: 693,000

6. NHL, Lightning at Canucks, Saturday, CBC: 606,000

7. Curling, Pinty's all-star skins men's final, Sunday, TSN: 511,000

8. Curling, Pinty's all-star skins women's final, Sunday, TSN: 400,000

9. Curling, Pinty's all-star skins women's semifinal 2, Saturday, TSN: 368,000

10. Curling, Pinty's all-star skins men's semifinal 1, Saturday, TSN: 329,000

11. NHL, Capitals at Rangers, Saturday, Sportsnet: 273,000

12. Curling, Pinty's all-star skins women's semifinal 1, Friday, TSN: 270,000

13. NHL, Senators at Capitals, Sunday, Sportsnet: 261,000

14. Curling, Pinty's all-star skins men's semifinal 2, Saturday, TSN: 244,000

15. NHL, Lightning at Oilers, Friday, Sportsnet West: 227,000

16. NHL, Panthers at Oilers, Sunday, Sportsnet: 180,000

17. NHL, Blues at Ducks, Friday, Sportsnet: 145,000

18. NBA, Raptors at 76ers, Saturday, TSN: 131,000


Curling in the desert: When somebody came up with the phrase ``what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas," they no doubt had curling in mind. Okay, probably not, especially considering that everything that happens this week at the Continental Cup of Curling in Las Vegas is going to be televised. The best curlers in the world are going to be on hand for this event, starting Thursday (11:30 a.m. ET, TSN.)

Field of nightmares: The next step on the road to the Super Bowl goes this weekend and if it's anything like last week's wild card games, plenty of bizarre football awaits fans. Things get rolling on Saturday (4:35 ET, CTV and CBS) when the Kansas City Chiefs, who had the good fortune to face Brian Hoyer last week, get a slightly more daunting task when they meet Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.

Stiff test for Price-less Habs?: The Montreal Canadiens have had their problems since goaltender Carey Price went down, and it's unlikely he'll be back in goal before the beginning of February. So, the timing could be better for the Habs to face the Chicago Blackhawks (Sunday, 7 p.m. ET, Sportsnet).

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