Nothing gets a sports fan's blood flowing, ears twitching and nose itching as much as the annual Gemini Awards for sports broadcasting. Oops! Did I say sports fans? I meant sports broadcasters. Sports fans couldn't give a hoot, though there's a significant number of them who'd be interested if the Geminis were inserted manually into certain sports announcers.
As a sports media writer (part-time, anyway) I don't even pay much attention to this annual bit of back-patting, but this year is different. That's because this year is REALLY different.
Instead of the usual suspects, most of whom get the paycheques from the CBC, this year's list includes a lot of new faces from a lot of different places.
Take The Score, for example. Usually voters pay as much attention to The Score as they do to local cable. But this year, the little network received a whole bunch of nominations, which must have owner John Levy even more excited than usual.
Sarah Meehan and Jake Thompson were nominated in the Best Sports Feature category for their excellent exploration of minor hockey's woes. I actually watched this one, and it was very good. Producer DJ Bennett was nominated in the same category for a sports special on Black History Month.
The Score Tonight was also nominated in the Best Sportscast category, up against traditional power TSN SportsCentre.
And Steve Kouleas was nominated in the best sportscaster category along with TSN's James Duthie and Darren Dutchyshen.
Another name seemingly out of the blue is Citytv's Kathryn Humphries, nominated as best host or interviewer along with TSN's Brian Williams and Duthie.
Even the digital NHL Network got a nod for its feature on Martin Brodeur.
Noticeably absent from all of this are the likes of Ron MacLean, who usually gets at least one nomination. Maybe this year's panel didn't like puns.
Regardless, new blood is never a bad thing and this infusion is long overdue.
For what it's worth, with no attempt to influence the judges, here are my picks:
1. Best sports feature: The Score's minor hockey piece. Too often the horrors of kids' sports are overlooked.
2. Best sportscast: Tough to go against SportsCentre.
3. Best host or interviewer: Nothing against Williams or Humphreys, but Duthie's work at the world juniors was sterling.
4. Best analyst: CBC swim analyst Byron McDonald talks way, way too much but he gives you more information than anyone on TV. TSN's Glen Suitor is a close second. CBC's Mike Milbury is entertaining, but there's not much analysis there.
5. Best play-by-play: You could flip a coin on this, but TSN's Chris Cuthbert gets the nod over CBC aquatics guy Steve Armitage and TSN hockey announcer Gord Miller.
6. Best reporter: TSN's Darren Dreger has the inside dope on hockey, but CBC's Elliotte Friedman was unstoppable in Beijing. CBC's Brenda Irving's work at the Canadian figure skating championships was almost as good.
7. Best sportscaster: Again, gotta go with Duthie over Kouleas and Dutchyshen. Any guy who can keep viewers entertained and informed during that NHL trade deadline marathon deserves a Gemini and a medal.
For a complete list of nominees, go to www.geminiawards.ca