Simmons: DAZN a disaster during NFL opener

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The National Football League is not at all impressed with the debut of its digital carrier DAZN — and plans to do something about it.

DAZN, pronounced Da-Zone, tripped all over itself with its regular-season debut in Canada on Thursday night. Considering the response across the country, it was more Di-Saster than anything else, in replacing the formerly dependable Sunday Ticket.

“Canada is the most important international market we have,” said Michael Markovich, vice president of International Media and Business Development.

“We’re aware of the concerns about DAZN. We’re in close contact with them. We take the fan experience incredibly seriously and we expect the same from our partners.”

Among the problems so far on the streaming service, DAZN: The audio and video quality is not up to regular broadcaster standards; the DAZN game runs in time delay, so if you’re reading Twitter while watching the game, you are hearing about things before they happen on your screen; the service is not accessible on most current smart televisions and there is a lag time switching from game to game, which was determined in the pre-season and will be noticed far more when regular-season games get underway during Week 1 on Sunday.

“Look, everything we do is about fans and our broadcasts are critically important to us.” Markovich said, adding that DAZN could better explain its problems.

Then it didn’t. Instead of agreeing to an interview, DAZN hid behind a statement claiming the issues “were isolated incidents compounded by a human error.” After that, it changed its mind.

Said the NFL’s Markovich: “All I can tell you is we’re aware of the problems and we take this extremely seriously.”

For the record, there were few if any complaints with Sunday Ticket, which was available on cable, showing all NFL games. The NFL chose to be more modern in its multi-platform approach. The question is: Did it choose the right company to deliver its games to the growing non-cable world?


This is how you know Lou Lamoriello has softened, an NHL voice chimes in. Lindsay Hofford, the golf cart driver in difficulty, was at the first day of the rookie tournament, still working for the Maple Leafs. “Not sure that would have happened back in the day.” … The most important thing to ever happen at a Leafs rookie camp, the discovery that this late-round pick, little-known, 20-year-old Tomas Kaberle, could play. Pat Quinn kept waiting for Kaberle to fail. He didn’t. He played the next 12 seasons for the Leafs … Is there an Eastern Conference team deeper down the middle than the Leafs are with Auston Matthews, Nazem Kadri, Tyler Bozak and Dominic Moore? The Penguins are extraordinary with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, but after that, with Nick Bonino gone, not much. Tampa Bay is deep as well as well with Steven Stamkos, Tyler Johnson and Brayden Point as its top three … Fascinated to see what kind of camp Kasperi Kapanen has. The better he plays, the more it opens up a trade possibility of some kind with a veteran forward … It’s impossible for the Nashville Predators to replace emerging defenceman and leader Ryan Ellis, who’s out for half the season. He has developed into one of the better offensive defencemen in hockey, a terrific power-play shooter and a big-time shot blocker. He won’t be back until the second half of the season … So Paul Maurice did get a contract extension in Winnipeg and we still wonder, why?


Ricky Ray must get jealous watching Tom Brady play quarterback. Brady stands in the pocket, seemingly with all the time in the world, rarely touched for New England. Ray gets battered all game long with the Argos and just keeps on getting up … I don’t often say this about an athlete, but Roberto Osuna needs to gain a little weight, a little strength among other things. He’s far too talented to be breaking down as he has this of late … Little more than a year ago, Genie Bouchard beat Sloane Stephens at the Olympic Games in Rio. Honest. I was there … I’m told often that I don’t get enough Toronto FC in this column. So here goes: Stephens’ boyfriend happens to be TFC star Jozy Altidore. We now return to our regularly scheduled column, basically ignoring soccer … Tough first NFL week for survivor pool people. The Patriots lost for the first time in 151 games at home while leading at the end of the third quarter. And there’s no sure-thing game on Sunday … I don’t like change much. I prefer my Saturday Blue Jays games at 1 p.m., especially when the Film Festival has taken over downtown … Week 3 of the U football season is on. Maybe the former CIS should change its name again, this time from U to I, as in invisible. Did you know actually there was university football being played? And Waterloo is 3-0. Go figure … On Thursday, the ex-Argo Mike O’Shea will be welcomed with others into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. Still missing, after all these years, the obvious Argos Leo Cahill, Dick Thornton and Terry Greer.


This isn’t a joke. Although it is, sort of. Marcus Stroman is the Blue Jays nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award for the player who “best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team.” … Major League Baseball loves to pay lip service to Montreal and let everyone know how much it loves the former home of the Expos. But when there were problems in Houston, Montreal asked to help and was told no. And with the problem currently in Florida, it again asked to help and was again told no … Two important things happened 25 years ago: Sports radio in Canada began and, on an $800 bet, little-known Blue Jay Mike Maksudian ate a locust … My spellcheck just changed Federer to Deseret … What would have happened had Kareem Hunt been a Bill Belichick player and he fumbled his first NFL carry? Would he have had the opportunity to pick up 246 yards in his first NFL start, running and catching the ball … Today, the Buffalo Bills play the New York Jets and Rex Ryan, who coached both those teams, said he won’t be watching … Isn’t that nice, Justin Bieber, hockey fan, singing that hit song about Esposito. Doesn’t say if it’s Phil or Tony … In case you missed it, Martina Hingis and Jamie Murray won the coveted mixed doubles title at the U.S. Open.


Not only have the Cleveland Indians won 17 games in a row, but many of the wins haven’t been close. The average win in this streak, heading into Saturday, is by more than five runs … Kendrys Morales’ on base percentage is .300 — good enough or bad enough for 70th best in the American League. Edwin Encarnacion ranks fifth at .380 … With a decent final few weeks, there is still time for Justin Smoak to lead the American League in home runs. Khris Davis and rookie Aaron Judge are two homers ahead of Smoak’s 37. Smoak, by the way, has more homers than Encarnacion, a higher batting average and a higher slugging percentage. Edwin has more RBI, and a higher OBP … This is nuts: The Dodgers have lost 12 of their past 13 games. Arizona has won nine of its past 10 games. And as of Saturday, Los Angeles was still 10 games ahead of the Diamondbacks in the National League West … So odd to have a September without a real pennant race, and just one chase for an AL second wild-card spot … Look forward to seeing some of you at the George Chuvalo 80th birthday bash Tuesday night at Cadillac Lounge in Toronto … Happy birthday to Joey Votto (34), Brooke Henderson (20), Joe Nieuwendyk (51), Jim Pappin (78), Randy Johnson (54), Paul Goldschmidt (30), Tim Hunter (57), Bob Lanier (69), and the original Rock, Don Muraco (68) … And hey, whatever became of Dan Maloney?


I remember the conversation like it was yesterday, standing near the basketball court at what was then called SkyDome, Darrell Walker shaking his head, his arms crossed, as he held his daily media gathering as coach of the Raptors.

He was talking about Tracy McGrady, again. About his frustration with the Raptors rookie. About his belief that McGrady would never make it in the NBA, didn’t have it, didn’t work hard enough, wasn’t serious enough, couldn’t get his head out of those damn video games.

What ended up happening? Walker was fired as coach of the Raptors after 49 games that 1998 season, winning just 11 times. As for McGrady, well, on Friday, after leading the NBA in scoring twice, after playing in the all-star game seven times, he was inducted in the Basketball Hall of Fame.

What can a coach mean? Butch Carter, who replaced Walker, invested greatly in McGrady — pushed him, prodded him, believed in him, watched him and helped him grow.

Unfortunately, he became great after leaving Toronto. Not sure what would have become of McGrady had Walker remained his coach.


I’m old enough to remember The National, the great American attempt at being a superstar all-sports newspaper. A lot of friends worked for The National.

I started to think about it the other day after a career-long friend, Eric Duhatschek, the exceptional hockey writer, went to work for The Athletic, the rather new pay-for online sports service.

In a very short time, The Athletic has hired some of the largest names in sports media in both the U.S. and Canada. Ken Rosenthal, the baseball reporter, signed on. Pierre LeBrun, the TSN hockey insider, signed on. Jeff Pearlman, the famed author, signed on. The list of signings is long and impressive.

And expensive.

Those of us in this struggling industry today want nothing more than to see new ventures succeed. The more jobs available, the better it is for the industry. But I worry about The Athletic because I know about The National.

The National went too fast, too expensive, paid too much for big-name writers, and big-name editors like the late Frank Deford, and it folded 18 months after first publishing in 1990.

I hope The Athletic survives and thrives. But the math worries me. It’s subscriber-based only. There’s a lot of large salaries to pay. Here’s hoping they find a way to achieve the success The National, run by brilliant journalists, could not.


It is easy to be excited about Denis Shapovalov. The kid looks to have everything. The right game. The right look. The right personality. The kind of on-court athleticism we don’t see enough of.

The rare tennis player who stands out not just for his forehand, but for his ability to connect emotionally with those watching both live and on television.

So here’s my concern: He’s still a kid, hasn’t won anything yet, had a poor final match at the U.S. Open and he’s doing the red carpet thing at TIFF and getting fancy clothes thrown at him, and accolades and he’s been asked to pose for everything and sign everything and so much of it is happening so quickly.

Some athletes can handle that. Connor McDavid knew he was going to be special for a long time. He had time to prepare for it. His people had time to prepare him.

A month ago, Shapovalov had no idea all this was going to happen this quickly. How his life, at least short term, was going to change so rapidly.

The challenge now is two-fold: Continuing to get better at his game and moving up the ATP ladder.

That’s difficult enough. And at the same time, not getting lost in all the excitement and wonder that currently surrounds him. It’s a lot for a kid to handle, even one who seems to have everything.

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