Something Weird’s On: Basketball Super League

When I was a kid, in the '80s, we didn't really have cable until I was 12 or 13. I say "really" because I lived in a duplex with me, my mom, my sister, and my stepdad on one side, and my uncle on the other. My stepdad and uncle worked out an arrangement where they would split and share cable, and jimmied things so they could do just that.

The downside was, only one side of the duplex could have cable at a time, and my stepdad wasn't much into TV, so it was mostly my uncle who had the cable and we had regular, over-the-air TV.

Over-the-air TV still exists today of course, but I wonder for how much longer in this era of streaming. As it currently stands, sports of the over-the-air-TV actually hasn't changed a ton (in terms of what is broadcast nationally) since the '80s. You have the same amount of NFL games, and roughly the same amount of NBA and MLB games on network television. We have less tennis than in the '80s, and more hockey. We have less boxing and more soccer.

The biggest change to over-the-air television since my childhood is the switch from analog to digital signals mandated in 2009. This change, in turn, paved the way for "digital subchannels."

For example, it looks like anyone growing up in the Charlotte, NC area, which I believe includes the editor-in-chief around these parts, Marc James, would know WBTV Channel 3 as the region's CBS station. It was, and it still is.

Only now, there's also WBTV Channel 3.1, 3.2, etc., up to 3.5, which carry their own networks. These networks are, in general, extremely niche and mostly cater to the types of people that would still have antenna TVs, namely lots of nostalgia programming from the '50s to '80s. What I mean to say is by "types of people" that would still have antenna TVs are: old people. They may have gotten a digital television sometime in the last 20 years, but generally want things to be as the same from when they were in their prime.

There are some exceptions, though, and that leads me back to sports. There are four sports-oriented networks that are carried as digital subchannels here and there throughout the country: Rev'n (racing and cars), Sportsgrid (general sports talk with a heavy focus on fantasy and sports betting), Sports News Highlights (does what it says on the tin), and Bein Sports Xtra.

Most, if not all, digital subchannel networks are also available for free on a number of different streaming platforms, so you don't have to rig together a TV and rabbit ears to watch this stuff. But it does mean that, as rare as this may be, kids today stuck with antenna TV (I don't know, maybe they live with their grandparents who refuse to get Internet?) actually have more sports options than when I was a kid, depending on where they live.

Getting back to Bein Sports Xtra, they show both obscurer sports and obscurer leagues of common sports from around the world. Which ultimately brings me to the locus of today's column which will kick off a new Slant Pattern recurring series: Something Weird's On.

Tonight, Bein Sports Xtra is bringing us a game from the Basketball Super League. The Basketball Super League, Wikipedia tells us, "is a professional basketball league based throughout Canada and the United States. The goal is to model the league after professional soccer and basketball leagues in Europe, by playing against teams in The Basketball League."

The Basketball League is arguably the best U.S. hoops minor league, and the Canadian teams come from the erstwhile National Basketball League of Canada.

Looking at Wikipedia, The Basketball League website and the Basketball Super League website is a recipe for a ton of confusion and bafflement. Things like "scores" and "standings" shouldn't be hard to find, but they are, as if on purpose. But I love you, dear reader, and I tried as hard as I could to figure this stuff out. Here's what I found.

* The Basketball League still exists as its own thing, whereas the National Basketball League of Canada seems to just be the Basketball Super League now.

* The Basketball Super League only lists the Canadian teams under "teams." There's five of them.

* The games between TBL and Canadian teams are supposed to count in both leagues' standings. In practice, this seems to only be the case for the Basketball Super League. The TBL standings only count TBL-only games on the website's standings page.

* The Canadian teams seem to be markedly better than their US-based counterparts. The Sudbury Five, for example, is 7-1 against American teams but 9-10 against Canadian teams. Only one of the five Canadian teams has a losing record, which is still a respectable 9-14.

*I could only find Basketball Super League standings on The Basketball League's website.

The Basketball Super League actually came to my attention this weekend, when browsing TV listings and seeing "Los Angeles at Sudbury," a sports/city match up you don't see often, on Being Sports Xtra. This was the aforementioned Sudbury Five against the Los Angeles Ignite of The Basketball League.

It was a close game, won by Sudbury, who also won the rematch the next day. The Ignite are 8-1 against The Basketball League competition, but as I say, it seems the Canadian teams are better it seems. The game was called by Canadian commentators who, it's safe to say, didn't acquire their basketball knowledge by boning up on US college basketball — they referred to Sudbury center Raymar Morgan (remember him?) as from "the University of Michigan State."

Tonight it will be an all-Canadian affair between Sudbury and the Newfoundland Rogues from St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador. Another commonality of sports TV in my youth was games on "tape delay." I thought that was a thing of the past, but checking in on Sudbury's record, I got the live halftime score of this game, 90 minutes before it's broadcast on Bein Sports Xtra. So we will pick up the action in the second half.

Another thing that was more common when I was a kid than now is: TV listings being unreliable. But today I'm bit in the ass there, too, as the basketball game I based this whole damn column on isn't starting now as it should on Bein Sports Xtra, but instead we have a broadcast of the "Ice Climbing World Cup." We will see if it starts in an hour or not. If not, at least I wrote enough here for background to make an entire column.

EDIT: It did not start in an hour. But that's okay. Isn't the real victor the cool stuff we learned, and the friends we made along the way?

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