By ROB BRODIE -- Ottawa Sun
Good thing Jim Van Horne is used to flying solo.
There he was, early yesterday morning, all by his lonesome as he called the dramatic gold-medal men's doubles tennis match between Canadians Sebastien Lareau and Daniel Nestor, and Aussies Mark Woodforde and Todd Woodbridge.
Like the steady TSN SportsDesk anchor he is, Van Horne rarely faltered in the bright spotlight. Rather, he revelled in it, using an economy of words and letting the action on the court tell most of the story.
How into this was Van Horne?
At one point, when CBC's Ron MacLean threw back to him from an update, Van Horne said "I hope this goes on forever."
Later, as the tension built on the court, Van Horne added this: "If you watch this on television tomorrow, you won't get the essence of this match."
Kind of made those of us who stayed up until the finish (a little past 3:30 a.m.) feel we'd done the right thing.
When the match reached its sudden, startling end on a pair of Aussie double faults, Van Horne captured the moment with another call that went right to the heart of the matter.
"Game. Set. Championship. Canada, Nestor and Lareau ... gold medal," he said emphatically.
Maybe it was no "do you believe in miracles?" (one of the all-time great Olympics calls). But it suited the occasion.
And it proved, one more time, that from a viewer's point of view, less often is more.
Of course, it's a little easier when there's only one guy (or girl) with a mike in front of him.
THE OVERNIGHT SHIFT:
At least the key events Canadians want to see are moving into slightly more normal hours. The Lareau-Nestor doubles match hit the court at 1 a.m. yesterday, and Canada-France basketball overnight was a 2 a.m. tipoff. Where was this about a week ago? ... Words rarely seen in tennis: Gold-medal point, Until yesterday, that was ... TSN's Dave Randorf, who's working an overnight shift of his own (his "day" starts at 3 a.m. in Sydney), has won raves from viewers for his anchor work ... You know you're right in the middle of the action when you can hear synchro divers counting down before they take the plunge.
DOWN UNDUH TALK:
One last point (we hope) about NBC's slamming of CBC's coverage style. As Nancy Lee, CBC Sports' executive director, points out, while the network is offering live coverage at bizarre hours, viewers aren't bound to watching events in the dark. There are plenty of replays during the day. "It's not like you see it live and then is disappears into ether and you never see it again," she said ... Another day, another panel discussion about the problems in Canadian amateur sport. Can't say the CBC hasn't examined this subject thoroughly ... Mark your calendar: Canada's Caroline Brunet paddles for gold at 5:50 p.m. on Saturday, then again at 6:55 p.m. with partner Karen Furneaux.