I recognize that I am not the target audience for anyone marketing anything to do with Major League baseball. They've already got me. It doesn't matter if they want to show my A's games in the middle of the night; I'll watch. It doesn't matter if they want to show the games in French, with Italian subtitles; I'll watch. It doesn't matter what channel, what time, what broadcast feed, or what announcers. If I have a way to watch the A's, I'm going to. And of course, the nice side benefit is that while I am able to watch my out-of-market A's, I can also watch each and every other baseball team as well. And I do.
However, what happens when this avenue is suddenly blocked? What happens when the way I've watched the A's for the last six years is taken away? And I know I'm not alone; there are those of us who will do just about anything to watch our A's, yet installing a DirecTV satellite is more than an inconvenience; it's not even an option.
Jayson Stark, one of my favorites, wrote a column this week about how he sees the situation. It's one of the best I've read.
Among the highlights:
Stark points out that many are making a false comparison between the NFL and MLB, most notably because of the sheer difference in amount of games played.
The way the NFL juggles its TV schedules, what percentage of "big" games are available to the entire hemisphere -- 75 percent? Eighty percent? Whatever it is, the Sunday Ticket package is great if you're a degenerate fan, gambler or fantasy addict. But it's only the you-really-shouldn't-eat-this dessert you order after a gourmet dinner.
Baseball, on the other hand, is a whole different beast. Yeah, there is still an ESPN Sunday night game. Yeah, there is still a Fox Saturday afternoon game. But remember, the rest of ESPN's package has been reduced this year to just a single game on Monday and Wednesday nights.
That's a lot of baseball to be missing out on; with the exception of two games at the All-Star break, baseball fans can watch their sport every single day for six months. It's unbelievable to think that this option could be gone, or even at best, replaced with MLB.TV. And we all know how well that option works for some. And let's not forget the sometimes arbitrary 'blackout' rules.
I can tell you about countless places -- in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, upstate New York, the Carolinas, Nevada, California, Missouri, etc. -- where totally frustrated fans can't watch games of teams they used to be fans of, because MLB routinely blacks them out.
Those games weren't blacked out on the Extra Innings package because they were available locally. Those games were blacked out even though there was no other way for fans to watch them.
They were blacked out purely because of geography, because MLB's "map" told some computer somewhere that they were "home games" for these people.
The fact that no local TV outlet -- on-air, cable or satellite -- happened to be carrying those "home games" couldn't change those computers' minds or MLB's minds. I know firsthand. I've tried to help a bunch of the people affected. With zero success.
Well, nothing is official...yet. And I know, in the grand scheme of things, I'm just another fan; and not even one who is a candidate to be sold anything further. I'm just one who wants to keep things the same.
Good for ball? The same for ball? And will the money involved be worth the potential price?