Televised baseball on July 4th once was an American birthright. But when I opened the sports page and checked out the day’s games, guess what? There wasn’t a single major league game available to me. Imagine that: the Fourth of July without baseball.
There were games listed, all right, just not ones I could get. Four were scheduled: Toronto at Boston on MLB Network; New York Yankees at Cleveland, also on MLB; Detroit at the Angels on FS West; and New York Mets at Los Angeles on Prime.
Notice anything interesting? At least for me, all these channels require upgrade packages. Hey, I already pay Dish almost $100 a month to get a full slate of broadcast, cable and premium channels. And yes, it includes ESPN’s many iterations. I don’t want to bump my bill into three-digit territory by having to pay for more outlets.
Even you poor Luddites who get your tube over the public airwaves with an antenna were out of luck in Los Angeles where I live. A fortune was spent to spread high definition to the masses through the atmosphere, requiring set-top boxes or new TVs. Yet you can’t get a friggin’ baseball game on July 4th.
It’s friggin’ un-American. This isn’t one we can blame directly on Frank and Jamie McCourt, even though here in L.A. we sure would like to pin it on the warring and apparently penniless Dodger owners who took the team down the tubes with their con game. No, it’s all part of the insidious dismantling of access to baseball that has been building for a few years.
I can picture the light-bulb moment when a billionaire owner calls the boss of major league baseball. “Hey, Selig, I got a great idea to goose our revenue streams. Let’s break the games into separate packages and otherwise-inaccessible channels! Why give away the milk when we can make them pay for it?”
The wise man strokes his chin and grins his appreciation for the brilliant scheme. “Get me Rupert on the horn,” Selig yells to his secretary. “And Madoff, too, if he’s out yet.”
Sure, a let-them-eat-cake inspiration that might sound great to MLB and already-rich owners and players. But terrible for baseball fans. And terrible for baseball too. It may be time to storm the bastion, baseball lovers. String ‘em up by their wallets!