For all the little posts I have in the queue about Randy Johnson, Andy Pettitte, Doug Mankiewicz, more Mark McGwire, etc., nothing jarred me out of my hibernation more than the pending MLB deal with DirecTV that will prompt folks like myself—and about 499,999 others—to turn our attention to other things during the 7 months of the baseball season.
With the out of town Extra Inning package about to be exclusive to DirecTV viewers, I’m forced to consider doing more productive things for myself this Spring/Summer/Fall. Time to write that spy novel about the travelling troubadour who comes to town and everyone falls in love with him until it is learned that he’s a Communist spy who has been taking pictures of everything with his string-tie camera. Or maybe I’ll get that mole on my forehead looked at—it’s always much easier to assume it’s not cancerous when the Yanks are visiting Boston. I’ve always wanted to go hot air ballooning. I guess I can do that instead of watching Old Timers Day or tuning in to Bobby Murcer’s triumphant return to the YES booth.
From an immediate business standpoint, it’s clear what MLB is doing. Shutting out half a million people so that a great percentage of them drop $100 on the MLB.com’s “MLB-‘TV’” package, and doing it consciously at the sacrifice of scores of thousands of fans who can simply no longer get the out of town games they’ve shelled out $160 annually for in the past several years, even if they wanted DirecTV. Frankly, I would have jumped at getting DirecTV (I’m a man that is tough to embarrass, but no amount of therapy can get me to reveal to the public how much I’m paying for cable), but my apartment does not allow it. DirecTV isn’t like going downtown and picking up a pinata. It’s not that simple. A LOT of apartment complexes don’t allow DirecTV for a myriad of reasons, not the least of which is the units don’t necessarily face South-East (my problem). In fact, I once ordered all the hardware for DirecTV, with lofty dreams of someday watching Yankeeography: Barry Foote. Two Technicians showed up just long enough to make it halfway to my balcony before consulting their mental compass and abruptly shaking their heads and saying “nope”. My suggestion of putting aluminum foil on the neighbor’s roof and angling Southeast so as to redirect my misaligned signal was met with a mild chuckle, which I guess is what I was going for, but part of me was hoping it would make a light go off in their heads and they’d concoct some cockamamie way to keep me from paying through the nose to a cable company whose owners were last seen flying leer jets with NASA toilets paid for by their stockholders.
But at least this digital cable that I paid so mightily for afforded me the chance to get the Extra Innings package. I’ve spent the last couple seasons Tivoing the game while at work and cuing it up from the start when I get home. Or when I was around for a live game, I’d bounce between the Yank game and the Red Sox or whoever else—truly this fan’s nirvana.
So now I may or may not have the option of paying MLB so I can watch games that—in an age of high definition—have the kind of quality of WHT in a tropical storm. The technology is impressive if it took place in the George Brett era. But these days it’s just far, far inferior. And based on my test drive two years ago, my Gateway desktop with Windows XP does not actually play it. Well, it plays a frozen screen that changes with the action every three seconds. So if I ever want to catch a game in the style of the closing credits of M*A*S*H, this deal is for me.
Plus, unless they’ve tweaked the technology, I don’t believe I can start a MLB TV telecast from the beginning while the game is still going on. So it’s back to the days of repeatedly asking my wife to hop on line and tell me if the game ended. (And if she keeps telling me no, I know I’m in for a corker. If it’s yes, I know when the game ends and that there’s a resolution at a particular point of the game that I know is coming.) And efforts to sequester myself from a game’s outcome is tough enough without a Yahoo homepage giving it away. Wish me luck logging on to MLB.com and fishing around to click on a game that already ended and not seeing what A-Rod did that day and whether or not his teammates said nice things about him.
And I can’t wait to have any friends over so we can sit on my couch and crowd around the ol’ laptop while I tell them to keep the beer away from the computer so they don’t spill it and short out the motherboard.
This is the type of thing that makes fans hate what much of the game is about these days. The ones like me who keep coming back are addicts. Now I’m an addict who is trying to continue giving MLB my money (heck, even this blog costs $5 per month) so I can follow my team, but there is no practical way to do it. Hunched over a computer—even if it did work on my desktop—ain’t gonna cut it. When someone sends me a six minute youtube clip—even a stellar little piece of hilarity like this—I can only give it a few minutes before clicking off. I’m at the office all day sitting in front of my computer, so I’m not about to go cross-eyed so I can catch Yanks-Devil Rays (if it seems they’re always playing the Red Sox, the truth is they are almost always playing the Rays) while sitting in my desk chair at home.
MLB will indeed make a few quick bucks on this deal in the same way that some new silly looking uniform prompts an instant influx of revenue for teams whose fans who can’t figure out what to buy next. They have all the bobbleheads (I’m partial to the McFarlane dollies myself), so they’ll buy a tacky looking jersey that will be outdated in two years when their team spits on tradition and changes color schemes, sleeve designs and fiber counts. But more negative P.R. from the MLB machine further cements their relationship with the existing fans (now fewer) as cold and unhealthy. A one way street.
Sadly, MLB has become to its fans what Phillip Morris is to chain smokers. But in this case, I don’t want to quit, but they’re telling me I have to.