MLB is killing Opening Day for fans in their home teams markets
What is that saying? Everything old is new again? It sure feels like it as one of my favorite days in all the world, Baseball's Opening Day is in full swing while I write this column.
I always have loved Opening Day, it's one of the rich traditions of baseball, even if it has been watered down the past few years due to trying to accommodate TV. What was once done in a day/two max, was stretched out to a 4-day weekend the past few years.
Yes, in 2021, the plan was for everyone to play on day #1, though COVID and nature changed that plan a bit.
For years growing up, almost, if not every team played on day #1 with the Cincinnati Reds starting off the festivities. Games were on from noon til the end of the day and if the day worked out right, you could easily catch your favorite team play.
It kicked off a busy late March/early April sports paradise that also included the NCAA Basketball tournament and the Masters.
As a kid growing up in Central Florida during the 70's, there wasn't a way to watch most games like there is now. If I was lucky I could catch the game on the radio. AM 750 out of Atlanta was a "Clear" AM radio channel which meant they could broadcast at 100,000 watts. It also meant on a good night, Atlanta Braves games would be findable on my radio.
Early cable meant Superstation WTBS and not all, but a lot of Braves games on TV.
The older I got, the more it became a somewhat sentimental pursuit. If everything worked out, there were years where I was off opening day and could park myself in front of the TV all day long. Sometimes I had to listen while driving from assignment to assignment early in my career. But I always caught at least part of the Braves opener no matter where I was.
The past decade or so, it was an assumption that pretty much every game was on TV, I could watch 'em all. The local Regional Sports Network(RSN) here in Atlanta had all but maybe 4 or 5 games.
Oh how that media world has changed.
Fast forward to 2021, the version of cable I now have is an Internet app (HULU Live). No cable box, no wires, just a constantly strong wireless internet signal.
But with that comes the inability to watch Braves baseball. Yes, I know, I've complained about this in more than a couple columns. No Braves games for me as I live just outside the Atlanta city limits, well within the MLB blackout zone.
Yes, in 2021, a major professional sport will not allow local fans to watch games on TV. Now, if lived anywhere other than the region around Atlanta, I could just buy the MLB package and watch until my heart is content. But most of the southeastern U.S., no, we're not eligible.
Hey, listen, I know how it works. The Braves TV deal with Bally/Fox Sports RSN allows them to be the sole provider of game broadcasts. If your TV provider doesn't have the network, you don't get to watch.
It's an antiquated rule based on 1990's technology that penalizes baseball fans in the worst way possible. MLB needs all the fans they can get in 2021, yet they are choking at least 25% of the marketplace out because of their "rule".
Yeah, I could change providers and get cable. Heck, I learned that ATT has a "TV App" with the games. They are the only non-cable provider to offer this. Their "package" with Bally Sports is $20 more a month than my Hulu, why would I do that?
I've said it before. Most hardcore fans like me would gladly pay a few bucks a month for an app to watch the games. Cable's audience has shrunk while streaming has exploded in popularity, yet baseball hasn't changed with the times.
MLB has an app and so does Bally/Fox Sports South. But they have to be on your provider in order for you to be permitted to use them.
Yes, there are still ways I can watch. I can subscribe to a VPN service and work around the IP address issue on my computer so I don't look like a local viewer. I can find some questionable streams in different areas of the internet, but god knows what security issues I'm overriding to do it.
No, I don't know why MLB can't pressure Sinclair (owns RSN's) to make a deal with the Live TV streaming services (Hulu/YouTube/Sling/Roku etc). The two sides are quibbling about a money. I get it. But it's a hurdle that could be overcome if you choose to make the effort.
It's a shame that thousands of fans in most MLB markets are now left out. I'd be willing to bet its five digits in each town. I don't know it for a fact, but I'd bet the league and its partners are missing out on a ton of viewers in an era where they need every viewer they can get.
What it means for me is this: I'm sitting here stretched out on my bed, writing this column with my I-Pad on the radio broadcast listening.
Baseball is the rare game that can be entertaining without video. You don't have to see the game to get a feel for it with the right broadcasters.
It's an "old school" notion in a new school era. One that for the younger generations might be difficult to adapt to.
But for some like me, it's the way you grew up.
Maybe there's something to that....