By Mike Steffanos
Last year when my cable company elected not to carry SNY, I signed up for DirecTV service and was able to watch the games. For that I'm grateful. Meanwhile, my old cable company was in the process of being sold to Comcast, and the deal took so long that cable viewers in my area never did get SNY. Fortunately for my fellow Waterbury, CT area Mets fans, Comcast has recently announced that the network will be available by opening day.
Since I am in what is considered the Mets local area, I do not have to subscribe to Extra Innings to watch Mets games. Hence I am not affected by the impending deal that will put the out of market games exclusively on the satellite network, effectively taking it away from fans who do not wish or are unable to switch from cable. Still, I know what it is to be a die-hard fan of my team, and if I was living in a different part of the country I would do whatever I had to do to see Mets games.
I understand that Extra Innings subscribers represent a rather small sub-set of baseball fandom. This New York Times story by Richard Sandomir estimates that there are 180,000 cable households subscribed to the package, and cites the president of DirecTV that only about 5,000 of these wouldn't be able to switch to DirecTV. This, of course, ignores the simple fact that many of these people may not wish to switch, and especially don't like the idea of being forced to do it to keep the programming that they love.
Unfortunately, if there has been one constant of the Bud Selig era in baseball, it is the obvious truth that baseball's commissioner cares more about the bottom line and trying to attract more casual fans to the game than he does about the die-hards who love the game the most. Bud and his marketing people understand all too well that they have nowhere else to go for major league baseball, anyway.
There are somewhat conflicting reports of how much of a windfall baseball will get from an exclusive deal with DirecTV, but the consensus seems to be that it will translate to about $1 million per team per year. That kind of chump change won't even buy you a top middle reliever anymore. But those of you who are losing access to your beloved team's games can console yourself with the fact that the commissioner of baseball is a compassionate man who empathizes with your loss...
...Or not. Actually, Selig was quoted in Saturday's Chicago Tribune that the hullabaloo over the pending deal was "ridiculous" and that it was nothing more than "a slight controversy, in some places." Yes, you have it right. The commissioner of baseball is actually taunting fans who are upset at losing access to their team's games. Selig elaborates further to the Tribune's Paul Sullivan:
I've heard for years we have too much product out there.
Everywhere I've gone ... there's no market that has less than 350 to 400 [televised] games, and some [like Chicago] have quite a bit more than that. We have an enormous amount of product out there.
As for this deal, what fascinates me is I have spent a lot of time going over it and trying to find out who can't get [DirecTV].
We're down now to such small numbers, that I'm really wondering [about the fuss].
... In a year or two, when people understand the significance of this deal ... everybody will understand it.
So there's your answer. If you move to a different part of the country, change your life-long allegiance to the local nine and kwityerbitchin'. How dare you refuse to see the significance of this deal to Bud and his cronies!
I've always been amused at how baseball will refer to something they are doing that others question as simply a business deal. Major League Baseball is not just any business. Owning a baseball team has little to do with competing in the free market as most businesses do. As a business, team owners enjoy some extraordinary advantages. They need to realize that there are also extra responsibilities involved -- at least pay a little lip service to it.
MLB has thumbed their collective noses at some of their most loyal fans, and their commisoner is an insensitive dolt that can't even acknowledge that or come off as the least bit empathetic. Not only does Bud not care that you're upset -- he's mad at you for not appreciating the "significance" of his deal.
There are some in the baseball media who wonder why Bud Selig doesn't get more admiration and love from baseball fans for all that he has accomplished as commissioner. The simple truth is that he doesn't garner respect because he doesn't give it. We don't like Bud because we recognize that he doesn't give a damn about us. Hell, he can't even be bothered to pretend to care. Bud just doesn't get it, and never will. That's his true legacy as commissioner.