Upheaval In Television

dodgers logoIt’s my understanding the Dodgers just swept a pair from Arizona. Did Vin Scully accompany the teams to Australia? I don’t know. Forty miles from Los Angeles, I’m shut out!

Cable subscribers comprising two thirds of the market are in the same boat.

There’s a money dispute with the new Dodger network. New owners paid lots for the team and broadcast rights. Now they have to recoup.

They probably paid too much. They want me to make it better.

Friday night’s game was on MLB Network. It was blacked out for us even though it wasn’t played locally and there was no other way to see it. That’s a slimeball move.

Once again viewers are caught in the crossfire.

The Weather Channel’s off DirecTV. Some markets have temporarily lost their local network affiliates. It’s a mess.

Lots of people pay for ESPN every month though they have no interest in sports. You’ve got to take the package. Got to!

I can watch some channels and shows on my tablet, but I’m not allowed to plug the table into my TV. One cable! The rights owners say no.

From where I sit the only parties not represented are us, the viewers.

The technology exists for all of us to watch what we want when we want it and on whatever platform we choose. It’s fair to say we want what technology could easily bring today. Why aren’t we getting it?

Established businesses will suffer, but that’s always a risk of business. We are entitled to benefit from technological advances. Instead, deals made out of our sight restrict our access. How are these in the public interest?

There will be an upheaval in what used to be called television. The legacy operators are fighting it, but how long can they prevail?

And So It Begins: Baseball

I am so upset. The baseball season has opened in a totally strange way. Bad feng shui!

By tradition the first game is played in the afternoon in Cincinnati. Not this year. Miami opened a new stadium and played St. Louis tonight. Last week Oakland and Seattle played a couple of real games in Japan.

I think MLB considers last week’s two games a “soft opening.” Who can tell anymore?

The Phillies play Pittsburgh at PNC Park Thursday afternoon. We’re big Phillies fans in the Fox household.

Right now most of the team seems injured. The rest are considering AARP cards. I don’t sense a winner. I hope I’m wrong.

It could be worse. We could be Mets fans.

Baseball is different than any other sport. Most of the time most of the players really aren’t involved in the action. Even so the season is long and grueling.

We’ll see some games. My sister and brother-in-law have invited us to Milwaukee to catch a weekend series. A former boss has offered Helaine and me seats in his company’s box at Citizen Bank Park.

We’ve got the MLB video package for the computer again. We can see nearly every game (and Helaine will). I can watch on my phone, tablet, Roku and PC.

Baseball Begins!

All the teams are in first place. All the pitchers have a 0.00 ERA. My cellphone ringtone is the ESPN baseball theme music!

All the teams are in first place. All the pitchers have a 0.00 ERA. My cellphone ringtone is the ESPN baseball theme music!

Let the games begin. Baseball season begins tonight with the Yankees versus the Red Sox.

Baseball season used to begin in Cincinnati with the Reds playing a weekday game in the sunshine. Fat chance now. TV rules.

The Reds are in the Great Flyover. Yanks-Sox are big city draws and will play in primetime. The rest of you purists be damned.

“You know,” I said to Helaine. “At some time the Phils won’t make the playoffs. At some point they won’t get to the World Series.”

I got the type of scowl only a wife can give to her husband. I dropped the subject. Our marriage needs to be preserved.

One day last week Helaine sent me three emails in rapid succession. One Phillies pitcher was getting cortisone shots while another would start the season on the DL. I can’t remember what the third email was about, but it’s possible another pitcher had tied himself to the SEPTA tracks outside Suburban Station. Helaine implied the team would have to look for pitchers in the stands before each game.

Fans–bring your glove and spikes.

Once again I gave Helaine the MLB.tv package for her computer as a birthday gift. What a husband. I bought the companion app for my iPhone. It’s possible we can watch games on both simultaneously. The terms of service aren’t clear.

Oh, who am I kidding? Bank error in your favor only happens in Monopoly!

Stef, who returns to SoCal tomorrow has promised to watch tonight’s game with us. She wasn’t forced. She wants to watch. She is surely Helaine’s child!

Go Phils.

Why I Love My Wife

The isn’t preseason baseball. It’s pre-preseason baseball! No one’s playing with a jersey number lower than 85.

I got an instant message earlier this evening. It was Helaine. The message was just a link, nothing more. I clicked and saw:

3/3/2010 Baseball at Philadelphia Phillies 7:00 PM Listen

It was the Florida State Seminoles site. They played the Phils tonight. Helaine was looking to listen.
The isn’t preseason baseball. It’s pre-preseason baseball! No one’s playing with a jersey number lower than 85.

And you wonder why I love her so?

I used this as an excuse to buy the yearly Major League Baseball video package. We get it every year and it is well used!

major league baseball blackout map.jpgIt’s a great idea, but talk about a purchase limited by small print! If anyone’s game is nationally telecast the Phillies game is blacked out. If the Phils are playing in New York or Boston the game is blacked out (though we do get those games on cable).

There has been some kvetching recently from folks who are blacked out though they’re hundreds of miles from the nearest team and on-air or cable telecasts aren’t available. That’s just wrong.

I scrolled down the MLB.TV page looking for dirty tricks. Sure enough well below ‘the fold’ there was a pre-checked space expressing my desire to automatically renew next March 1. I unchecked it, as I had last year. Persistent bastards, aren’t they?

I love baseball. It means spring is right around the corner.

Eric Bruntlett’s Triple Play: “Is There Some Kind Of Special Prize?”

Later, when informed on ESPN’s Baseball Tonight his play was today’s “Web Gem,” Bruntlett replied, “Is there some kind of special prize?”

It’s been well established the Fox Family watches and roots for the Phillies.

“They gave Utley the day off,” Helaine told me as we sat down to watch.

Chase Utley’s a great player. His replacement, Eric Bruntlett, is not. And yet there’s a reason teams play the games. You never know what’s going to happen.

It was, to say the least, an unusual game. The Phils scored six runs in the first. The Mets answered with two.

By the time the ninth inning arrived we’d seen Mets starter Oliver Perez removed in the middle of a batter, an inside-the-park home run made possible by the dubious interpretation of a ‘ground rule’ and a triple turned into an out after the umps reconsidered the original blown call on a spectacular catch.

The Phils were still up in the ninth as the troubled Brad Lidge came on. We were prepared for the worst. Lidge leads the league in blown saves!

The Phils defense collapsed in a series of embarrassing errors leaving the Mets with two on and no out. Now there was no getting around what was obviously ordained. The Phillies were about to suffer a crushing and ugly loss.

It didn’t work out that way!

“One moment I’m standing on third with what I thought was a triple and the next I end the game on a triple play. But there was a lot of stuff that happened in between.” – Eric Bruntlett on Comcast Sports Net

Jeff Francouer hit a line drive into an unassisted triple play. Eric Bruntlett, the fill-in who’d been called out on the faux triple and who’d contributed to the Phils ninth inning predicament was in the right place at the right time — unassisted triple play. Game over–only the second time a triple play ended a game in Major League Baseball’s well documented history.

Later, when informed on ESPN’s Baseball Tonight his play was today’s “Web Gem,” Bruntlett replied, “Is there some kind of special prize?”

Eric–fame is fleeting. Enjoy the ride. Tomorrow it’s back to the bench.

Oh… and on behalf of the Foxes, thanks.

Blogger’s note: There was originally video available for embedding, but MLB has removed it.

How I’d Change Baseball

I don’t think it’s good for the game… and by ‘the game’ I mean ‘the fans.’

mlb-logo.jpgIt’s the last day of July. It’s the Major League Baseball trading deadline. Two reasons not to like the day.

August has always been the lesser summer month to me. Not sure why. Maybe it’s the finality associated with it.

My objection to MLB’s deadline is a little more flushed out. I don’t think it’s good for the game… and by ‘the game’ I mean ‘the fans.’

Teams should work with whomever they had when the season began. They should be able to move players up-and-down from their farm system, but not team-to-team.

No more ringers–and isn’t that what trading to get Lee or Halladay really amounts to?

No–let me use a stronger term. They’re mercenaries.

Contending teams trading for stronger players and mortgaging their future for short term gains upsets the natural balance and chemistry a team has. Think Terrell Owens and the Eagles, but imagine it in mid-season!

Picking up players also removes certain strategic components of the game-within-the-game just as having a designated hitter does.

At the same time it’s disrespectful to the fans of the ‘donor’ team. Remember them?

Cleveland and Toronto I feel your pain even though, as a Phils fan, it’s my potential gain.

The Perfect Sunday

Her perfect Sunday is spent wearing pajamas, sitting on the sofa watching the NFL.

“Fine.” That was Helaine’s answer when asked if her sports expectations were answered today. The Phillies won big. The Eagles won bigger.

Helaine has said, and I have often repeated, her perfect Sunday is spent wearing pajamas, sitting on the sofa watching the NFL. Wish granted. She was down here when I came downstairs and has remained on the sofa “with limited commercial interruptions&#135” ever since.

Because of yesterday’s inclement weather the Phils play a second game against the Mets tonight. Remember when baseball used to have single admission Sunday doubleheaders? I do too. MLB seems to have forgotten. They make the schedules.

If the Phils win tonight they will be tied with the Mets–again. Helaine will sleep like a baby.

&#135–Helaine reminds me she did two loads of laundry and made dinner while the games were on. I stand corrected, in clean clothes, well fed.

Vin Scully On My PC

There’s no way you could listen to him and guess his age. He hasn’t missed on a play.

vin-scully.gifThe Phillies are playing the Dodgers in Los Angeles. MLB.com is providing the home team video tonight which I’m watching. Though I miss the ‘homer’ calls of the Phil’s announcers, I’m getting the opportunity to listen to Vin Scully. That’s a rare treat.

Scully, who will be 81 this fall, started with the Dodgers in 1950–the year I was born. He’s still got it. There’s no way you could listen to him and guess his age. He hasn’t missed on a play. He even managed to use the word “behoove” seamlessly in his on-air monologue. Nowadays Scully works alone.

I’m not totally surprised he has stayed with play-by-play so long. Judging by the longevity of other baseball announcers it must be a very enjoyable job. Of course, like the players he covers, he needs to stay healthy. That’s got to be tougher at 80.

The Dodgers just won. Even Vin Scully can’t make that less painful.

Blogger’s note: Jon Miller (ESPN, SF Giants) does an amazing impression of Vin Scully doing play-by-play in Japanese. I can’t find it here on the net. If you’ve got a copy, please let me know.

The Announcer Who Wasn’t There

The scores and stats were real, but the flavor of the game was totally the product of Keiter’s imagination.

I was talking with Chris Velardi (anchor/reporter) at the station tonight.

He’s a big Mets fan, so I found it necessary to remind him of their current plight. I’m like a sixteen year old in this regard.

I talked about our MLB video purchase and then he trumped me – he actually bought a minor league video package. Chris Velardi – you are hardcore!

Pretty soon the conversation moved to an announcer I remembered from when I was a kid. Hopefully my dad will leave a comment, because he’s the reason I know this guy.

Back in 1958 (when I was 8), the Giants moved from New York to San Francisco. What had been a three team town, was left with the Yankees alone.

You’ve got to remember – neither team (NY Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers) left because of lack of support. They just got much better deals out-of-town. There was plenty of pent up National League interest and support in New York.

One radio station, WINS, decided it would make the best of the situation and continue to broadcast the Giants’ games. Instead of sending announcers out with the team, then paying for a remote line, they put Les Keiter in the studio.

I remember hot summer nights, driving in the car with my dad. The windows were rolled down. The radio was on. It was a summer of Mays, McCovey and more than one Alou. Juan Marichal was becoming a genuine ‘phenom’.

Keiter worked with a background loop of crowd noise&#185, the sound of a bat, and a reasonably steady stream of wire service reports. He recreated the games.

The scores and stats were real, but the flavor of the game was totally the product of Keiter’s imagination.

Alas, the experiment didn’t last. That Marichal was covered meant it went at least to 1960.

Maybe Les Keiter’s call wasn’t as exciting as the real thing, or maybe New Yorker’s got the message the Giants weren’t coming back and lost interest. The broadcasts ended. Keiter moved on. The Yankees went back to being the only game in town.

Les Keiter is in his 80s now, retired in Hawaii. He spent a few seasons recreating the games of the Hawaiian minor league team.

He’s why I still remember most of the names from the ’58 San Francisco Giants and why I missed a departed team I was really too young to remember.

&#185 – The crowd noise loop was much too short to be used every day, especially with an irritating and predicably timed, “woo hoo” every few minutes.

It’s Still A Ballgame To Me

Mark Grace and Daron Sutton (color and play-by-play, respectively) had long since lost interest in the game and drifted off to other topics.

The Phillies are playing at the moment. I know this, because I’m listening, and sometimes watching, the FSN coverage from Arizona. It’s part of our MLB on the computer package.

The Phils were up by eight when I tuned in. Mark Grace and Daron Sutton (color and play-by-play, respectively) had long since lost interest in the game and drifted off to other topics.

Weird. Surreal. Strange. It was still a ballgame to me. That’s what I wanted to hear. I was disappointed.

Granted, they were probably disappointed too… in the D-Backs who stunk up the joint this evening. It sounded like they didn’t think anyone was still watching.

They had an evening like their team’s!

The one weak point of the MLB package is, they only send one TV feed of the games I had no choice.

PHILLIES….. 1 0 4 0 0 0 4 1 1 – 11

D-BACKS…… 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 2 – 4

Bonds, Finally

I’ve got ESPN on. Barry Bonds just broke Aaron’s record. I’m not pleased, because I think he’s a cheat.

The good news is, it happened at a late hour. Few will see it live.

We’re also probably seen the last of Aaron’s video (which isn’t bad, except when those jerk kids run onto the field). It is a truly iconic piece of video.

Late in the game, right after showing a replay of Bonds’ shot, they ran an anti-drug PSA, which specifically vilified steroids. Probably happenstance, but it felt cheap.

MLB can’t have it both ways. I, however, can.

My MLB Beef

I just sent the following to the Major League Baseball site. It was actually longer at first, but there’s a 500 character limit.

I subscribe to the MLB TV. This year you are running a commercial for MLB merchandise at Dick’s every half inning.

The commercial is much louder than the game audio. If I adjust for the game, I get blasted every half inning. If I adjust for the commercial, I can’t hear the game. It isn’t quite as easy as adjusting your car radio.

Please have a little more compassion for those of us who pay to watch the games. This is something under your control.

All the best,

Geoff Fox

I’ll let you know if anything develops.

Baseball Season On The PC

The Phillies kicked things last night by getting creamed by St. Louis. Still, hope springs eternal.

I just signed up for the Major League Baseball audio package for PCs. We’ve done this for the past few years.

Actually, two years ago we did the video – but it’s really jerky on Helaine’s old laptop (She won’t replace it). On top of that, many of the games are blacked out.

You would think MLB would allow you to listen when the video is blacked out, but the two services are separate. No video = no audio.

The full season audio package, every game – every team, is normally $14.95. I took a quick peek at FatWallet.com and found a strange deal. I am now a member of Red Sox Nation.

OK – I am not really a Red Sox fan (though they’re my favorite American League team), but by signing up for $9.95, you get the audio for free. I don’t get it, but what do I know about sales?

Let the games begin.

Someone, Please Explain This To Me

Helaine and I are Phillies fans. With the baseball season starting soon (it’s already started for the Yankees and Devil Rays – in Tokyo) I set out to buy the Major League Baseball online package. This is something we’ve done in the past.

You plunk down your money and get a subscription – either the radio play-by-play to all the games of one team, all the teams, or a video package. The amazing thing is watching or listening on your PC. The quality is quite good.

There are all sorts of pricing arrangements. If you go to the Major League Baseball website, the advertised price is $14.95 per month, or $79.95 for the season, for video (and not all games are available as video), or $19.95 per month and $99.95 per season for radio and TV.

So far, so good. MLB has the rights, and they can charge what they wish.

At the bottom of the page, next to a small MSN logo, is this text: “MSN Premium subscribers get MLB.com All Access with your subscription.”

I went to MSN’s website, and here’s what I found there: “All new or existing MSN Premium members receive MLB.com All Access, which includes MLB.TV and MLB.com Gameday Audio.” The price, $9.95 per month, with three months free!

This doesn’t make any sense to me, but I signed up anyway.

Quite honestly, I wouldn’t sign up for MSN if they gave it away free. There is some software in the deal and better access to some of Microsoft’s services, but nothing I really want.

I guess if I were a marketing major, or Bill Gates, a lightbulb would turn on above my head and the reason for this pricing arrangement would become crystal clear. I am neither… obviously.

Broadband – How Broad?

I read an article on c/net earlier today. It’s about broband ISP’s, like Comcast which I use, limiting bandwidth.

The article was interesting in that some customers had been kicked off line, unsubscribed to the service, for violating an unpublished limit which Comcast will not divulge. Just don’t go over it!

What seems to be missing from this article, and what worries me about broadband, is the people selling the service are selling it at their own peril.

Comcast and other cable companies make good money on pay-per-view and premium services. But, with a good broadband connection, there’s a case to be made for getting your premium entertainment directly off the net and eliiminating the middleman (Comcast). Comcast’s profit on PPV and premium channels comes from being the gatekeeper. If they’re bypassed, that’s gone.

A perfect example already exists in sports. Both MLB and the NFL sell Internet packages. Those packages compete with other premium channels available on some cable systems. Comcast gets nothing extra for providing the pipe that brings basbeball to my house. And, I don’t buy games on PPV.

Are the cable companies and/or phone companies the right companies to be our broadband gatekeeprs (After all, even phone companies are now seeing competition from VOIP carriers like Vonage)? Certainly, they have an advantage with much of the infrastructure already in place because of ther more mature businesses.

It’s going to be interesting to see this play out over time. At this point the FCC is not exactly pro-consumer, so I don’t expect outside pressure, yet.

(As part of my retirement portfolio, I own a little Comcast stock)