Monday, April 04, 2011

An entirely NEW way to watch the Nationals lose!

Well, sort of.

For Christmas, alms-giving people that we are, my wife and I purchased iPod Touches. Not for family or friends or our neighbors or the less fortunate, mind you, but for ourselves; I guess that's the mechanics of it, since we got them for each other. I got hers and she got mine -- and that's not even true since I was sick the weekend we bought them, so she ended up going to the Apple Store by herself. But at least we waited until Christmas day to open them. "Oh hey, what a surprise!"

A few months have passed, which is ample time for me to report that an iPod Touch is also great for:

a) checking out utterly pointless stuff on Twitter, such as how long it takes Ryan Hannigan to round the bases after homering;

b) deciding you don't care how long it takes anyone to do a home run trot; and

c) watching actual baseball.

That last one was a rather serendipitous occurrence from the other night when, in the midst of recompensing for inflicting the better half to far too many hours of March Madness, I decided on a whim to pony up for the MLB app. My intention was just to follow some box scores on the sly, but the reward was slamming, entirely unknowingly, into a whole bunch of free baseball. Thank you, Volvo!

In the past few days, among other things, I've seen Trevor Cahill pump himself up for a first pitch, heard Vin Scully do his thing, and witnessed Evan Meek screw the pooch. I've been exposed to a lot of baseball, pretty much all I'd ever want out of the experience of viewing MLB games on a 3-inch or whatever screen -- except, of course, no Washington Nationals. They're blacked out.

At first, the blackout process seems innocuous -- pleasant, even. A little prompt comes up on the screen asking if you mind if MLB determines where you are in the world. That's a little Orwellian, but at least the request is phrased nicely. Then, to illustrate how special you are, you're sent to a screen where your location is depicted as a nice bold circle smack in the dab of your geographic region. And, most of the time, you're congratulated for residing in a perfectly cromulent -- no, a great! -- place. Except for when you're . . .

Not that I'm complaining; I'm only blacked out of games involving two specific teams. They're the two teams I'd be most inclined to follow, mind you, but it's only two teams. At least I don't live in Nevada, or Tennessee, or wherever it is that is the epicenter of the blackout rules. Jeff Passan should report live from there someday, just to give us an even fuller accounting of the carnage.

But, you know, I am complaining. Sure, it's a complicated enough subject that "Just end the blackouts already, Budzilla!" isn't a sufficiently persuasive rhetorical flourish. You've got 30 different teams, each with their own little fiefdoms, and those 30 teams have entered into 30 different contracts with 30 different carriers, and sometimes the team is different than the carrier and sometimes the difference between the team and the carrier is no more than a legal fiction, but no matter what you've got a local carrier that is selling advertising time in its local broadcasts, and when everbody grabs a piece of a pie everybody can get quite messy. (Let's pretend that the preceding sentence applies to the Nationals in more than a minority interest sense.)

I know only the bare essentials of this topic, but the teams sell their TV rights based on how many people are around to watch their games, and the carrier sets its ad rates based on the demographics of the coverage area, and this system isn't robust enough to account for some chucklehead in Des Moines who wants to flip on oh, let's say, a Brewers game for a couple of innings.

However, if the chucklehead from Des Moines really wants to check out that Brewers game, he should be permitted the opportunity to do so, at a cost. Similarly, if I want to watch the Nationals game on my iPod Touch -- if I really, really want to do so -- I'll pay for it. That is to say, I'll pay extra, above the baseline subscription, as a "tax" to defray the hardship to MASN for watching the Nationals other than by watching the Nationals on MASN on my television.

Or should I say our television -- which reminds me of why I'd consider paying an additional fee for watching the Nationals on a separate device. Anyway, this solution is hardly a novel idea, and I'd have to think that Commissioner Selig has "top men" working on it now.

Of course, sorting out how to sort out millions and millions and millions of dollars would take some time, and taking some time is a theme of Selig's activities -- whether selecting a new hairstyle or deciding what is to be done with the Athletics. But I'd just like to put it out there that I'd certainly consider paying the standard rate plus a Nationals-specific viewing fee, right now, and that's keeping in mind that the Nats aren't really any good at the moment. My motivation might be even higher when they become good, and whenever they do become good I'd appreciate having the same opportunity to watch them on my iPod as that chucklehead from Des Moines would.

As for now, though, I suppose I can settle for enjoying free April baseball on my iPod, even if it doesn't involve the Nationals.


  • I'm sure you know this, but this has been an issue long before the Mac tablet franchise was launched. The blackout areas just to be much worse--there was a season or two where the entire state of Iowa was blacked out of basically half the league.

    This is also why I will have a much easier time watching the Nationals this year--after leaving DC--than I ever did while in Washington. Of course, I can't charlie-and-dave it in the car, but net it's better.

    And no, it makes no sense.

    By Blogger Steven, at 4/04/2011 9:14 PM  

  • Some might suggest you'll enjoy free April baseball on your iPod precisely because it doesn't involve the Nats.

    By Blogger Nate, at 4/05/2011 7:38 AM  

  • New? What is this 2007? Get with it old man!

    (the blackout rules are ridiculous - but "pay more" might work because when does "pay more" not work?)

    By Blogger Harper, at 4/05/2011 4:34 PM  

  • Rumor has it that Bud plans to "study" this issue and report findings as soon as possible - in Bud time, that means 6-20 years....

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4/05/2011 10:32 PM  

  • Bud Selig is still studying whether to install flush toilets at the MLB headquarters.

    By Blogger Bote Man, at 4/06/2011 12:33 AM  

  • @Steven: Yeah, it has long been an issue in general (I fondly remember beating the system to watch the Nats online from Richmond in 2005), but this specific issue only became an issue for me over the weekend. And I think half the state of Iowa is still blacked out of 6 or 7 teams.

    @Nate: Well, that and the Scrabble app.

    @Harper: "Holly told me to wake up and smell the Nineties." --DHII

    @Bote: The Blue Ribbon Commission on Toilets is hard at work.

    By Blogger Basil, at 4/06/2011 10:40 AM  

  • Watching the Nationals is a "check the blackout rules" every evening for me. I am in the blackout zone for the mets, phillies, pirates, and a few others. Some nights I am in the blackout zone for the nats, some nights I am not. Some nights DirectTV thinks i am, some nights they think I am not. As for, some nights I am blacked out, then sometimes I can restart my router and it registers a IP slightly west and I am not blacked out.

    I think I would be less frustrated if it were more predictable. I could look and see if I get to watch the game and, if not, make other entertainment plans rather than being thwarted at first pitch with a cold one in my hands.

    Of couse, if or ESPN2 is carrying the game (blacked out or not) I can at least get a small (1/8th screen) view of the game on DTV SportsMix, so long as I don't try to change the channel to the game.

    By Blogger Eric, at 4/14/2011 8:55 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home