Well, sort of.
Even though most teams don’t get going until a week from now, the Dodgers’ 2014 baseball season gets underway in just a few hours. The boys in blue go head-to-head against the Arizona Diamondbacks in a pair of games being played in Australia.
It’s an interesting change for the start of the season, despite the fact that “change” of any sort often seems a bit out of place in a game drowning in tradition. It shouldn’t be surprising to those who know me, but “tradition” is one of the things that keeps me close to the game. Or maybe it’s habit, I’m not sure. But I got used to inter-league play, so I’ll be fine with two games down under.
The more disturbing change for the season ahead is related to the way I and millions of other Dodgers’ fans will have to go without watching our team play much. The Dodgers sold their broadcast rights to Time Warner for billions of dollars and now Time Warner has created a dedicated Dodgers cable channel that more than 70% of the LA market does not have access to.
Steve Dilbeck broke it down well in his piece for the LA Times. I don’t really care about a 24/7 Dodgers channel. Frankly, I am pretty damn close to being done with cable altogether. Even though I love the team, and wish I had the station, I completely understand why all the other providers won’t pony up to pay the asking price for the channel.
Even with my love of the team, whether or not this channel is on my TV is not at the top of the list of factors that is determining how I pick a provider, or whether or not I actually have cable.
Baseball is a slow sport. A season is 162 games stretched out over half a year. It’s not really something that works as an “event” by today’s cultural standards. The best thing baseball had going for it–especially Dodgers’ baseball–was that you could always turn it on to make it part of your daily life.
The fact that we are about to go from having the most games on local broadcast (free) TV to having none is just sad. It means I won’t get to see Vin Scully in what might be his last season. It means I won’t get to follow the team as closely as a result. Coupled with the ticket prices (which aren’t too high but still make it a big financial commitment to take the family) it probably means I won’t get to see much of the Dodgers at all.
Of course, I’ll still be a fan. And I’ll still follow the team. I have a radio and I listen to games using the MLB app quite a bit. But what about my kids?
I think this TV mess is going to do long term damage to baseball in LA. While I can enjoy a radio broadcast almost as much as a televised one, for my kids–and the millions of other LA kids who are just learning to like the game–it’s all about the visuals. The majority of them will never step foot into the stadium. And now a majority of them won’t get to even see the Dodgers play with their own eyes.
There is a race/class dimension to all of this, of course. The ones who will really suffer are a generation of working-class, Latino kids growing up without the Dodgers on their TV.
However this resolves itself in the coming months (or years), the Dodgers aren’t losing anything with me. I’m here loving them no matter what, and they got their billions from the deal.
But even one season off the TV screen is going to do something to my kids. They’re just learning the game, largely, by learning to watch it. They’re just starting to develop their love of the sport and, by extension, the team. The inability to watch is going to affect the level of love my kids develop for the team. And that’s a problem for the Dodgers’ future.
Anyways…enough complaining. As the title of this post suggests, I’m going to go now and fire up the radio for some early morning baseball from the other side of the globe. The start of my new tradition.