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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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While Selig Slept

The worst commissioner since Bowie Kuhn will probably be inducted into the Hall of Fame someday. It’s inevitable. Baseball loves to honor its emptiest suits. They did it for the hollow haberdashery inhabited by Bowie Kent Kuhn and they’ll do it for the incumbent do-nothing prop of ownership. Clear space in Cooperstown for a plaque with Allen Huber Selig’s name on the top. It’s coming eventually. Just make sure that there’s one line inscribed among all the others:


It’s the truth. Selig doesn’t care. Major League Baseball, the entity he allegedly oversees, doesn’t care. If Bud and MLB did care, the telecasts of every World Series game would be readily available to every television home in America.

They are not.

Something’s wrong when the World Series, broadcast on what we used to call an over-the-air network — something you could watch by turning on any television in this country — isn’t accessible to every potential viewer. Residents of three million television households “serviced” by Cablevision turn on their televisions where the Fall Classic is supposed to beam and see nothing but a message telling them that Cablevision is angelic and Fox is dastardly. Fox, wherever they can transmit their message, is happy to tell you the exact opposite.

Bud Selig tells you nothing. The trustee of our national pastime, on the subject of three million television households not being able to view his sport’s crown jewel event…as mute as the button I’d be tempted to use on Joe Buck and Tim McCarver if given the option.

Which I haven’t been.

This cable or that satellite system not carrying this channel or that network is an old, ugly and recurring story. It pops up every few months somewhere and it occasionally digs its tentacles into our particular passion. There were the couple of months when Time Warner kept MSG from sending preseason and regular-season Mets games into NYC homes. There was a week or so at the dawn of the SNY age when I couldn’t see Spring Training on Cablevision. As 2006 rolled along, we received a steady stream of e-mails and comments from those who wanted to watch the Mets on their new cable channel but couldn’t because of carriage issues in outlying areas.

Pains in the necks those issues were. It was nonsense perpetrated in the name of grabbing us by our ankles and shaking more change from our pockets. It was inexcusable, but it was somehow par for the course. You start paying for television, you sign up to be periodically screwed — it’s counterintuitive, but we got used to it.

This, though? An over-the-air channel being kept off television? Literally not going out over the air and coming out through a screen? During the World Series?

Are you kidding me?

I know you are not.

Hardship is not having a place to sleep or dodging gunfire in Afghanistan. Let’s not confuse Channel 5’s temporary nonexistence with that. Bigger problems exist in this world as well as my life. This is not a hardship. What this is, however, is an insult. I pay, like the other three million Cablevision households affected by this billionaires’ impasse, plenty for programming. Some of it’s worth the tab, a lot of it isn’t. But Channel 5 is supposed to be Channel 5. Long before I had cable, I had Channel 5. We all had Channel 5.

Now we don’t. I’m told I can go spend 30 bucks on a digital converter and get Channel 5. That’s 30 bucks more than I used to have to spend to get Channel 5 — never mind what I’m spending to get all my channels. Signals were improved somewhere along the way so I can’t do what I used to when cable wasn’t around. I used to take a portable television, plug it in and watch Channel 5 (or 2 or 4 or whatever). I still have a portable television, but it doesn’t do anything except collect dust and, as I discovered Wednesday night, generate snow.

I don’t have the option of another provider, not where I live. It’s Cablevision or it’s read a lot more. Or it’s the $30 antenna and cancel everything else and make a bold statement. I’m not much for bold statements when there’s Mad Men. I like TV. I like to watch.

Bud Selig could make a bold statement. I’d like to watch that. Bud Selig could stand up and speak for his constituents: not the baseball owners, but the baseball fans, those of us within the three million who are messing around with radio (which is great when there’s Howie Rose and Gary Cohen circa 2005, not so great when it’s Jon Miller and Joe Morgan) and/or rubbing two electronic sticks together on our computers as if trying to receive a signal from twelve miles offshore.

Radio is radio, and it’s an honorable alternative — but it’s an alternative; the computer is the computer, and it’s a vital link to most of what I do (indeed, Cablevision is telling us we can subscribe to MLB’s online service and they’ll pay us back later when they get a chance) — but it’s also, all baseball-viewing things being equal, an alternative. The World Series is the World Series and we, as a nation — even as quaint phrases like “national pastime” lose resonance in the face of monster NFL ratings — deserve to be able to watch the World Series on television: without gadgets, without trickery, without tin foil, without having to think about it.

Has Bud Selig thought about it? Has Bud Selig thought about baseball’s showcase gleaming in the dark in three million Cablevision homes? Does Bud Selig remember the World Series is supposed to be the best advertisement baseball has, and that whatever shreds of community one nation can be said to compose coalesce mainly around extended national moments like the World Series? It’s not too far from a romantic vision to still maintain currency in 2010. The World Series continues to attract viewers year after year. It’s just that this year millions of potential viewers are being actively repelled.

Corporations will be corporations. It’s a cop-out, but it’s been proven true enough in this life. But what about baseball? Isn’t baseball supposed to be a little more than that? Isn’t the commissioner of baseball supposed to do a little more than endorse Fox’s checks and not otherwise rock the boat?

I don’t suppose Bud Selig can wave a magic wand and make the next three to six games of the World Series appear on my television and the televisions of three million of my neighbors. But he could do this: step up and say something. He could use the MLB Network as a bully pulpit and declare that he gives the slightest damn that a portion of his public is not getting to watch the World Series on television.

You, the loyal baseball fan, are my highest priority. That is why today I beseech representatives of the two companies to resolve their dispute. I humbly offer to mediate in the name of baseball and baseball fans everywhere. Our ability to deliver to you, our customer, the game you love is my paramount concern right now. I will maintain contact with each side and not rest until I have done all I can to make sure not a single American who owns a television goes without the opportunity to turn it on and enjoy the World Series, just as Americans have been able to do every autumn the World Series has been played since 1947.

Bud Selig should be raising hell, raising his voice, raising the volume on baseball’s indignation with Cablevision and Fox. Instead, Mute Button Bud says nothing. Instead, one of Mute Button Bud’s lieutenants is dispatched to assert that “Fox is in compliance with the contract” and “we recognize that it’s a commercial dispute between two private parties.”

Way to look after the brand. Way to satisfy your customers. Way to position your championship round as Not See TV.

It was marginally cute during the NLCS having to jump through hoops to find flickering images of the games. It’s not cute any longer. It’s an insult. As a Cablevision customer and a Fox viewer, I’m incredibly insulted the two private parties can’t settle their differences. But as a diehard baseball fan who relishes the World Series no matter the matchup, I’m severely let down by this commissioner who has shown me, after eighteen years as caretaker for this stubbornly great game, that he couldn’t care less about me or the members of three million households in the same predicament as me.

Thanks Bud.

21 comments to While Selig Slept

  • Ray

    I’d be more sympathetic to the Dolans (owners of Cablevision) in this fight, except for the fact that they’re doing the same damn thing to other carriers when they’re on the content end. A month into the regular season, Sabres games have been off one of the four major carriers here because they’re extorting the carrier for more fees just like Rupert’s extorting them.

    I’d also be interested to see what my old pal Neil Best is saying about this, except whoops! The Dolans put his entire newspaper behind a paywall.

    We all should’ve bought the converter (back when there were coupons to make it free, which they’re not anymore) and flipped a collective Mark Fidrych at all of their pox-filled houses.

  • Jpb

    Ditch Cablevision as soon as you can. Go with satellite, fios or antenna. I am fortunate enough to have fios. I have had it for 5 years without a single problem. I haven’t regretted my decision ever.

    • Didn’t FIOS go a while without MLB Network? Although it has gotten better, they’ve done away with the stupid cancellation fees and lowered the prices that they jumped it to.

      No side is clean in these things, but you’re right, you’d think Selig would find some loophole in the contract with Fox to broadcast the game to put it on MLB Network in NY. But baseball continually rolls over to Fox, just look at all the ridiculous blackout rules on Saturday Fox games, and how they won’t even put Fox in-game highlights on until after the games end.

  • Inside Pitcher

    Very well put Greg – Amazin’, and spot on!

  • Andrew Ross

    This is the guy who CANCELLED the World Series one year. Blacking it out in a few million homes is a mere trifle compared to that.

  • Greg…I only have this to say to you…

    I’m not worthy! I’m not worthy! I’m scum! I suck!!!!!
    (no, this is not Bud – wish it were though).

  • I’m not the biggest Selig supporter, and I’m a huge fan of the site – but this rant is completely ridiculous. First of all – here’s a shocking bit – FOX is STILL an over-the-air network. If you’re within an hour’s drive of NYC, over-the-air Fox is still available over-the-air. I don’t have cable and can watch FOX just fine.

    Or there’s satellite as previously mentioned. Or radio like you mentioned. And there’s also this available:

    Honestly, what can MLB do about a financial dispute between a network and cable provider?

    It’s not MLB’s fault FOX is demanding higher fees and mandatory coverage of all their networks, and it’s not MLB’s fault Cablevision doesn’t want to pay them. Call your provider and complain you aren’t getting Fox, or dump your provider and get another service.

  • mbb

    Here’s what Jet owner Woody Johnson did on behalf of his sport and, more importantly, his fans….

    “Today I spoke with Cablevision and News Corporation about the importance of broadcasting our game this Sunday. Both companies acknowledged the passion of our fans and their desire to watch the game. If a resolution cannot be reached, I hope that they can set aside their differences to air our game against the Packers.”

  • Or Bud could make MLB-TV free for the World Series. That would be proactive and pro-fan.

    • March'62

      Tad, your suggestion effectively screws Fox and Fox is paying MLB quite a bit of money for the rights to air the WS.

      I have to side with Ryan Swift above. For various reasons, I don’t have cable and was screwed out of watching the ALCS because of MLB’s money-grab for bigger bucks from TBS. I am so thrilled that MLB at least is airing the WS on FREE TV. I’m sure all of you cable customers would say to me that since cable is available in my area, that I was actively choosing not to watch the ALCS. Well, I can say the same thing to you now. Go out and spend the $30 for the converter so you can watch the WS on FREE TV and you may even be reimbursed for it later.

      If not, enjoy the radio broadcasts.

      • You weren’t screwed out of watch the ALCS, you just disagree about how much money baseball should make. Not like you could watch the Mets or Yankees (and many other teams) all season, so why should the playoffs be special for you? My choice would be to have the entire playoff set on MLB Network. Make some deal to allow over the air broadcasts _in addition_. Baseball should control the broadcast of their own product, and these blackouts (this is no different than most Saturdays where people are blacked out because they’re “in the market” but their cable provider doesn’t provide their sports team channel)have long been rediculous.

        And yes, the easiest thing to do would be to make it free on Most of the money they were going to get from that was already purchased for the playoffs anyway.

  • Jackabite

    I’m no fan of the TV broadcast monopoly in many areas of the country, but I’m even a bigger detractor of the esteemed Commish, (This) BUD (is not for you) SELIG.
    Selig could care less about the average fan – he’s all about revenue from broadcasts. Maybe that’s his primary responsibility to the owners, but we get gots. We get the ridiculous inter-league match-ups, we get less intra-league rivalry games, we get WS games at 12 midnight, and we get to support all of this through increased fees for games, cable/satellite fees, and absurd ticket prices. I dropped my MLB Extra-Innings package this season after a 24.3% increase over the last few seasons. After all, my lousy cable monopoly (ConCast) wants even more $$ if I want a decent picture!
    But back to Selig. Now he wants additional revenue by further watering down the product with more playoff games! Sooner or later, the gravy train will start to slow down to the point where Selig will (hopefully) jump off.

  • Bobby

    The issue is a Democrat-passed, Tom Foley-signed (over veto of the President, making the Speaker a de facto leader) law, Section 6 of Public Law 102-385, the Cable Television Consumer Protection Act and Competition Act of 1992.

    Without this provision, this dispute would never have happened.

  • Dak442

    If your TV was manufactured within the past 5 or so years, it doubtless has a digital tuner; you don’t need the $30 converter doohickey. All you need is an aerial. I still have a gigantic one on my roof and enjoy crystal-clear reception of all the broadcast nets. If you don’t, and your TV didn’t come with an antenna (or you misplaced it, or chucked it thinking “why would I ever need this?”), go on Youtube and search for homemade HDTV antenna. You can make one with some wood and coat hangers. It seemed pretty simple.

  • March'62

    BTW, so glad Cliff Lee wasn’t pitching Game 7 of the ALCS last night.

  • JK in MDR

    I love you bro – but I think you are overreacting big time on this topic. hear me out
    – you could get an antenna and watch it in HD and get brutalized by every Tim McCarver insight
    – or do the same thing and turn off the TV audio and sync the excellent SF radio with Krukow and Kuiper

    There are other options too over the internet – 9-camera angle and pure pirate stream.

    OK Bro?

  • Andee

    If you want an login, you can use mine. Just let me know.

    But you’re too right. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Eventually all cable companies will come to a negotiation impasse with every single channel, and the channels will decide to go sell themselves a la carte, and that will be that. Meantime, if anyone pulls anything like this in Portland, I pull the plug. I can get Mad Men over ITunes if I have to.

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