Out-FOXed: Cablevision Puts Fans in Dark

A friend recently told me that in a war between a broadcast network and a cable operator, there are no good guys to root for.

Add to that the good guys are the viewers…..the victims.

So while FOX (News Corp) and Cablevision negotiate over retransmission rights, more than three million Cablevision subscribers in the New York metropolitan area missed the Giants-Lions game. Cablevision also has subscribers in Connecticut and New Jersey, some of whom are missing the Eagles-Falcons game on FOX.

Those Philadelphia fans must have been really happy last night when the NLCS game between the Phillies and the Giants was blacked out.

World Series Blackout
If this dispute lasts any longer, Cablevision subscribers are going to miss the World Series, which starts next week.

Who’s to blame? Cablevision claims that FOX is doubling its fees from $70 million to  $150 million (a difference that rivals the $60 million that the Knicks, owned by Cablevision, have paid deadbeat Eddy Curry to sit on the bench).

Don’t think Cablevision is any innocent party either. Earlier this year a dispute with the Walt Disney Company and ABC culminated in a 20-hour outage which ended during the Academy Awards.

And Yankee fans will recall 2002, when Cablevision refused to carry the YES Network for an entire season before New York State stepped in and negotiated a temporary deal. Cablevision had attempted to purchase the Yankees in 1998 and carried the team’s games on MSG Network until YES came on air that year. So Cablevision retaliated by keeping Yankee fans in the dark for a full year.

Binding Arbitration
CableviIMG_0095sion has said it would admit to binding arbitration to decide the latest dispute,  but FOX says no. The companies have had months to negotiate, but they haven’t been able to agree on a price.

So now the fan suffers.

It turned out to be an old-fashioned Sunday for many older New York Giants fans, who recall the NFL home TV blackouts of the 50s and 60s and listening to Marty Glickman broadcast the games on the radio.

For those fans with computer access, here’s a link that allowed me to watch Giants-Lions on my computer. It’s not exactly big screen, high-definition, but it let’s you see the game.

However, the signal does drop every now and again to search for the channel. Yep, Cablevision is my wireless provider too. Isn’t that special.

The Endangered Art of Sportswriting

From the time I was a little kid, I dreamed of being a sportswriter. I remember reading the New York papers my father brought home, especially the sports section, catching up on the exploits of my favorite ballplayers.

I recall the evening papers, like the New York Journal American and the World-Telegram & Sun,  with the partial linescores for afternoon baseball games.

I wrote sports for the school paper in high school and college, majored in English, worked the composing room of the Worcester Telegram my senior year. Worked with hot type, learned to run a linotype machine and the proof press.

I’ve always had the notion that people go to spectator sports to have fun and then they grab the paper to read about it and have fun again.
— Red Smith

After graduating, I wrote a sports column, Scene and Heard, five days a week for five years for the Fitchburg-Leominster Sentinel & Enterprise. Then I worked the slot and wrote sports for the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel for three years, where sports was known as the top department.

Eventually I left the newspaper business, after I got an offer I couldn’t refuse from IBM. I’ve spent the past quarter century doing PR and other communications for Big Blue. Great company, great career move. No regrets.

But the ink still flows through my veins. I love sports, I love to write. I’m a natural sportswriter. A SportsLifer.

A sportswriter is entombed in a prolonged boyhood.
— Jimmy Cannon

Unfortunately, those newspapers I used to work for, like so many others, are in trouble.  People don’t read newspapers anymore. There are so many alternative sources of instant information…ESPN, sports talk radio, and of course the omnipresent Internet.

The print guys are suffering. Circulation is down. Nobody’s reading the good writing. Sportswriters are losing their jobs.

No fan of bloggers, Bill Conlin of the Philadelphia Daily News recently wrote a brilliant yet bittersweet  piece on an industry that is struggling to find its way in the world today, and the impact on the sportswriting fraternity. .

As Conlin writes: “There are still newspaper readers who venerate the well-turned phrase, the bold analogy, the absurd premise that becomes believable because it is so well put. They are being intellectually punished by men in newspaper board rooms, bottom-liners who lacked the guts required to sack a hedge fund, bankrupt an auto company or approve a $1 million mortgage to a couple with $100,000 in credit-card debt. They lead to one thing: The dumbing down of America.”

Baseball is a game where a curve is an optical illusion, a screwball can be a pitch or a person, stealing is legal and you can spit anywhere you like except in the umpire’s eye or on the ball.
— Jim Murray

Conlin’s column in interspersed with famous sportswriting lines, from immortals Red Smith, Jimmy Cannon and Jim Murray.

Conlin weaves these lines — and some wonderful anecdotes involving sportswriters  — throughout is column, headlined: “Two-minute warning for our beloved sportswriters.”

Times are changing. Times are tough.

TBS: Total Baseball Screw-up

Fans tuning in TBS to watch Game Six of the ALCS between the Rays the Red Sox on Saturday night got quite a surprise.

The Steve Harvey Show. Instead of playoff baseball, America got Steve Harvey.

From here on, will be known as Total Baseball Screw-up.

The Boston Herald called it  a “Bunch of TBS!”

It was all caused by a router failure that led the New York Times to proclaim: “Blowout in Atlanta, Black Out in St. Pete.”

What was the backup plan? CNN, TNT, help me.

Anything more than a belated crawl. An audio feed perhaps.

Even Seinfeld would have been better than Steve Harvey.

Attention Bud Selig, you need to put your showcase events on the networks, not some half-assed cable outfit more vested in reruns and old movies than live baseball.

But the networks make bad decisions too. Like in April, when Fox switched off a Yankee-Red Sox telecast with two outs in the ninth for the start of a NASCAR race.

Or in 1968, when NBC left an NFL telecast between the Raiders and Jets to give us Heidi. Viewers missed a two-touchdown rally by the Raiders in the final minutes of “The Greatest Game Never Seen.”