For those who don’t know, my two favorite sports are hockey and baseball, in that order. Unfortunately the NHL owners have locked out the players hoping to get more money from them (“revenue sharing,” uh huh) and the hockey season has yet to start. But with the baseball playoffs just getting started – and my Detroit Tigers in for the second season in a row – this is going to be an exciting fall, at least for the next three weeks, or so we Tigers fans hope.
So imagine my excitement when today’s Game 2 of the American League Division Series against the Oakland Athletics was scheduled to start just after noon today. Then imagine my disappointment when I discovered the game was only being broadcast on the MLB network. Not Fox Sports Detroit, TBS or Fox Network. Not even ESPN. MLB Network, a channel that is only available on my cable system if you’re signed up with the Digital Preferred package, not Digital Basic, like I have. What. The. Hell.
My dad and I had planned to watch the game. We talked about it this morning. We were ready to watch. This was an important game – since the ALDS is a five-game series, whoever goes up 2 games to none is in the proverbial driver’s seat. And since the Tigers had won Game 1, they could really be in a good position going to Oakland for Game 3, and Games 4 and 5 if needed. And no game. I flipped through the channel guide and couldn’t find it anywhere until I got up into the 700’s. There it was. On MLB network. So I did the only thing I could – I dug out my old CB boombox/cassette tape player/nondigital radio combo (and yes, it still works) and tuned into the local sports station. So we started listening to the game. But it just wasn’t the same.
I can’t believe that MLB would put a playoff game on a premium channel and alienate many, if not most, of their fans. It’s bad enough that the vast majority of the 162 regular season games are on Fox Sports Detroit. Fortunately FSD is considered a basic cable channel and available to most people who have cable TV.
I remember when I was growing up, WWJ-TV (which is now WDIV) used to broadcast the Tigers games. This was way back in the olden days before cable TV, when your only choices for channels were your local CBS, NBC and ABC affiliates, a PBS station and a couple of independents. For us here in metro Detroit, we are close enough to Windsor Ontario that most of us could pick up CBC from Windsor. Sometimes if the weather was right and you moved your rabbit ears just so, you might be able to get a couple other stations. I used to pick up another station from Canada, CKCO, on my bedroom TV. It was really snowy, but I remember watching repeats of “Emergency!” on it. I had a crush on Randolph Mantooth.
Anyway, yes, sports used to be broadcast on regular TV, and a Tigers game would preempt the network programming that night. Of course, every game was not on TV back then, either. The Red Wings used to be on Channel 50, one of the independent stations, and I remember the games, although they started at 7:30, were not on TV until 8:00. The announcer would come on and announce that the game was being joined in progress. By that time, half of the first period was over.
But back to my rant – this wasn’t a regular season inter-league game in the middle of July. This was a playoff game. Why on earth would MLB not broadcast it at least on a basic cable station? This afternoon’s other playoff game, the Washington Nationals vs. the St. Louis Cardinals, was on TBS. Surely they could have found another channel for the Tigers that didn’t involve an upgrade to your cable package.
And to WXYZ, WDIV and the other local TV stations, thank you for showing highlights – it’s the only way we Digital Basic Cable subscribers got to see the damn game.
By the way, the Tigers won the game, 5-4, with a walk-off sacrifice fly in the bottom of the 9th inning. Go Tigers.