This past Labor Day, I wanted nothing more than to settle down in my chair with a few burgers fresh off the grill and watch my Pittsburgh Pirates battle for a playoff spot for the first time in who-knows-how-many-years.
The burger part went according to plan. I grilled up four of my special-recipe turkey burgers to perfection, complete with cheese and hot sauce.
Only one problem. The MLB won't allow me to support my favorite team, even though I'm 1,000 miles away.
See, because the Pirates were playing Houston, and because I'm in Houston's "local market zone," (despite being 200 miles away), I can't watch the game on my computer.
No matter that I'm only trying to watch the home broadcast online. No matter that Houston's on the road. MLB's silly blackout rules won't allow it. And I don't get FOX Sports Houston at my apartment. So, there went those plans.
And people all over the country are in the same boat as me. I feel bad for the people in Iowa. They're in the blackout zones of Chicago teams, the Cardinals, the Royals, the Twins or the Brewers. Want to watch baseball in Vegas? You're in Diamondback, Dodger, Giant and Padre territory.
It's been a problem that's existed for years. Bud Selig has said "we have to do something about it." This was years ago. 2006, to be precise. In six years, exactly how much progress has been made in adjusting these blackout rules? As much as the number of wins earned by pitchers in the 2002 MLB All-Star Game. Zero.
MLB.TV, pretty much the only way to watch any out-of-market games with any consistency, is a novel idea, but not even it allowed me to watch the Houston/Pittsburgh game. The only options I had available were the audio.
The MLB's stance on broadcasting, both television and radio, are flawed. For me, unless it's a Houston game (which, for me, is about 15 games a year, which will soon evaporate to zero), I have to pay for MLB.TV or its sister audio package just to watch or even listen to a game. Local radio stations aren't allowed to stream live broadcasts on their websites.
I can't understand how, if one is paying for MLB's beloved television package, they can still black out a game? They're getting their money. One of the main reasons people buy the MLB.TV package is because they're hundreds of miles away from home, and they want some way to be able to follow their favorite teams. If we're paying for it, just let us watch our games!
The NFL has more "reasonable" blackout rules. A team's game is blacked out within 75 miles of that team's stadium unless it is a road game, or if the game is sold out 72 hours or more before the start of the game. To me, that makes sense. A regular-season NFL game sells out pretty reasonably.
Page 2 of 2 - Granted, that policy wouldn't exactly work for the MLB. Baseball games don't sell out nearly as often as football games do. But there has to be something that works for a happy medium between the fans and the league.
I've got two solutions that would fix things in the short term. One, stop blacking out games on MLB.TV. I can understand possibly blacking games out on the television. But not in a feature we, as fans, are paying for. Secondly, allow the local radio stations to stream the radio broadcasts online for free instead of making us pay more money just to listen to the game. Especially in the state of our economy right now, fans should be able to support their favorite teams and at least listen to their team's games without having to fork over what little bread money they have left.
Alix Kunkle is the News Editor of the Leesville Daily Leader in Leesville, La. You may reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.