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Phillies Phail their Phans

 

Baseball is the American National Pastime and it has brought joy, fun, and camaraderie to generations of Americans for over 139 years. The Philadelphia Phillies is a venerable Major League Baseball franchise which was founded in 1883 and is the oldest continuous one-name/one-city franchise in American professional sports. The sounds of the crack of the bat, the cheering of the crowd, the warmth of the spring sun, the sound of good ‘ol Harry Kalas (or even Scott Franzke) on the radio, and other great memories and feelings belong to our great Pastime. Unfortunately, many of these things will not be experienced by thousands of Phillies fans this year and the foreseeable future.

 

The failure of the Phillies referred to above has nothing to do with their general manager, aging infield, inconsistent bull pen, or their many years (decades?) of futility. This time the Phillies have failed their fans by taking away one of the primary means for their fans to watch, enjoy, and participate in their gams: the Phillies took away their games on broadcast television.

 

Once upon a time, when I was young, I remember the rule was home games were “on cable” (whatever that meant in the 1980s) and away games were “on UHF”. Remember UHF? Those were the channels you had to hunt for on the dial through what seemed like a million channels of snow after you made sure to first set the other dial to “U”. The only exception, of course, was that Sunday games were always on television regardless of whether it was at home or away. This was the general rule for what seemed, to me, to be a long time, though I am sure there were some exceptions.

 

As the 1990s wore on, and especially into the ‘00s, the games on broadcast television steadily dwindled while the games on cable television increasingly grew in number. By the 2013 the Phillies’ presence on broadcast television was reduced to about once per week along with what seemed to be the sacred Sunday game. I am not someone who has cable television and although very disappointed that fewer and fewer games were broadcast, I was always thankful for the games that were broadcast and made sure to watch them as much as I could. Indeed, who has time to watch all 162 regular season games anyway?

 

I thought one game per week plus Sundays was going to be the status quo indefinitely until the Phillies struck yet another blow in 2014. The Phillies took away all but twelve games on broadcast television. Twelve out of 162 games, and that includes taking away all of the Sunday games. In fact, of the twelve broadcast, at least two of them are on air on a weekday afternoon when I am at work, so, in essence, I am left with ten games on broadcast television.

 

I used to be a Philadelphia Flyers fan; indeed I was a huge hockey fan. That was, of course, until the Flyers decided to take away virtually every game on broadcast television. Now, with no way to watch the games, my fandom of hockey has virtually disappeared. Luckily baseball and radio are a good combination – in a way hockey and radio are not – so I guess I can still listen to the games. Well, I guess I can until the Phillies decide to move all of their games to some sort of pay radio like Sirius.

 

I find being reduced to ten broadcast games per year a total disgrace and terribly disgusting development by the Phillies. It speaks to the Phillies’ prioritizing greed and their bottom line over their fans. It speaks to a complete and total disrespect to the game as a National Pastime. Now broadcast baseball is reserved to those who can, or more importantly can afford, an exorbitant cable bill each month. Baseball fandom is slowly becoming more exclusive and more expensive and jettisoning people of more modest means. It is bad enough ticket prices and concession prices and other sorts of things continue to rise, but now virtually forcing their fans to buy the opportunity to watch them on television crosses a line.

 

Baseball is meant for fathers and sons. It’s meant to be enjoyed by families on a warm summer evening. It’s meant to bring families together. It’s part of the American fabric. It would seem the Phillies no longer agree. For them baseball is now something reserved for those who have the desire and wherewithal to purchase through a third party (i.e.: Comcast) the right to watch their games. National Pastime? Not if you do not have cable television.

 

I get that the Phillies are a business. I get that Comcast offered them a large contract. I get that many people – mistakenly – view cable television as one of their necessities or utilities. I get that some people view me as cheap or some sort of Luddite. I get all that. That being said, was it necessary for the Phillies to take away two games per week? Was it necessary for them to take away Sundays? What does that make? Twenty or Twenty-five games? They had to take away what little was left? For what? Sure they may make some money now but they will now alienate thousands of people who do not have cable and cannot justify buying cable just to watch a little baseball. Indeed, mlb.tv, their online resource (for pay of course) to watch baseball is unavailable for local games. So, that option is not available either.

 

As a final note, what the Phillies may not realize is that cable television is using them to try and buoy the sinking ship of cable television. Paying for television is in the decline now that any number of online options are available, such as Hulu, Amazon Prime, Netflix, Voodoo, Youtube, and even the network websites with episodes of shows uploaded on to them. More and more people are opting to simply use the internet to secure programming than use cable. So, what does cable have to hang onto? One huge market share is professional sports. Professional sports are not really available online to watch and, as with the Phillies, over the air broadcast games are going the way of the dodo, leaving on cable television to broadcast the games as the only available option. As a result, professional sports are one of, if not the last, remaining props holding up cable television. I wonder if the Phillies considered the fact that they are being used by Comcast to prop up a dying media outlet (cable television) which ultimately will be to the detriment to their fans in the future as it serves to exclude many who would otherwise be able to watch the games on broadcast television?

 

So, the Phillies have failed their fans. They have made baseball the exclusive province of cable viewers. They have taken anyway what little was left for the rest of us for the sake a few dollars today. They should be ashamed of themselves.

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