Most baseball fans in American don’t live within easy commuting distance of a major league ballpark. These entertainment centers tend to be located in heavily populated urban areas within easy reach of fans. As a boy growing up in Baltimore, I lived 12 blocks — easy walking distance — from old Municipal Stadium, whose aging dirt oval on 33rd Street was converted to a baseball park in the summer of 1944 when Oriole Park on 29th Street and Barclay burned to the ground. City and team officials had to do something fast. The Birds were locked in a battle for the championship in the Triple A International League, which they went on to win.
Six years later, the aging stadium was leveled, and Memorial Stadium was erected on the same spot, providing a suitable home for a major league team, which the Orioles became in 1953. The Baltimore Colts also moved in just at that time and remained there until 1983. The Orioles then moved to Oriole Park at Camden Yards, their new quarters downtown in 1992, long after I had grown to adulthood and moved to Miami, later to Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Chapel Hill’s a long way from Baltimore, a six-hour drive on a good day. Thanks to Turner Broadcasting’s generous coverage, though, I was able for many years to watch Atlanta Braves games regularly, so my fan loyalties eventually expanded to include the Braves along with the Orioles. From Chapel Hill, Atlanta is a seven-hour drive at least, so we can agree, I think, that I live too far away to attend many games in either city on a regular basis. I have included visits to these ballparks on a few vacation trips over the years, but not many. They’re just too far away.
I share these details with you to provide background for my question. Why am I, a lifelong baseball fan, denied the privilege of watching the Orioles or the Braves play on television? Whenever a game involving either of these teams is scheduled on a network that I receive — including Major League Baseball network — that game is blacked out in my area. Every time. Does someone imagine that if they allow me to watch one of these games on television, that will discourage me from getting in my car and driving more than 300 miles to the ballpark?
What is the rationale for these blackouts? I can understand blocking television coverage of a game in the immediate vicinity of the ballpark, where potential fans are more likely to be able to view the games in person. But I live 309 miles from Baltimore and 380 miles from Atlanta, safe distances from the turnstiles at either ballpark. This is ridiculous.
I am permitted to watch ball games involving teams in which I have no interest. It just isn’t nearly as much fun. Here, then, is my message to DirecTV and any others who are part of this idiotic decision. Get your heads on straight, revisit your blackout strategies, and fix this. The sooner, the better. Now would be good. The season is just getting started.