Politicians have yet to step up to end TV impasse
FS SAN DIEGO STAFF  |
Published: Monday, July 09, 2012, 5:12pm
By MATTHEW T. HALL
San Union-Tribune Columnist
I can count the number of Padres at-bats I’ve seen on TV this season on my son’s southpaw.
The joke here isn’t that my left-handed son can help the hometown nine. It’s that I don’t have a son.
It is absolutely ludicrous that I can’t turn on my TV whenever the Padres play — a luxury after a long day, even with a losing team — and watch the game or just have it on in the background as I surf the web, talk to my wife (she would spy another joke there) or go to sleep.
A ton of criticism has been lobbed at Fox Sports San Diego, Time Warner Cable, AT&T U-Verse and Dish for the impasses that have kept about 40 percent of San Diego County residents from watching the Padres from home this year.
It’s not nearly enough criticism. The fact that they can’t get a deal done — and may not this season — is just ridiculous. If not now, when?
I don’t care who it is, no new owner is going to ride into a town on a white Charger or sprinkle the team’s bats with fairy dust and turn the Padres into winners overnight. It’ll take time. It’ll take talent. It’ll take buy-in from the nine guys on the field at any given time and from that 10th player: the fans in the stadium. And the best way to get buy-in from fans (all of whom are long-suffering, whether by definition or in high-definition) is to get the games on TV.
There are more people to blame than television execs, of course.
Let’s start at the top.
If and when a Padres sale happens, it looks like lame-duck (a lot of fans would now just say lame) team owner John Moores and his family will see about half of the $800 million in proceeds. That includes $200 million in upfront money the team got from a new, 20-year TV deal with Fox Sports.
Couldn’t Moores and Jeff Moorad, whose group owns 49 percent of the team, have made sure Fox’s deals with distributors got done? Couldn’t Moores have pressured, even shamed, all sides so La Jolla viewers like me and others across the county could watch their team? Shouldn’t that be a priority in this day and age?
Next to Moores on the Mount Rushmore of blame, I’m putting San Diego’s mayor, Jerry Sanders, and its City Council president, Tony Young, who have been silent on the issue.
Can you imagine how fast the politicians in a city like Boston or New York would be lashing out at every TV executive in town to soothe the masses?
I’m from Massachusetts. If a team were blacked out on TV once, I can tell you that fans — a group that includes most New Englanders with a pulse and many without one — would take to the streets with bats of their own.
I can also tell you that New Yorkers faced just this circumstance this year. State and local pols there stepped up in February to end a standoff between the MSG Network and Time Warner Cable.
New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn threatened to hold a hearing that would bring executives from each company before an outraged public. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo even made phone calls to hasten a deal. Finally, TV executives restored MSG programming, which includes the Knicks, Rangers and Islanders sports teams, for 1.1 million households.
Admittedly, there was also the little matter of Linsanity that spurred that deal along. (Sadly, in San Diego, the only baseball player even remotely close to breakout basketball star Jeremy Lin is all-star Huston Street, and no one’s really rushing to trademark: “Huston, we have a problem.”)
New York pols stepped to the plate after seven weeks. In San Diego, we’re at 13 and counting. And what do you hear from our politicians? Crickets.
So who’s the fourth face deserving of mountainous criticism for this mess?
Padres fans should be up in arms, southpaw or otherwise. They should be writing letters to the newspaper, flooding the team and TV companies with emails and phone calls, protesting outside Petco Park with pitchforks.
And they aren’t.
Who cares that the Padres were the fastest team to reach 50 losses this year. Or that every other team has scored more runs than them. Bottom line is they can’t get much worse, and we’re a baseball town. It’s summer. We should be able to decide whether we watch (semi?) professional baseball or not.
And you know what? I finally found a politician who agrees with me.
He’s congressional candidate and La Jolla resident Scott Peters.
Fed up at both my inability to watch the team and the fans’ seeming indifference, I tweeted this Sunday: “Hey Time Warner cable customers: The Padres are 30-50. Now back to your regularly scheduled not caring about not seeing them.”
Peters tweeted back: “Disagree! Think your Boston would tolerate this even in the down years? It’s ridiculous.”
“Sorry,” longtime journalist and Los Angeles Dodgers fan David Ogul chimed in. “Padres are not worth watching.”
Replied Peters, “I’d like to be able to decide that myself.”
The conversation even spurred a tweet from top mayoral aide Gerry Braun.
“I also thought nothing could keep me from watching the Padres on TV,” he wrote. “But then the Padres found a way. Funny town.”
Braun’s boss may have missed his tweet. I hope he doesn’t miss this column.
FS San Diego Staff Reports