The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

31 January 2006

Keeping an eye on the team

The quick-and-dirty broadcast package put together for the Hornets when they fled New Orleans for higher-and-drier Oklahoma City called for all 82 regular-season games on the radio, with Oklahoma affiliates added to the existing Louisiana/Mississippi network, and 65 games on Cox Sports Network, which, conveniently enough, had been doing the games on New Orleans-area cable. Something similar is no doubt in the works for the 2006-07 season.

If you don't have cable, you go to a sports bar that does, or you listen to the radio. Simple enough. But as King Kaufman points out at Salon.com, the trend is toward fewer options, not more:

Sports have long since left poor people behind in the arena by pricing tickets beyond their means, and now they're in the early stages of leaving them behind on television and radio too.

Pensioners who have loved the Boston Red Sox through decades of futility were recently informed by the 2004 World Series champs that the number of games on free TV starting next year will be a convenient, easy-to-remember zero, except for the odd late-season Saturday game on Fox.

The St. Louis Cardinals this winter announced that their games are moving from the clear-channel behemoth KMOX to a smaller station the team bought an interest in, a move influenced by the rise of satellite radio, which figures to lessen the need for teams to broadcast on huge stations or cobble together a team network over a wide area.

Yeah, well, it sucks to be poor. No surprise there. But:

Nobody ever went broke with a business plan that targeted people with money and ignored people without it. But I wonder if some politician, somewhere, will mount an effective argument that if the sports industry is going to gorge at the public trough, in the form of stadium subsidies and tax breaks, it has a responsibility to make its product available to the public. All of it.

The Hornets, to their credit, have kept prices comparatively low: admittedly, it costs more to be right behind the bench, but it's still possible to get $10 seats, though the average is more like $30-40. And while Oklahoma City's agreement with the team guarantees them a specific return, the city isn't having to write big checks; local fan support has been more than enough to meet the revenue guarantee. (Which, of course, will be a sticking point for 2007-08, when New Orleans expects the team to return, but that's another issue.)

For cities where access to games is becoming limited, Kaufman recommends:

Cable-bill subsidies maybe. A team-sponsored cable package for qualifying customers that includes the local broadcast stations plus the team's games. There are ways to take care of the people who are being shut out of the sports world for lack of funds.

Cox's lowest-end package (Limited Basic), at least in Oklahoma City, does include Cox Sports coverage of the Hornets.

And at least he didn't propose Federal Ticket Stamps.

Posted at 11:21 AM to Net Proceeds


In order for my wife to get her baseball fix, we subscribed last season to MLB's online Game Day Audio, which allows one to listen to any MLB game, from either home or away team broadcasters, in English, Spanish, Japanese, Korean, whatever. It cost $14.95.

My wife listens to the Rangers; their affiliate in Wichita Falls drops its signal strength and changes its directional pattern at sundown, practically stranding us without a listenable affiliate on the Ranger's "network." She used to fret during west coast games about having to listen to that affiliate to pick out the game like a sonarman on an attack sub trying to find the Russkies.

It still isn't as nostalgic as going outside to sit in the folks' '65 Country Squire wagon in order to get better reception of KMOX to listen to the Cards, but the audio quality of GDA is good (albeit only AM-quality.

Posted by: John Owen Butler at 2:08 PM on 31 January 2006

I can get Cardinals games on KREF out of Norman, though the signal is none too good at night. (Hundreds of stations on 1400, after all.)

I listened to the Cards on KMOX when I lived in South Carolina, mostly because I was impressed I could pick up a station in faraway Missouri.

And here's where I admit that in most cases, I'd rather hear the game on the radio than watch it on TV, which may be partially force of habit, but at least some of it is due to the notion that the radio guys have to paint a more vivid picture, and if they go off on a tangent, at least they know the way back.

Posted by: CGHill at 2:22 PM on 31 January 2006