Wednesday, July 18, 2007


Like clockwork, it was routine to start to despise baseball this time of year. Where 95% of New York and Boston would fall in love with the game, I found that I would grow tired of it because it was the only major sport of note during the summer and in this market, the media obsession with everything Yankees would drive me up a wall. Of course, it may sound hypocritical on my part as I cover the team for the New York Beacon [75 cents, at newsstands on Thursdays (shameless plug)], but even the coverage around the team becomes taxing to those who report. I have always had a profound respect for the Mets - even in their lean years - because they reached out to their city much more than their American League counterparts. While the Mets had their share of characters, they fielded great talents and entertaining moments. Before interleague play, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and the Bay Area had been the only metropolitan regions that had the option to watch a local team in the AL or NL. You'd think I'd be spoiled with riches.

Then along came Extra Innings.

I cannot fully explain how wonderful this is for fans. When Major League Baseball tried to give an exclusive deal to DirecTV and shut out cable systems, it set off a firestorm amongst the near half-million subscribers who have enjoyed the package year after year. Now, five hundred thousand may not seem like much, yet add the DISH, DirecTV and users and there is a strong demand for the product. For the most part, these are people who live in one area while their baseball heroes play in another, usually a good distance away. However, there are fans like myself who actually want to see other teams that I could only see when they came to New York (or Boston during my college years).

Other sports packages like the NHL Center Ice, MLS Direct Kick, ESPN GamePlan and ESPN FullCourt are solid as well for NHL, MLS and NCAA sports fans, but the NBA League Pass is the best of all the available sports packages by far. In addition to the regular season contests, you have NBA TV, which broadcasts classic games, international play, the NBDL and in recent years, the EBC at Rucker Park in Harlem. Baseball hopes to obtain a similar reach when The Baseball Channel launches in 2009. The packages are great when your local team has an off-day or when it falls out of favor and playoff contention. The ability to watch the players you've heard about or viewed highlights of keeps sports nowadays from being monotonous.

Is there a better time in history to be a sports fan? Seriously, seriously, seriously doubt it. When your favorite team and your current locale doesn't match, you are no longer at the mercy of the home team in order to enjoy a game - though that in itself isn't necessarily a bad thing. Yet, the absolute, bonafide reason why anyone should invest in a sports package like Extra Innings is the looming trading deadlines in every sport. Names that are bandied around during the deadline are of players 95% of a home team's fans (at least in northeastern cities like NYC and Boston) had never paid attention to, despite how good they have been in their careers. Just viewing a few highlights on SportsCenter or FSN's Final Score gives fans a glance - albeit, an one-dimensional and short-sighted glance - at talented players elsewhere. This season's "It-guy" for the deadline has been Texas' first baseman Mark Teixiera, who can walk after this season. If you ask Yankees fans when did they first hear of him, the common answer might be 'last week'. Because trades are frequent and free agency alters rosters every offseason, there is no rationale behind just paying attention to only your team and its biggest rival. There are plenty of New Yorkers and Bostonians who would roast me for that, but it's the truth. It not only gives you the chance to see those funny local ads and area codes you would never dial, but it gives you the chance to be a better informed sports fan.

Being in a two-team city like New York sounds great, especially when both are in playoff races. Yet, because the sensationalism behind one team clouds the other as opposed to actual game play, it's beneficial to step outside and view how other regions in the country celebrate their teams. With nothing but negative columns, misleading captions and a rabid thirst to rip players, the joy of enjoying a game here can be wiped away as quickly as it arrived. Yes, I am a Braves fan from the Five Boroughs - which explains some of the reasoning for this post - but, the realities of sports have compelled me to cull the channels for a good game, no matter if I'm a fan of a team or not. Give it a try, if you can. For the most part, you might find that outside of New York, Boston, Philly or Chicago, people actually like sports.

Say What?!?!: Warning everyone here - won't discuss the following unless someone pays me or it's absolutely relevant to a presented topic: Michael Vick's situation, Gary Sheffield's comments, the trading deadline related to the Yankees, Alex Rodriguez's apparent companion, the futures of Joe Torre and Brian Cashman, ESPN's "Who's Now?" segment, why no one cares about soccer despite David Beckham's arrival (which is a lie - someone does), Tom Brady's baby-mama-drama (which is no different from any other athlete's, even if he's between models). There are enough websites, papers, blogs, radio and TV shows that are devoted to those stories and so-called scoops.
Will say this: Yao Ming should never, ever, ever, ever, ever play for his national team again after this
news bit.

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