Regional TV deals, like Dodgers', are awful for baseball

Chris Erskine: Dodgers' and other regional TV deals are bad for baseball

Television either loves baseball or it hates baseball — I can't decide.

First, it offers $8.3 billion for the regional broadcasting rights to the Dodgers. Then the very same industry turns around and balks at passing along $5-per-month fees to carry the game.

Civil wars are the worst wars, and that's what we find ourselves in. That $8.3-billion deal was simply too greedy by half. No one ran the numbers? Oh, I'm sure the suits were tickled at the time. You can only imagine the crustaceans and bottles of wine they killed in celebration.

Fortunately, we fans have safeguards — a commissioner of baseball, a powerful mayor and assorted legislative types to rage against the machine.

What, they didn't? What a bunch of blokes.

Yep, they took away our TV baseball; now they're taking away our lawns. In L.A., the grass is no longer greener on the other side. It's dead and maybe burning.

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"Find what you love," Charles Bukowski once urged, "and let it kill you."

That's what TV standoffs like this one are doing — killing my passion for organized sports. Perhaps it's time to move on to disorganized sports.

Hockey, for example.

Look, baseball is a very resilient game, and I see nothing but good times ahead. Bowie Kuhn couldn't kill it, nor could betting scandals, strikes, steroids or Morganna's smothering smooches.

For as long as I can remember — going back weeks now — baseball always has been under attack from oily sorts who would gladly risk the integrity of the game to benefit self-interests. Players. TV types. Owners and their spoiled, whacked-out mates.

But these regional TV deals might do in baseball, and other organized sports, for good. Unbelievably, this Dodgers debacle has gone on for a season and a quarter. Seems longer, doesn't it?

Now they want us to believe this Charter takeover is the answer, just as Comcast was the answer.

Maybe it is. But you have to wonder: If Charter believes so much in Dodgers baseball, why did it choose to not carry games until now? Is its new commitment merely a good-faith gesture to gain regulatory approval from the FCC and the Justice Department?

Put those doubts aside, pal. Big American companies simply don't operate that way.

All I know for sure is that until this week Charter showed little interest in carrying the Dodgers. Like DirecTV and the other providers, it preferred to use the Dodgers to make a stand against bundled content and force-feeding games to customers who simply don't care.

Oh, what a difference a Memorial Day margarita makes.

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Now it's nearly June, and again there is this little nubber of hope. As is customary this time of year, we have decorated the house in Dodgers schedules. They are everywhere, these little blue-and-white pocket calendars.

One version has Yasiel Puig on the cover, another has Adrian Gonzalez. You can only imagine the effect, and level of awe, this has on visiting friends and dignitaries. Occasionally, we sprinkle them on salads.

I am smitten with so many elements of this slow, stupid, irresistible game ... the dusty musket puff of a throw pounding into a first baseman's mitt ... the crunch of peanut shells that slip down your drawers ... the whooooooa of the crowd during almost anything.

Find what you love, right? To me, baseball is summer to the 10th power.

Still, I worry for this grand old game the way I worry for racetracks, daily papers and Hugh Grant's movie career. Baseball, the hot sauce that flavors our every summer sunset, is a troubled thing, mostly by its own doing. Too many mercenary players, overly protective unions and a pace that rivals Easter dinner at the in-laws.

And finally, and most dangerous, these bloated and unquenchable TV deals on which salaries, Ferraris, speedboats, Montana ranches, Florida estates and smothering smooches are all based.

So here's what my high-def crystal ball shows:

•Guaranteed access to local games is a thing of the past.

•Televised Dodgers games aren't completely back for another year.

•The next pending fiasco is the Clippers' TV deal, which expires after next season.

•By 2025, TV will have become so greedy that the Super Bowl will be available only on pay per view.

•The spectacle will cost each household $500 (more if you want the halftime show).

•It'll still be a better value than that awful Mayweather fight.

See? Told you there was hope.

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