Column: Amid Dodgers TV standoff, fans channel frustration
So many of my great ideas never get off the ground. Like aerosol pasta. Just spray it in your mouth like Silly String.
Point is, once we Americans get hold of something, it’s never the same. Usually better, sometimes worse, occasionally repackaged and ruined.
Take TV sports, for example. Take TV sports, please.
Which brings us, grotesquely and unbelievably, to Day 69 of this Dodgers television standoff. Oh, the zoomanity.
Distraught Dodgers fans — which seems a redundancy, like tuna fish or white lightning — are coping with the loss of their team in various ways.
In Santa Monica, Nick Banning has gone so far as to behead his beloved bobblehead collection and place the figures in his front yard in a mock baseball game.
“I have received much support and nods of approval from the neighbors, with only the occasional remark stemming from lack of knowledge,” he reports.
Such queries range from “Hey, why are you angry with the Dodgers? They didn’t do anything,” to “Why do you have a headless Don Sutton in the outfield? He’s a pitcher.”
Banning responds that he has only so many players to go around, so even Hall of Famers with 3,574 strikeouts must multitask.
Baseball has always been a caldron of anger and discontent, which is what makes it so beautiful. One moment, it’s pastoral, the next someone’s drilling a fastball in another player’s ear — or biting it off, as they sometimes now do in the minor leagues.
Another fan, Jean Parkey, has used the time she would have spent watching games on TV to compile a list of the Dodgers’ miscues this season, including their lack of communication with fans, to the abbreviated spring training and opening day in Sydney, Australia.
“Not retaining the great 2013 bench” is also on her list, as is a lack of focus on defensive fundamentals.
Bet you’ve wondered too why a classy manager once dubbed Donnie Baseball can’t get a bunch of overpaid kids to follow the fundamentals. Must be like teaching cats to floss.
And No. 1 on Parkey’s list: “Walking away from Fox TV contract and signing with Time Warner Cable, " which ranks in the bottom of cable service providers, according to the American Consumer Satisfaction Index.
More and more, Dodgers fans are blaming the front office and Guggenheim ownership for this debacle. As one fan put it: "[Dodger executives] jumped out of the plane without checking [their] parachute. And now look, 70% of fans cannot watch games. It’s embarrassing. Bad business.”
The deal may turn out to be a tipping point in the escalating costs of sports programming. How the Time Warner Cable deal plays out may affect player salaries, ticket prices and the entire economics of the game.
Why won’t someone budge on this deal? The fatal flaw is that it is based on blanket coverage of the L.A. TV market. Cable and satellite providers have balked at passing this added cost along to their customers, but the current deal isn’t feasible without total coverage.
For example, reader Dick Harley, extrapolating current Dodgers viewership onto the broader L.A. market, estimates the monthly cost at $1,000 per household if an a la carte system gave viewers the choice on what they received on TV.
Talk about Silly String.
And even if you goosed viewership to a generous 20% of the market, instead of the current 5% or so, customers would still have to pay $250 per year to their cable provider to cover the money TWC owes the Dodgers.
“That is a broken business plan,” says Harley.
Broken, not hopeless.
With the TV deal covering the team payroll, the Dodgers have plenty of cash rolling in — tickets, concessions, parking, merchandise.
Given an ownership’s responsibility to the fans, it’s up to Guggenheim to now call for some sort of renegotiation, before one of the team’s extraordinary pitchers throws a perfect game only a fraction of the market can see.
“What do the Dodgers stand for?”
That’s what L.A. writer and former Major League Baseball beat reporter Bill Peterson asks. What do they stand for? This isn’t IBM or Monsanto we’re talking about. It’s a civic treasure, now fodder in a shameless corporate tug of war.
In a public display of (dis)affection, fans are gathering for a peaceful rally before Sunday’s Dodgers-Pittsburgh Pirates game, starting at the Short Stop bar, 1455 W. Sunset Blvd. The family-friendly demonstration, which I helped foster, will start at 3 p.m. and run to game time.
So put on your rally caps. As they say at the stadium: MAKE SOME NOISE!
Because the throaty howls of fervent fans are also what makes baseball so beautiful.
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