The Los Angeles Dodgers are linked to two unfortunate chapters of betrayal in L.A. history. One took place before they arrived here. The other is unfolding as you read this.
Last week the powers that be saw fit to allow the masses to participate in the “enhanced fan experience” of watching their beloved team on television. Starting with tonight’s Dodgers vs Giants game, Time Warner Cable is graciously allowing the broadcast of the final six Dodger games over local television station KDOC. Six games are utterly fantastic! Right?
Enjoy them, L.A., because there is no guarantee that any type of normal Dodger TV coverage will occur next year, or any time soon. This is because the Dodgers signed a contract with one exclusive broadcaster for the next 25 years. That’s right, for the next generation TWC is in charge of how, when and where the Dodgers will be available on TV – and we all saw how gloriously Year One played out.
That contract probably looked like a great idea – until TWC tried to distribute their product among all the other pay TV suppliers. By the way, in an often forgotten detail of that contract, the Dodgers left local over the air broadcasters out in the cold. For the first time in Los Angeles history, the Dodgers would have no games available over the local airwaves – but more on that later.
When the other TV providers balked at supporting TWC’s insane $8.35-BILLION contract on the backs of their subscribers, 70% of the L.A. market lost access to the Dodgers on their televisions, and the Great Dodger Blackout began. Even the venerable Vin Scully couldn’t watch the Dodgers from his home.
The first betrayal of Chavez Ravine took place back in the 1950’s, just before the arrival of the Dodgers. The city of L.A. cleared out the original residents of the Chavez Ravine community through buy-outs and forced evictions. City politicians promised public housing would be built in place of their former homes, thus providing them with a beautiful new place to live. However, that new housing was never built.
Then the Brooklyn Dodgers left New York for a new home in sunny Southern California. When Dodgers owner Walter O’ Malley saw the empty land at Chavez Ravine, he decided this was where he wanted his new stadium built, indirectly ensuring the permanent demise of the Chavez Ravine community. Fair or not, the Dodgers have since been linked to that ugly chapter in L.A. history.
Fast forward to 2014 and the Great Dodger Blackout. For the majority of the season only a handful of Dodger fans have had access to their team on television, and even if TWC had convinced every other cable and satellite provider to pay their fees for carrying the Dodgers, that still would have left no access to games over the air. In working out their record-breaking contract, the Dodgers and TWC completely disregarded and discarded the local television stations that had brought the Dodgers into our homes for the past 40 years. Up until this season, even those with tight incomes could enjoy an occasional ballgame broadcast over the air. Not anymore.
Since the contract is for 25 years, I presume a child born on Opening Day 2014 will not have access to a free TV Dodger game until he or she is at least 25 years-old. Of course, if that child is lucky enough to live in a home with enough extra income for cable or satellite TV, she can enjoy watching the games next season – presuming the corporates work out a deal.
According to Dodger CEO and president Stan Kasden, 2014 marked the year Dodger fans can enjoy a completely new and “enhanced fan experience”. Certainly people with $100 to spend on a date or $200 to take their family out to Dodger Stadium for one night can enjoy it. Fans with $150 a month can enjoy it (next year, maybe)via cable or satellite TV. What about those in today’s depressed economy without that extra income – but who still love the Dodgers?
What about the young son of a single mom who works two jobs to make ends meet? He won’t grow up a Dodger fan as I did because he can’t watch them on TV as I did. What about the college student living on cup o’ ramen in an apartment with only a small antenna TV? He may have grown up a fan, but has now lost access, and may well lose his allegiance to the team. What about the senior citizen living on a fixed income? He may have long ago lost his powerful one-two punch, but at least he still had his Dodgers. Not anymore. $8.35 billion has now separated thousands from their beloved team. Everyone involved with Dodger TV got rich, happy and enhanced – except the fans.
Maybe next year the corporate powers will work out their differences and the Dodgers will return to (pay) television and Vinny can watch the Boys in Blue once again. If someone doesn’t have cable TV or a satellite on the roof, they’ll be able to just pop on over to the local sportsbar for some nachos and the ballgame, right? Play Ball!