Dodgers’ TV drama hurts fans the most


We’ve reached that point of the year, folks. In the words of legendary Dodgers’ broadcaster Vin Scully, “It’s time for Dodger Baseball.”

The boys in blue are indeed back on the diamond and off to a hot 4-1 start, but the majority of Southern California residents, including Scully, can’t even watch manager Don Mattingly put his $235 million team out on the field.

The reason for this is that SportsNet LA, the Dodgers’ new network which launched on Feb. 25, is only available to those who have Time Warner Cable.

So for those of you with DirecTV, Dish, Cox, etc. (two-thirds of Los Angeles residents), you’re out of luck for the time being until the parties are able to come to an agreement. And who knows how long that’s going to take?

The cable providers remain in a stalemate, as the distributors think that Time Warner is charging too much ($4-$5 per household), while Time Warner thinks it’s asking for a fair price.

Consequently, when the Dodgers take the field for opening day at Dodger Stadium on Friday against its rival, the San Francisco Giants, I’m not going to be able to take in balls and strikes, see the umpires conduct reviews or, maybe most tragically, listen to Scully’s legendary voice in what may very well be his last season with the Dodgers.

Eighty-six-year-old Scully, who reportedly has DirecTV, is not even able to watch the Dodgers from the comfort of his living room when he is not broadcasting the games.

The star-studded team that has been funded by minority owner Magic Johnson and company is coming into the 2014 season as World Series favorites, but there’s really no point to spending this great deal of money on a team when the majority of fans can’t even watch them play.

About 70 percent of the L.A. market is unable to watch the Dodgers on television, which obviously explains the low ratings the team is experiencing so far this season. And for DirecTV subscribers, things aren’t looking too good, as the two sides have halted talks on carrying the channel.

Things are getting ugly and phones are ringing off the hook as desperate L.A. fans simply want their Dodgers.

I’m pretty sure that if you asked a thousand fans if they would rather have their team boast the largest payroll in the MLB or be able to watch their beloved Dodgers, they would take being able to watch the games 99 percent of the time.

Spending money is only worth it if people are going to enjoy it, and unless one is at the ballpark, they are no longer going to be afforded that luxury.

This dilemma, however, is just another example of business getting in the way of sports.

When the Pac-12 Networks launched more than a year and a half ago, USC students and fans alike griped at the fact that the network couldn’t reach a deal with DirecTV, leaving many people unable to watch conference matchups at home.

Similarly to the Pac-12, the Dodgers would not have gone through with the inception of this new network had it not been for a purpose: playing money ball. And no, I’m not talking about the movie featuring former Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane and his use of sabermetrics and the “Bill James Theorem.”

At the end of the day, the sport of baseball, which has no salary cap unlike the rest of the major professional sports, is all about the money.

If you have money like the Dodgers do, you spend it, and if you don’t, well then it sucks.

After all, how do you think the organization is going to pay pitcher Clayton Kershaw $215 million over seven years and still finance the other players on the league’s most expensive roster?

The Dodgers’ deal with Time Warner is worth around $8 billion over 25 years, and the deal itself has played an important role in allowing the team to become contenders once again.

L.A. sports fans are not new to these types of television deals, as the Lakers went through the same process when they released their own regional sports network, Time Warner Cable SportsNet.

About a year and a half ago, I wrote a piece for the San Clemente Times titled “Where are the Lakers?” to address the great frustration that fans were feeling because they were unable to watch their team play on the hardwood.

Looking back now, that Lakers team also had a lot of hype surrounding it, with its newly acquired superstars Steve Nash and Dwight Howard. It’s painful to bring it up because we all know how that turned out.

I’m not saying there is a correlation between the two, though it just may be dèja vù or the “curse of the regional sports network,” but for the Dodgers’ sake, I really hope for what happened to the Lakers.

All of this TV network commotion makes me feel nostalgic in a sense. Remember when the games were “free,” and we didn’t have to worry about paying extra every month so we could see our favorite teams play?

Regional sports networks are capitalist interests outweighing the need to please the fanbase, and everyone needs to realize this all comprises the arms race that will continue to dictate the sports universe.

For now, though, Dodger fans across the Southland will just have to sit tight. Hopefully, we all will be hearing Scully’s stories amidst a Yasiel Puig at bat in a matter of no time.

 

Darian Nourian is a sophomore majoring in print and digital journalism. His column, “Dishin’ Darian,” runs every other Friday. To comment on this story, visit dailytrojan.com or email Darian at dnourian@usc.edu.