I really don’t get it.
I’ve been a Twins fan since the summer I turned five years old. 1961. The year the Twins played their first season in Minnesota.
Even as a teenager, after my family moved to Iowa and the Twins entered one of their “dark periods” in the mid 1970s, I remained true.
It hasn’t always been easy. Through most of my life, there really wasn’t any way to watch the Twins down here on television, or even listen to them on the radio. There just wasn’t enough interest, I guess. It was easy to be a Cubs fan. Or a Braves fan, for that matter.
You see a few Twins caps around Cedar Rapids and the surrounding area, so it would appear that the Twins have been making inroads in the area. But that appearance is flat out wrong.
In fact, the opposite is true. The Twins obviously are not the least bit interested in developing a fan base in the Waterloo-Cedar Rapids-Iowa City corridor. Actually, it’s not that they aren’t interested.
It’s worse than that.
They DON’T WANT us to be Twins fans down here. They go out of their way to discourage us from being Twins fans. They encourage us to bring up our kids to be Cubs fans… or Cardinal fans… or… wait for it… yes, even White Sox fans!
You see… we can’t watch Twins games here. FSN isn’t carried by the cable systems here. I don’t believe it ever has been. I’ve seen no indication that there’s ever been any interest expressed by FSN in being carried by any of the cable systems here. There’s already plenty of baseball… Cubs baseball… some Cardinals baseball… and White Sox baseball carried on Mediacom here.
So when MLB introduced their MLB.tv package a few years ago… allowing fans to watch games on the internet… I was thrilled. Then I found out all of Iowa was blacked out of Twins games… and Cubs games… and White Sox games… and Cardinals games… and Brewers games… and Royals games. Yep. The entire state of Iowa was claimed as a “local broadcast area” for SIX teams, despite no MLB teams being located in the state.
Look, I understand that the broadcast rights of media partners have to be protected. But when those broadcasters have never, do not now, and clearly never will be carried by any of the major cable systems in an area, just exactly what “rights” are being protected? It’s insane.
It’s also an issue that’s been brought to MLB’s (and their member teams) attention repeatedly.
Check this out… from no less authority than baseball’s own MLB.com:
Baseball’s current rules on territorial television blackouts were drawn up in the 1960s, long before the dawn of MLB.TV and the Extra Innings package.
Those rules have become archaic, and Bob DuPuy, MLB’s president and chief operating officer, presented a plan to MLB’s executive council on Wednesday that would alter them considerably…
So why am I complaining if such a high ranking MLB executive is on the case? Well, that “promise” comes from an article written back in August… of 2008. DuPuy’s proposal was tabled at the subsequent owners meeting… apparently on a very long table.
Every season, there are articles written about the blackout rules. Those articles generally have several things in common. (a) the author is amazed at the stupidity of the rules, (b) someone “official” explains the rules go back to the 1960s and agree they are arcane and should be changed, and (c) nothing changes.
Every. Single. Year.
Dave St. Peter (@TwinsPrez)
The last straw, for me, came after I returned from spending a full week down in Ft. Myers watching the Twins practice and play meaningless games… something I’ve done for several years. A couple of days after returning home, I noticed the following exchange with Twins President Dave St. Peter on Twitter:
I support need to protect local rightsholder. Hope to offer in-market streaming soonRT @jeffgabhart
:What’s your stance on MLB.tv blackouts?
Yeah… I couldn’t resist responding to that.
The “protect local rightsholder” argument is exactly what baseball has been regurgitating as an excuse for NOT offering in-market streaming for years. So what exactly was Mr. St. Peter saying?
I give him credit for being willing to participate in a direct and open social media exchange with the masses. I thought I would give him an opportunity to publicly clarify his statement:
so you see nothing wrong with all of Iowa blacked out of games for SIX teams?
He didn’t respond publicly, unfortunately, but he did send a private message via Twitter.
TwinsPrez— Not at all. I’d love to see this policy changed.
Now… with all due respect… Mr. St. Peter, you’re the President of the Minnesota Twins! It’s all very nice that you’d “love to see this policy changed,” but that doesn’t do me and the rest of the Twins (and Royals and Brewers and Cardinals and White Sox and Cubs) fans a damn bit of good.
The Twins have established all of Iowa as part of their “local broadcast market” despite not bothering to insist that those “rightsholders” actually… you know… do something about getting their networks available in this market. I’m tired of hearing bigwigs like St. Peter, and like DuPuy before him, tell me they’d like to see the policy change.
Stop blowing smoke up my ass and change the damn policy! Just f’ing DO IT!
If this is coming off to some of you as being a bit disrespectful and even crude, I apologize. But you see, I’ve tried other approaches. I wrote a very respectful letter to Commissioner Bud Selig (and if you’ve read some of the stuff I’ve written here reflecting my opinion of Mr. Selig, you know how difficult it was to be respectful… but I was). I’m still waiting for an answer… even just an acknowledgement. I suppose I may still get one, but I wrote that letter the same year of the MLB.com article, 2008. Pardon me if I don’t hold my breath continuing to wait for a result to my respectful approach.
I agreed to be interviewed for a story on the subject by a respected financial magazine. I expressed frustration, but in a respectful manner.
I’ll go back to being respectful when there’s some indication from someone in charge that changes are actually being made. Until then, I will continue to rant with increasing levels of disrespect, if that’s how I’m feeling (and I think you can safely assume I’ll feel that way every. single. game. that I can’t watch the Twins play due to the blackout rules).
After all, the Twins and MLB executives must earn respect, just like anyone else. I will go back to showing them respect when they begin showing me some respect. When you flat out lie, year after year, about “doing something” about the blackout rules, you’re not treating me with much respect… and you will get little from me, in return.
Mr. St. Peter… if you really would like to see this policy changed… if you were being honest about hoping to see “in market streaming soon”… please do more than talk (or tweet) about it. For the first time… ever… on this subject. Do something about it.
I can’t begin to express how frustrated I am over this. But I will say this, right now.
I will not remain a Twins fan if this idiocy continues. This will be my final year.
If this policy is not changed, I will not be going to Ft. Myers next spring.
I will certainly not make trips to the Twin Cities to watch close to 20% of the Twins’ home games like I did last season… in fact I won’t drive up there to attend any games.
I will not continue my work on this or any other Twins blog.
I know the Twins won’t miss me. They don’t need to develop or nurture a fan base all the way down in Eastern Iowa when their new stadium is sold out every game anyway. But what happens when the newness wears off… when the team has to rebuild a bit?
Mr. St. Peter, when you look around for fans willing to continue supporting the team in the leaner years, don’t look in my direction. In fact, don’t look down here in Iowa for anyone else, either… we’ll all be fans of some organization that gives a crap about us. (My son is already an Orioles fan… think about that for a moment, Mr. St. Peter. He and his wife are about to start a family… do you want my grandkids to be at all interested in the Twins… or not?)
I simply won’t continue to show any level of devotion to an organization that not only doesn’t care if I remain a fan, but seems to go out of their way to communicate to me and my friends and family that they flat out don’t want us to watch their games.
I love the Twins. I love the Twins community. I love this group of players. So I may make it through this season with my Twins fandom intact.
Then again, I may not.