America’s pastime is passing us by

By Tom Joyce -

Tom Joyce

Here’s one more item to add to the growing list of Things That Ain’t The Way They Used To Be: the lack of access to post-season Major League Baseball games on television.

Sure, the calendar does say October, but try finding telecasts of the playoffs now under way on “regular” TV or even cable, for that matter. You won’t.

That’s because playoff games are being shown by the Fox network — not on its regular prime-time channel, but sports affiliate Fox Sports 1 (FS1).

Unfortunately, this channel is not offered on the Time Warner Cable package I subscribe to, although that lineup does include ample shares of home-shopping and Spanish-speaking stations. Although there appears to be more than 100 channels in that package (some are duplicates), it basically is a conglomeration of commercialized crap that nobody wants to watch.

However, that’s a column for another day — my real issue here is the fact that baseball, long touted as America’s pastime, is inexplicably not now available to the common man at an important time in the season, apparently for corporate greed and similar reasons.

One of my biggest complaints with baseball is that the regular season includes 162 games. And because of this hefty number, players don’t always seem to put out maximum effort given that every contest is just 1/162nd of the season. (Or maybe they do care, and my observation is due to the fact “normal baseball” can be pretty boring under any circumstances.)

During the playoffs, though, it is a different story. There is a certain magic about the games and the competition level seems to increase immensely, with a win-or-go-home mentality.

Or at least that’s what I would guess — I’ve been unable to see any of the playoff series now under way to decide who advances to the World Series, due to the games being on a channel that’s unavailable.

This playoff season is even more special because the long-suffering Chicago Cubs of the National League have a legitimate shot to win the Series for the first time since 1908. (I can barely recall that occasion.)

The Cubs dominated the regular season, and so far have excelled in the playoffs — or so they tell me, since I have no firsthand knowledge of this.

Those Cubs are based in the Windy City, but I know for a fact they have more than a few fans in this area who would love to enjoy their playoff run in real time — if only they could. Even for those who aren’t Cubs fans, what that team is doing this year is a great story.

I’m upset about that from one man’s standpoint, although I am not even a diehard baseball fan. I know it must be excruciating for those folks, even more so with those pulling for the Cubs.

The tragedy is greater where young people are concerned.

Even when games are played in prime time on universally accessible channels, they sometimes don’t begin until 8 or 9 p.m., and might last until well after midnight, long after most kiddies (and yours truly) are in the friendly confines of the Land of Nod.

I can’t help but compare this to my own childhood when World Series games were held in the daytime. At times the teachers — if they were really cool — would bring a portable set into the classroom for the kids to watch, which I always considered part of our education as Americans.

Now, everything is different, with the culprit being the usual suspects: money and lack of concern for regular folks.

Whatever the motivation for this condition, it does not serve to perpetuate America’s so-called pastime or instill a love for baseball in our youth.

Major League Baseball is in danger of repeating the same mistake made by professional boxing promoters who moved their product from network, mainstream TV to the pay-per-view realm — causing it to all but disappear from the sports landscape.

The same is true of NASCAR to a certain extent, since some of its races also are shown on a channel many people can’t access: you guessed it, Fox Sports 1. Fortunately, races later in the season are telecast by NBC’s sports network, which Time Warner Cable thankfully does readily offer. But this is just one reason for NASCAR’s sagging popularity.

There’s still time for baseball to avoid going down the same slippery slope with the speed of a Rickey Henderson slide. A good way to do that is finding a way to replace the reality shows with playoff games accessible by everyone — and not wait for the greedy cable industry to act.

Tom Joyce is a staff writer for The Mount Airy News. He may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.

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