April 8 - Doing Something Extra

When rumor started really surfacing about the proposed deal for DirecTV to be the exclusive carrier of
baseball’s Extra Innings package, the wheels here began to squeak – very loudly.

It was beyond infuriating when what was already the least fan-friendly professional sports league (to
be examined in a later column) was again dismissing the most loyal of its supporters, opting instead
for their incessant interest in avarice. Gordon Gecko would have been proud.

Already past the point of tolerance with the business of sports – as if there is any longer another facet
of sports – there was no more to be withstood. On a daily basis sports fans are treated no better than
the garbage hurled at them by the powers that be in the business offices of their favorite team or
league. But this was too much. I was mad as hell. And I wasn’t going to take it anymore. Howard
Beale would have been very proud.

At first there were the angry arguments with a group of friends who e-mail back and forth about
sports, primarily baseball. Frustratingly obstinate, pig-headed and well, capitalist, two of them spat
back about how it was the right of baseball to, well, capitalize on the demand for their product and
make as much as they could.

One said this was the nature of business, how it didn’t matter if a relative handful of people were
going to suffer, and included I should move to Cuba, since I was again bitching about that very nature
of business. By the way, this person is in fact a registered Republican.

The other, a former employee of baseball (full disclosure: so am I), who said the proposed deal was
a win-win for both sides, also said this:

“By MLB collecting more money from DirecTV, they can put a better product on the field, fulfilling the
obligation they have to the public. Further, if they continued to do deals like an exclusive Extra Innings
package, they can explore further expansion which would mean bringing more baseball to more
people. What's more utilitarian and fan-focused than that??  So long as games are played, you
should actually be rooting for them to make more money.”

Yes, he was serious.

Then came the onslaught of telephone calls to baseball’s New York City offices. From supporting
their sponsors’ rivals to refusing to buy so much as a bunper sticker (forget tickets) to a petition
signed by several hundred high school students, they were told my response should in fact, the Extra
Innings package no longer be available via cable.

Not that the entry-level public relations employee who answered was so concerned with one phone
call. But there was another one the next day, and the one after that, etc. There were e-mails to local
newspaper columnists and explanations for anyone willing to listen to what baseball intended to do.
Sure enough, as more oblivious friends learned of this plot, they got on the phone, adding to the
mass of discontent, which had grown to literally thousands strong, all letting baseball know they were

Then came baseball’s smoke-and-mirrors offer for the other parties to “match” the DirecTV offer.
Back on the phone we went, letting that day’s PR staffer know those of us with brains could see
through their transparency, and the boycott was still on. A few weeks and a government hearing later,
we arrive at Wednesday April 4, when the Extra Innings package was once again available on cable

To the one sending me off to Cuba, the response at the time was for him to go, since his disdain for
dissenting opinion much better suited him to live under such a regime. Same could be said for the
Wall Street Journal, whose editorial this week essentially told Senator John Kerry to butt out. How
dare you, Senator, actually trying to speak on behalf of those you represent. How dare you try to stand
up to big business and the American way?

The American way, as it was originally drawn up, for a minute actually worked. The people were
unhappy with something, made their voices heard, and a change was made.

Sure we had to fight for the right to pay, and sure baseball will still be rolling in its millions, and sure
they will tell us how all along their goal was to bring their product to as many fans as possible.

But we know better.

Power to the people.
Joshua Sipkin
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