A Curse on Time Warner
Why the Dodgers Will Lose

The Big Dodger in the Sky is angry.  For the first time in history, Los Angeles Dodgers free-of-charge broadcasting has gone dark. After over half a century of beaming into every home in LA and points beyond, Time Warner is blacking-out over-the air Dodger baseball. Last season, fans were able to tune their TV to 50 out of the 162 regular season games free of charge. This season, that number is zero.

The blackout scheme began this winter when the Dodgers were paid an astronomical $8.6 billion by the east coast media cartel Time Warner Cable for their signature on a exclusive 25-year contract to first create, then manage a new Dodgers-only television network: SportsNet LA.  To get a return on this obscenely extravagant investment, Time Warner is charging every cable TV subscriber whose carrier offers Dodger Baseball $5 per year, whether those subscribers “upgrade” to SportsNet LA or not.  It will cost cable subscribers hundreds of dollars more to actually watch the Dodgers.  Everyone else will be blacked out and the subscriber charge is scheduled to go up over time. This exclusive arrangement makes Los Angeles the only major market big league baseball city that will offer no live over-the air broadcasts.

Not everyone wants or gets cable TV.  Some of us stream. Some of us use antennas.  In fact, Los Angeles has more air-signal receptors than anywhere in the United States. Three quarters of a million homes, 13 percent of the population, use TV antennas — dog ear, bow tie, dipole, Yagi, and reflector — for TV viewing.  In these squeeze-the-middle-class times, some of us can’t afford shelling out close to what it costs for a month of groceries for cable.  And so, we’ve been shut out of home team baseball.  Times change.  Thanks to Time Warner, a significant number of Angelenos and their children will have more access to porn than they will to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

This spring millions of LA residents will no longer enjoy the televised glow of hometown major league baseball — the green grass blue sky legacy of players like Snider, Gilliam, Koufax, Drysdale, Valenzuela, Gagne, Nomo, Hershizer, and Kershaw that, in the past, visited living rooms everywhere in the Southland for the cost of electricity.  Some of these are fans who wear Dodger blue all day and dream of sitting near the Three Sisters in the leftfield pavilion near the bullpen.  They aren’t luxury box owners who bring their business prospects to the arena, but lifelong fans who bring their hopes and dreams to the field.  They know that baseball is the most superstitious game in sports.  It is awash in magic, fetishes, rituals, and taboos — the Curse of the Bambino, Jason Giambi’s good luck gold lame thong underwear, Yasiel Puig writing “Dios” in the dirt near home plate.  Don’t step on the foul line when you take the field.  Don’t talk about a no-hitter while it’s in progress.  Don’t cross the fans.

There are ghosts at Chavez Ravine where, in 1957, thousands of low-income residents, mostly of Mexican descent, were cast out.  I can hear their spirits weeping in the hills — Los Angeles below.  May those spirits haunt this team.  May a cold wind blow in from the outfield when a Dodger connects.  Without the cheering of the less fortunate — without the grace to share with every citizen of Los Angeles — the Dodgers are a commodity that future generations may choose to disconnect.  A curse on Time Warner.


— Nathan Callahan

First Broadcast March 21, 2014

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