Saturday, April 30, 2005


Or does MASN now have street cred?

So the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network is more than a theory now:

The number of Washington Nationals games on television got a big boost yesterday when DirecTV announced it will air 135 regular season games throughout the Mid-Atlantic region starting with last night's game against the New York Mets at RFK Stadium. The games will be included in DirecTV's basic broadcasting package, known as Total Choice, with no increase in the $41.99 cost.

MASN has been assigned Channel 626, which to my way of thinking is probably 40 spots too low.

The DirecTV deal was supposed to be announced last week, but when a major cable company files suit against a nascent sportsnet, I guess that will attract some attention. As Eric Fisher's WashTimes story spells out, the MASN-DirecTV pact does not contemplate the Baltimore Orioles, the rights to which are at least the cover-story of Comcast's lawsuit.

Nevertheless, I have a sneaking suspicion that this deal means that MASN is here to stay. For one thing, at least according to Thomas Heath's WaPo story, DirecTV has about 400,000 subscribers in the Baltimore-Washington area. That's not "Comcast money," to be sure, but it's a nice start. Furthermore, DirecTV seems to recognize that it has a plum of an exclusive opportunity here; consequently, I doubt the following quote, as told to Fisher, is mere puffery:

"We stepped up to the plate and cable didn't," said Bob Marsocci, DirecTV vice president. "We will be out marketing very aggressively on the heels of this."

At any rate, I'm probably a step behind in the whole game, but this conclusion to Heath's Post story rather surprised me:

Baseball has paid $75 million to the Orioles for a 10 percent stake in MASN, which will grow to 33 percent over the next 28 years, according to sources familiar with the deal. The league likely will include its share of MASN in the sale of the Nationals, but bidders will have to decide how much the interest in MASN is worth. One source who asked not to be identified because of the sale process described the $75 million as an "industry expense intended to pay for a benefit for the Nationals, which should increase the value of the team."

Well, no wonder I'm confused: compare the above selection with the excerpts culled by Chris Needham just yesterday. To recap, yesterday the second $ 37.5 million payment was due next June, and the identity of the check-scribbler was very much in doubt.

Shucks, I give up.

While I compose myself, here's three more thoughts on the subject. Talk amongst yourselves:

1) It must be a wonderful feeling for Mel Proctor and Ron Darling to know that half their broadcasts aren't going to be aimed in the general direction of, oh, NOBODY.
2) I wonder if this the beginning of the end of the love affair hard-core Nats fans have with "Charlie & Dave."
3) Like Chris, I'm pondering the feasibility of switching to DirecTV. Insofar as I live in a townhouse community, I'm not at all sure that I can.

---Is RFK a dump?

I haven't imbued this blog with "poll capability," but maybe we can consider the question as a mini-poll. The subject came up on the Ballpark Guys forum.

My vote? I'll give you a "lawyerly answer": depends on how you look at the issue---

1) RFK has three bases, a home plate, an outfield fence, and a couple of dugouts. Therefore, it's a baseball park. Consequently, by definition, it cannot be a dump.
2) RFK is kind of old, has a somewhat dreary look, provides an antiquated sound system, and offers subpar concessions. Hey, it's a dump.

In reality, they're meant tongue-in-cheek, but these answers kind of hit at the distinction.

* If you're a committed Nats' fans, it probably does not matter where the Nats play; in fact, from this perspective, you're probably more inclined to spot RFK's subtle beauty---and yes, it exists. (This is sort of how I feel. In fact, RFK reminds me a bit of Richmond's current park, The Diamond. Both are products of a different, more functional, less gaudy era in ballpark-building.)

* If you're a casual fan or just attending the game on a lark or as part of a corporate outing, you're likely to say, "Ew, give me that park up in Baltimore!" (And I assure you that RFK is no Wrigley or Fenway, speaking of old parks.)

One exception might unite both (or all) camps: the rocking seats.

It's a dump... but not half the dump that Yankee Stadium is. Now THAT'S a dump.

From the fans, to the dirty, narrower, gray concourses, to the fans, and back to the fans, that place needs to be destroyed.

I just wish people realized it's not the same park Gehrig, JoeD and the others played on. They completely destroyed it in the '70s and it lost all its charm then.
Speaking of which, what do you think of the plans for a new Yankee Stadium? When I read the headline, I was like, "Aw, come on!" But then I read the article, and it at least superficially seems like the Yankees are doing it right.
I think the only thing out there was that initial Daily News article. If so, it gets a big thumbs up.

It'd create the original exterior instead of the current one which looks like a cheap plastic seating bowl above walls of stucco.
It's a dump... A fantastic dump. In all that work they did in the offseason, you'd think someone could have picked up a few cans of paint for crumbling coat that's on there now. It's also hard to exaggerate the crappiness of the sound system. Still I will try. It sounds like it was designed by the Galludette sound design program. It sounds like they took their cues from 1050 AM, who broadcast the games by putting a guy on the roof of RFK with a bullhorn. And that's if it sounds like anything at all.

Still, if you haven't been in there when RFK starts shaking, you really really should. Crumbling paint, crappy food and all, when people start jumping, that makes it one of the coolest ballparks in baseball. I hope to God the new place is built the same way, but chances are this is the one great charm of RFK that will be missed.
Let's not forget one thing we're really going to miss when the new ballpark comes into use: the (relatively) fantastic seat- and leg-room. If you've been to games at FedEx or the MCI and go to RFK, it's amazing to note how wide the seats are by comparison and how you actually have room to put your feet out a little.
Speaking of the 1050 broadcasts, Brian G., did anyone listen to the afternoon game last week where some idiot set up a mic directly behind home plate? Every time someone fouled a ball off the thing, it sounded like an unwitting specator's legs were being snapped in half. It was driving Charlie Slowes nuts!

Anonymous, very good point about leg-room.
The first row of the 500 level is actually a little tighter on the leg room -- unless you're willing to stick your legs out under the railing and dangle them, like I am. Then it's great.

I'd be happy with RFK if they had better food, to be honest. It's got problems, sure, but what park doesn't?

And, Basil, if you have a window pointing south, you're good to go for DirecTV. Odds are if you can use XM, you can use DTV. Although, when the guy comes out to install it, make him haul his ass up on the roof and do it right -- you'll get a much stronger signal.
Yep, I'm checking out to see if it's Kosher in the townhome/condo community. As Red from "Shawshank" would say, if we so much as need to piss, we have to ask for say-so.
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