Monday April 12, 2004
Guest Writer: Tom Swift
Good morning and welcome back to the work or school week. It's always difficult to get back into the flow of things, especially after a holiday. Yesterday, being Easter, was a day that I spent with a bunch of family. It was great! It was fun! I stayed too long, so I didn't get home until late last night.
Fortunately for you, I got permission from a really incredible writer, Tom Swift, to use an article he wrote regarding this whole Victory Sports situation. Tom writes the great site, NickleCurves.com, which covers the Twins, baseball, and much more. Now, I must admit that Tom and I do not always agree on things, especially when it comes to politics where we are complete opposites. Even on certain aspects of the below entry I don't agree with. However, I know that not everyone who reads this site agrees with everything I write, so that's why I am happy to give you another perspective. And, to be able to share the thoughts of such an eloquent writer like Tom really adds something to the site.
Before reading Tom's entry, I have to make just one quick comment. One of the highlights of heading home for Easter for the weekend was that I was actually able to watch the Twins games on Victory Sports. It wasn't even so bad listening to Dick Bremer and Bert Blyleven. I had forgotten just how well they work together. I had forgotten how great Dick Bremer is at calling a game. I had forgotten how well he incorporates not only Bert Blyleven's "humor" into the telecast, but he gets some very interesting former player perspective. Sure, the Twins lost two out of three this weekend to the Tigers, but just being able to watch was great! (By the way, Henry Blanco and Jose Offerman proved themselves quality acquisitions with their performances this weekend. Lew Ford showed that given the opportunity he can contribute in a lot of ways to a team. Brad Radke sure can give up some majestic homers! Johan Santana needs to find a way to pitch more innings. The bullpen's consistency is certainly questionable, but I'm still not worried. Watching Corey Koskie and Doug Mientkiewicz play defense is great. Shannon Stewart still can't throw. But, like I said, just being able to see the games, and make some of those subjective analyses for myself. Again, I hope this situation is worked out soon!
So, thanks again to Tom Swift for his contribution today. If you do have any questions or comments, please e-mail me or Tom and let us know what you think.
I realize that thought makes some Twins fans wince as though I just announced “the state’s out of beer.”
By Tom Swift
In the Upper Midwest there has been considerable hand wringing this spring over the fact that most Minnesota Twins games are not being broadcast by any of the large cable or satellite television providers. This is because the Minnesota Twins decided to start their own cable channel, and while they managed to cut out the middleman, they haven’t yet found a provider willing to accept their ridiculous fees.
TV and Major League Baseball. Off the top of my head I can’t think of two more greedy industries.
Some have said the head butting will end quickly. Once one major cable provider caves under the subscriber pressure, so the thinking goes, the rest will follow. I don’t necessarily follow the logic. If the Twins lure, say, DirecTV, to which most viewers can subscribe, then competing cable outlets may feel a modicum of heat. But save that, cable outlets hold mini monopolies and therefore are not terribly affected by competition. For example, I live in a Charter cable area, and even if Time Warner signs on, Charter faces losing customers only if people up and leave their homes. That seems a bit extreme. Packing up the house and moving just to listen to Bert Blyleven.
So I think it might be a while. The Pohlad family has miscalculated badly before. Or don’t we remember the North Carolina Twins? Or that bait-and-switch stadium deal unveiled with much public ballyhoo eight years ago?
And to those who aren’t spending their time watching Twins games on TV, let me make a suggestion: Imagine a full season without Victory Sports.
I realize that thought makes some Twins fans wince as though I just announced “the state’s out of beer.” But imagine what we’ll miss …
During the Opening Day broadcast, which Twin Cities-area viewers were able to watch on the local ABC affiliate, Victory joined the masses of sports broadcasting teams by employing Bitsy Broadcaster — or some such named 22-year-old — whose primary credentials for reporting on baseball include blond hair and a button nose. (Hey, save the e-mail. I am all for women sports reporters. This is not a bout of chauvinism. It’s simply insulting to listen to a supposed Twins reporter read off a piece of paper and still mispronounce the team’s Double-A affiliate as “New Bri-ton,” rather than New Britain. Hey, Bitsy, there’s an island off the western coast of Europe comprising England, Scotland, and Wales. It’s not called Great Bri-ton.)
As her perky colleagues in other sports and on other networks, Bitsy’s job is to cull the “sidelines” for key information and crucial interviews. Mostly, this means sticking a mike in someone’s face and saying “Why don’t you talk about whatever you want to for 15 seconds … pause … pause … Dick.”
(After every “question” there is … pause … pause … Dick. That’s the cue Bitsy gives that play-by-play man Dick Bremer is supposed to talk again.)
On Monday, Bitsy had Harmon Killebrew and Rod Carew — two Hall of Famers — side by side. The best she could come up with was, “Rod, why don’t you tell us about your new job with the Twins … pause … pause … Dick.”
Consider that without Victory, we’ll hear hundreds upon hundreds fewer references to Bert Blyleven’s birthday. I like Bert. I wish he’d show up at my barbeque some Saturday night. But he rarely ads anything to a baseball broadcast that the viewer can’t see for himself or herself. Yes, your birthday comes every April. We know this, and we’re happy for you.
Without Victory, the stadium pandering would slow to a dull roar. Understand, I want an outdoor ballpark as much as anyone in the state of Minnesota but the incessant campaign waged during broadcasts is draining my support. It’s almost becoming part of the action. Groundball to Koskie, who fires across to Mientkiewicz for the first out … and boy wouldn’t that play have been something in new stadium!
During Monday’s initial broadcast Bremer and Blyleven spoke for not one but two half innings to some mom-and-pop cable operator in out-state Minnesota. Apparently, he was the first operator to sign on with Victory “on the first day possible” to sign on. The lives of his 1,000 subscribers are, apparently, complete.
“We just can’t imagine not having Twins baseball,” he said.
I think at that point Bert handed him a Homer Hanky to dry the tears of Minnesota baseball fans everywhere.
Dick asked Joe Cable more than once, and with as straight a face as Barbara Walters grilling a president, “Why do you suppose other cable providers aren’t picking up Victory Sports?”
Until that point I didn’t realize that every person tuning into the broadcast was a complete moron. Like we’re all Jessica Simpson on acid. Hello, my name is Tom, and my IQ drops every time I watch Victory Sports.
I know it’s not easy to remember way back to, say, the late 1980s, but there used to be a time when the Twins weren’t broadcast on television 135 times a season. The world still spun on its axis. We still rooted for the Twins. We listened on WCCO. And I know this is going to sound antiquated, but in order to watch the team most nights we had to actually go to the games.
I know there are fair people living far enough away from Minneapolis where getting to games is a quite a haul. I am not suggesting these people deserve to be punished, or that they should spend their life savings on gasoline, but there’s also no question that a lot of people could go to games but instead sit at home and watch live before a studio audience. Try it sometime. Set down the clicker and take in a game — in person.
If during those initial visits to the Metrodome you find things just aren’t the same you can turn to the person sitting next to you:
“Why don’t you talk about whatever you want to for 15 seconds … pause … pause … Dick.”
Tom Swift is a lifelong Twins fan who remembers Dick Bremer from his days broadcasting the Twins for Spectrum TV (a reference that dates him). He can be reached at email@example.com
Thanks Tom! And again, be sure to check out more of Tom's writing over at NickelCurves.
Since I am being a bum today, here are a couple other articles for you to check out:
Twins Geek analyses Lew Ford, Michael Nakamura and Rob Bowen.
Aaron Gleeman wrote a very interesting article on Walks last week. Today, he discusses, Pedro Martinez, Josh Beckett, Josh Hamilton, Johan Santana and the guys on Baseball Tonight!
A couple of new sites that I have really enjoyed reading already:
Honest Wagner not only has a very creative name (Honus Wagner played for the Pirates), but is well written.
The Phillies are starting off very slowly, so check out A Citizen's Blog for the Phillies. Find out lots about their new stadium which opens today!
That's it for today. I will be back tomorrow with more thoughts on the Twins, the Timberwolves and maybe more. Have a great week!
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