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Sunday, April 20, 2014         

FURTHER REVIEW


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TV blackout rule is a Giant boondoggle

By Dave Reardon

POSTED:



"After flying 5,000 miles and paying $75 a seat to watch your favorite team, you come home, put on your official $35 MLB cap, sit down in front of your TV, and discover that you can't watch the conclusion of the pennant race because the moguls of MLB and their broadcast partners really do not give a rip about you." -- Jim Loomis

It took some time, but I finally got over it. It used to really irk me any time a map of the United States didn't include that little inset of the Hawaiian Islands. I wish I could say those 48-state maps no longer exist, but they still do -- even with a sitting president from here. No wonder dummies still say "back in the states."

So the map thing is now just filed and (mostly) forgotten under Minor Irritating Things I Can Do Nothing About, like "back in the states."

However, ignorance is one thing. Arrogance combined with indifference is another.

Just as we get used to one penalty of paradise, another arises. Actually, this one's been an ongoing source of frustration for fans in Hawaii of West Coast Major League Baseball teams, particularly the San Francisco Giants.

Now that the Giants are battling down to the wire in an exciting pennant race, it affects all of us here who follow baseball -- and want to watch some meaningful stretch-drive games.

The Giants have long been one of the two most popular teams in the islands, going back to when they moved from New York to San Francisco for the 1958 season; it's a close call between them and the Dodgers, who also migrated west.

So how is this loyal fandom rewarded?

As a result of being claimed as home turf by the Giants and the lack of an agreement between the rights-holders and the cable company, Hawaii is subject to cable blackouts of their games.

See if you can follow the logic, or lack thereof:

The West Coast teams say Hawaii is part of their fan market ... fine so far, the Seattle Mariners, Oakland A's, San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Angels -- as well as the Dodgers and Giants -- all enjoy large, fervent followings here.

But fans derive no benefit from this staking of territory. Rather, they are penalized. If a game is not sold out 48 hours before the first pitch, you can't see it on cable TV here.

Several teams have granted various waivers to this situation, but not the Giants.

JIM LOOMIS is equally akamai about pro baseball public relations and market-share realities. He assisted Honolulu Mayor Frank Fasi in the "Save The Islanders" campaign in the late '70s that bought a few years for Hawaii's financially struggling Triple-A team, and was even the team's general manager in 1979. Then Loomis owned an ad agency in Honolulu until retiring to Maui in 1992.

He's among those who, with futility, tried for years to get the cable blackout lifted.

"The reality is the agreements are complex, and there probably aren't enough fans here to get enough attention to get it unsnarled," Loomis said. "It's not an excuse, because there is no real excuse. It's very frustrating."

Loomis and others went straight to the top, with snail mail letters to commissioner Bud Selig and e-mails to others. At one point Loomis got a cordial response from Selig, but was referred to an underling and little progress resulted. Others who have tried to make their case have felt snubbed, ignored and disrespected.

BUT WHAT IS this? A ray of light? If you really want to see the Giants here, you finally can now -- but you must either go to a sports bar or subscribe to satellite TV.

But Phil Kinnicut of Kailua said neither is an option for him and other Giants fans of his age.

"Absolutely not, I'm 69 years old and I don't go to bars. My computer, phone and TV are all from Oceanic Time Warner. I can't go through added expense to change that."

Life can be tough when you're off the map.

Reach Star-Advertiser sports columnist Dave Reardon at dreardon@staradvertiser.com, his "Quick Reads" blog at staradvertiser.com and twitter.com/davereardon.

 





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