Monday, August 23, 2010


Black Out of the Blue Jays

On the Toronto Blue Jays website, there is an area where fans can go to chat about the team and its activities. Messages are left for other fans, and the team.

There is one particular issue that is receiving a lot of traffic in the past two weeks. It pertains to television coverage of the Blue Jay games. Throughout Canada, fans are upset about the loss of Blue Jay games on the television screens.

As it sits at the present moment, a new channel just introduced by Rogers called Sportsnet 1, will carry seventeen of the Jays’ telecasts in September. For those of you who have followed the Jays on other outlets, there is a dark cloud overhead. If you do not have Sportsnet 1, you will be in the dark.

The waters are still a little murky in this regard; however, there is a nasty fight taking place in the television world, and Jays’ fans seem to be the losers at this point. Naturally, it is all about the money, and the dollars that advertisers are willing to spend to get you, the consumer, to buy their products.

On the “Message Board” on the Blue Jay site, fans are hot. There are miffed at the timing of this activity. Fans are starting to renew interest in the team, after several years of frustration. For the most part, the sport has been cleaned of performance enhancing drugs. Roger Clemens won a lot of games for the Jays in his brief stint in Toronto, but those victories appear to be hollow. He is now on the hot seat for allegedly lying to the American Congress.

The Jays have some fine young players igniting an interest in the team. Fans are returning to the ball park. Attendance is up significantly from the past few years. The farm system continues to roll out stellar prospects.

I checked with Rogers about the situation. A spokesperson stated: “I doubt that it (coverage of the Blue Jay games) will be provided to companies that have satellite dishes. They have not paid for the licensing of the channel. Our agreement with them has expired. Bell Expressvu was not showing due diligence by letting the contract expire. They just don’t care about their customers. There will not be any games on Expressvu until Bell gets off their butt and does their job.” Pretty hefty wording!

When I asked about areas where there is no Rogers coverage, he added: “We are trying to get our cable everywhere. We are now in Ontario, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland.” That leaves a good portion of the country in the dark.

A straw poll of local Blue Jay fans indicated there is a group of very unhappy campers. Brad Wilson has been an ardent fan since the Jay days at Exhibition Stadium. “They’ve got all those fine young pitchers like Romero and Rzepczynski to keep them in the game. It would be a shame if we could not watch them for the rest of the season.”

The Emersons, John and Carol, have been avid Jays fans throughout the years. They recall the great time they had at the opening of the SkyDome, in downtown Toronto. They are not thrilled with the prospect of losing the television reception for the rest of the season.

Many of us will continue to follow the Jays on our satellite radios. Sirius carries all of Major League Baseball broadcasts, with a few extra stations of inane baseball chatter.

Local sportscaster Jack Miller has seen his share of corporate battles in the broadcasting world. He recalled the early days of Expo broadcasts on the local Quinte broadcasting stations, from the opening game in Montreal until 1994. The Jay games were on the local network for one season, 1995. This followed the nasty days of strikes and lockouts, and the advertising dollars were hard to come by after the turbulence.

“The Raptors went through similar growing pains when they moved over to the TSN 2 channel. I believe that public demand will get the satellite dish companies to pick up the Jays games. This could be taken as a “money grab” by Rogers. But in reality, it is a decision based on business. They are trying to enhance their profit level. Decisions like this are noticed more often when there is something going on. At this point in the season, there is some interest in the team.”

We are most fortunate to have so many fine networks available to us. Granted, there is a ton of junk available as well. At the best of times, baseball as a business in Canada will never be an easy proposition. The Blue Jays do not need the hassle of this petty corporate skirmish at this time. Fans will walk away. The team needs all the attention it can muster.

Perhaps Rogers can find a spot in its programming schedule to fit in a few live ball games. We are challenged with billiards, air racing, “X games”, horse racing, poker, martial arts, darts, and other time fillers. We have even given token appreciation to some soccer. But it is after all, a sports network. Stick with the games. Let them continue.

James Hurst
August 23, 2010

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