By FWS (fws.gov) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Today's Geography Lesson!
Alaska is our largest state. Bigger than Texas and Montana, even.
Oddly, Alaska is our least populous state.
That's a lie. Alaska actually has more people than North Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming. Combined.
Also a lie. But Alaska really does have more people than each of those three states.
Alaska also has less than a third as many people as Brooklyn. Which for some reason I find fascinating. If Brooklyn were a state, it would rank 38th among the 51 states, population-wise. Which I also find fascinating.
Anyway, there are people in Alaska. Some of those people are baseball fans, and some significant percentage of those people are Mariners fans, perhaps because you can actually board a ferry in Alaska and be dropped off, some hours later just an hour away from Safeco Field. Also, the Mariners are the only team in the Pacific Northwest, and you can't get more Pacific Northwesty than Alaska.
If you're in Alaska, though, you're not allowed to watch Mariners games. Seriously.
Last year, a television network called "Root Sports" carried the Mariners games, and Alaskan cable network GCI -- which services roughly three-fourths of the population -- carried Root Sports.
No more, though. Root Sports wants more money in 2012 than GCI wants to pay, so Root has been dropped. Happily for baseball fans, MLB Network has been added. Unhappily for Mariners fans, any Mariners games that happen to be broadcast on MLB Network will be blacked out in Alaska.
I've not confirmed this yet, but I believe it will also be impossible for Alaskans to watch the Mariners on MLB.com, too. Because ... well, just because.
Actually, here's why:
As you know, a huge percentage of baseball teams' revenues are derived from local television rights, generally paid by regional sports networks (RSN). In turn, the RSNs can pay huge amounts of money for the broadcast rights because they have huge potential audiences. Therefore, it (theoretically) behooves the teams boost those potential audiences however they can. If a Mariners fan gives his money to DirecTV -- or, indirectly, to ESPN or MLB Network -- the Yankees get exactly as much of that money as the Mariners.
This, of course, displeases the Mariners. The idea, I think, is simple: It's okay to utterly disregard the wishes of your fans in the short term, if it means more money in the long term. The Mariners games will be unavailable on TV in Alaska because the M's hope their fans will be incensed enough to a) pressure the local cable company to pony up more dough, and b) in turn, pass the added cost along to its customers.
Which is to say, it's a naked money grab. No more, no less.
Hey, it might work. Bud Selig has done two things brilliantly since taking over as Commissioner: He's avoided serious labor disputes, and he has turned Major League Baseball into a massive, ever-producing cash cow.
Now that Commissioner Bud has finally evened out the leagues, it looks to me like when he retires -- assuming he ever retires, which maybe he won't -- his single biggest failure will be the long-standing out mess of blackout rules, which screws millions of passionate baseball fans every year. All in the service of a few extra and highly amorphous dollars.