Twice in as many nights this week, I was kept from watching or listening to a Major League Baseball game live.
On Monday, my Mariners were playing the Mets, and MLB.tv had it as the "free" game of the week. Normally you need a subscription to watch. I thought, "Great!" and went to tune in. The problem was, when I tried, I was prompted to purchase an MLB.tv subscription. I tried getting around the paywall to no avail.
On Tuesday, I wanted to listen to the Mariners on the radio. I used my iPhone to stream the game via my local radio station. Midway through, the feed cut off and I was told via an error message, "This stream is not available in your area*. This may be** due to content licensing issues...."
*My area is Seattle.
**It's definitely due to content licensing issues, which is my whole point:
The NFL, on the other hand, makes the majority of their content free. If you live in a city with an NFL team, odds are you can watch that team for free, every game of the season.
Is it any wonder, then, that over the last 20 years, football has arguably replaced baseball as "America's pastime"?
Granted, there are a lot of other issues at play that have resulted in the NFL's massive rise and MLB's slow descent into The Other Sport. At the same time, MLB isn't making things any easier. Here's a fact: I watched an entire Seahawks season—and postseason, all the way to the championship—for free, on TV. To watch a Mariners game on TV, for free, at all this year, I'll have to cross my fingers that they make it to the American League Championship Series. At most, if the Mariners make it to Game 7 of the World Series, I will be able to watch 14 Mariners games for free. That's less than 8 percent of the total possible games they can play this season.
The upshot is this: It's a hell of a lot easier to be an NFL fan than an MLB fan. That matters, because there are a lot more ways to spend money on a team, and on a league, than cable subscriptions. Particularly when I'm motivated to buy and am not being purposely kept from consuming the content I want.
The Seattle Mariners are my sports lifeblood. That might sound weird, but if you were a kid in the 90s, you'll understand. It sucks that to follow this season—the first one in more than 10 years that may see a postseason—I'll be mostly forced to follow the team via Twitter updates and blog posts***. It doesn't have to be this way, and MLB would be a lot better off if it wasn't.
***I should just buy a radio. The whole point is, I shouldn't have to.