Wednesday, September 25, 2013
On Wednesday, September 25, 2013, the Dodgers played the hated San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park. Trailing 6-4, it was the top of the 9th, Adrian Gonzalez on 1st. Hanley Ramirez is at the plate, full count. Giants closer Sergio Romo throws, Ramirez grounds-out. The game is over.
The camera shows the Giants teammates congratulate each other on the field, and then the screen shows a montage of game highlights. Vin Scully bids all a "Good night." Then a short video segment of season highlights flash before the screen, with the above graphic displayed, then fades.
It was the end of an era.
Now in terms of this season, our Dodgers, having already clinched their National League West title, will go on to postseason play next week, and may or may not become World Champions by the time the month of October is done. But in terms of the team's 55-year history in Los Angeles, it was the sad ending of a longtime tradition in Los Angeles.
See, Wednesday's game was not only the last game of the season on KCAL, it was the last regular-season scheduled Dodger game to be shown on free broadcast television. Starting next year, all Dodger regular-season games will be shown on Time Warner Cable's new SportsNet LA, a team-owned cable TV channel that was the result of an $8.5 billion deal with the cable provider.
For those of you who are TWC subscribers, no big deal, You'll enjoy the 2014 season and beyond just like you always have. And for those who have other cable providers, depending on if they pony up the dough to TWC, they may or may not carry SportsNet LA. But for those of us (like The Militant) who do not have cable television...tough shiyat.
The Militant watched every inning of the game like a series finale. But this was bigger than your Dexter or Breaking Bad (shows The Militant never seen before 'cuz they on cable), this was a series that has been on local TV since 1958. The cast may change, the writing might be better some years than others (It's been really good this year - at least since late June...), but the premise and the setting are what draws him in year after year. And now, he can't watch his favorite show (The Militant doesn't really watch much else on TV, so "Just getting cable" isn't really justified).
Of course, this is not without precedent. The Lakers were the first local team to enter a deal with TWC. So, gone are the days of watching a Lakers game on broadcast television, where the likes of Kareem, Magic, Shaq and Kobe inspired the hoop dreams of many a Southland youth. Or even provided a means of entertainment for first-generation immigrants finding a way to connect with and integrate with mainstream culture.
The same goes for baseball fans. The Militant (and countless others) grew up watching Dodger games on KTTV 11 for decades, they were even more part of the Summertime pastime than going to the games, if you weren't privileged enough to have access to season tickets. Your day would even revolve around them. When The Militant was growing up, his ballpark hero was Steve Garvey. So even when he did go to the games, the TV broadcasts made the players the larger-than-life stars that we admired. When Fernandomania struck Los Angeles in the early 1980s, watching #34 on the mound on broadcast TV made many a kid in East Los Angeles or Echo Park look up to a hero that reminded them of themselves. Likewise when Hideo Nomo and Chan Ho Park played over a decade later, many in the Asian American community found their own ballpark heroes to look up to. When the games moved on to KCAL 9, we followed suit. It was the same Vin, same game, same team, same uniform and same tradition we've enjoyed in this City for over half a century already.
But sad to say, the babies born today, unless they're privileged enough to be born into a family with cable TV, won't be able to watch a Dodger game on television. They might not even get to see a game called by Vin Scully. Will they be interested in the Dodgers at all? Will they be interested in baseball at all (even the Angels games are all-cable now)? Will they be interested in sports at all, since the Lakers, Clippers and Kings and Galaxy also have all-cable coverage (Apparently, only the Anaheim Ducks and Chivas USA still have games on broadcast TV (both on OC's KDOC 56, and also KWHY 22 for the latter).
What kind of local fans will we have 20, 30, 40 years from now? Will they support the teams, admire the players, go to the games?
Of course, there's always the NFL games on Sunday and Monday...a sport without any teams that represent this city, hmph.
As far as the Dodgers, he'll have to do with the radio now. At least there's still Vin Scully to provide the mental imagery of the game...for the time being, at least.