I Don't Care Whether the Orioles are on ESPN (or How I Became a Regional Sports Fan)
Jan. 15, 2014
ESPN has announced its Sunday Night Baseball schedule through July 20. The Orioles are on the schedule twice, and you can guess which two teams they'll be playing: the Yankees and the Red Sox. No surprises there.
The Orioles' April 14 ESPN game against the Yankees last season represented their first Sunday Night Baseball appearance since 2008. That Sept. 21, 2008 appearance was the final game at the old Yankee Stadium. The O's presence in '08 was therefore an accident of "good" timing via MLB's unbalanced schedule.
Timing will once again be a factor in an Orioles Sunday Night Baseball appearance in 2014. The game at Fenway serves as a way for ESPN to mark the anniversary of the Boston Marathon attacks.
The Boston Red Sox will host the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park for a special telecast the night before Patriot’s Day – a Massachusetts state holiday one year removed from the Boston Marathon tragedy in 2013.
As a younger man, I may have wasted this space - along with the air space of anyone willing to indulge my indignance - ranting about how the Orioles "don't get any respect" and ESPN is biased toward the Yankees and Red Sox. No longer.
These days, as a not-as-younger man, I don't care nearly as much. Sure, I still believe ESPN broadcasts the Evil Empires too often. But the truth is I don't watch baseball on ESPN much anyway. It's mostly MASN and the O's radio broadcast for me. I've become a regional sports fan.
There are many reasons that I don't follow the game of baseball the way I once did. At or near the top of that list are the two children who occupy space in my home and an even larger space in my heart. I don't have nearly the same amount of unoccupied time. However, what's more intriguing, at least to me, is how technology has changed the way I follow baseball.
Technological changes have enabled me to narrow my baseball focus almost exclusively to the Orioles. I do miss my days of poring over the Baltimore Sun's two-page baseball spread with standings, box scores, and game capsules. Every game mattered to me then, and the newspaper provided it all in an easily digestible format. But those days are gone.
The rise of the regional sports network has enabled me to watch the Orioles - or if I'm really bored, the Nationals. I purchased satellite TV upon moving to North Carolina for MASN alone. (Retro shout out to all my HTS fans out there. HTS: "One of the first regional sports networks in the country.")
Meanwhile, MLB At Bat allows me to take the O's radio broadcast with me wherever I go. Even when I'm at home, I'm rarely sitting in front of the television to watch my own choice of programming. I've traded the neighborhood play for Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood. (Thanks, son!) So from bath time to book time, the Orioles' radio broadcast comes with me.
ESPN is doing what it needs to do to generate the largest possible audience. (As an added public service, they're helping to further propagate two already sizable bandwagons.) And I'll do what I need to do to follow my beloved Orioles.
More often than not, I'm an audience of one. One fan, one team.