As a Millenial, I am bound by the both the chronological coincidence of my birth and the unremitting assault of culturally pervasive irony to revel in the terrible. Goofs, gaffes, foibles – enjoying them isn’t unique to my generation, but for some reason, they seem to take up a rather hefty amount of bandwidth in the digital zeitgeist. As such, nothing gets my attention faster than something executed with comical ineptitude.
It makes sense then that my favorite baseball team is the Houston Astros, which set a new precedent for failure last year by losing more than 100 games of the 162 game baseball season for the third year in a row.
Numbers fail to adequately communicate the incompetence of the Astros. Like Cthulhu, it’s a horror that can only be truly known when witnessed. It seems that every other week the Astros bend the laws of space and time to achieve a heretofore unprecedented baseball bungle, thereby becoming the most .gifable team in the major leagues.
Unfortunately, the medium of .gif is the only way that I can view my beloved, awful team – thanks to Major League Baseball’s archaic blackout rules. Even if I wanted to do the MLB the honor of paying them $25 a month for the opportunity to watch my team through the league’s streaming service, MLB.tv, it would be impossible because the Astros are blacked out throughout all of Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas and parts of New Mexico.
These blackouts are ostensibly to keep MLB.tv viewers from cannibalizing stadium and local cable revenue. Seems sound to me – I bet all of the traffic congestion on I-35 is hordes of Astros fans from Tulsa making their way down to see the team play live, traveling in caravans like their pioneering ancestors.
Lest you think (read: accurately perceive) this to simply be the kvetching of one man, know this – Iowa residents are shut out from a whopping six different teams! (This is why Kevin Costner had to build a baseball field for ghosts in his backyard in that movie.)
Baseball could be the perfect Millenial sport. It’s not beholden to the clock (just like you, miss freelancer), there are three different stadiums named after cheap beer (and one named after Target) and a good 80 percent of being a baseball fan is cataloguing data and memorizing minutiae with nerdish obsessiveness. To top it off, there’s already a robust digital network in place, which is ideal for a generation that is increasingly relying on streaming services for entertainment in place of cable. Yet, the MLB refuses to share this bounty with a new and potentially responsive audience. If I were in charge, I wouldn’t hide my light under a blackout basket but, instead, would open the floodgates and attempt to draw in new viewers with convenience. Alas, I am but a humble content guru and not a baseball executive.
Instead, we’re trapped in this limbo, tantalizingly close to something that could be great but is, instead, frustrating and terrible. Not the kind of terrible you revel in, but the kind you hate, the kind you start a hashtag war to unseat. The acutely terrible (like the Astros) is to be celebrated, for it is authentic. It reveals the breadth and depth of the human condition and chips away at the veneer of pointless garbage that has been erected around us. The institutionally terrible (like MLB blackouts) is the terrible that you rail against. It’s the terrible that constantly spackles over these chips of authenticity, alienating people and denying us access to good with the water-resistant coating of bureaucracy.
This isn’t unique to the MLB, of course. The way people access entertainment is changing, and businesses need to keep up or they risk being left in the dust.
So, I’m calling on you, MLB. Free us from the shackles of blackout restrictions so that we may see the Astros (and also other people’s teams) in all of their awful glory, before you become a sport for old people and weirdos who still have cable.