Let's shed some light on confusion surrounding Nationals' blackouts

ON MEDIA

April 15, 2005|By RAY FRAGER

THE BASEBALL season is young, but for those who want to see the Washington Nationals on television, the consternation must be getting old.

This week, the issue was blackouts of TBS telecasts while the Nats played the Atlanta Braves. By Major League Baseball's rules, the superstation isn't allowed to televise into the home team's market regardless of whether that team in on local TV.

In Baltimore, this hasn't been an issue, because 150 or so Orioles games get on the air each season via stations available throughout the region. So few probably noticed or cared when the Orioles' interleague games with the Braves were blacked out.

In Washington, though, the Nationals' TV schedule still stands at fewer than half of their games. Complicating matters is the placement of their games on WDCA/Channel 20, a station unavailable on many cable systems.

So, along come these Nats-Braves games on TBS, and the frustrated fan believes he can watch. But no - blackout. Keep in mind that the Nationals/Orioles market extends as far south as North Carolina. You could have been a Braves fan in Richmond, Va. (the location of the club's Triple-A team), but no TBS for you.

Cable providers such as Comcast can ask for a waiver of the blackout rule, but Major League Baseball just doesn't grant any.

Meanwhile, the new Mid-Atlantic Sports Network is trying to work out a deal to get more Nats games on the air, another complicated matter of rights fees and satellite agreements and cable system clearances.

Makes you glad you're an Orioles fan, right?

(By the way, I know Page 2 columnist Peter Schmuck wrote on this topic two days ago, but it's likely he just left you confused.)

When he ended his report on the Nationals during SportsNite earlier this week, Comcast SportsNet's Scott Hanson signed off with something like, "Still trying to figure out this Nationals team, I'm Scott Hanson in Atlanta." Which got me to thinking how you just don't hear that kind of sign-off anymore. Thanking Scott Hanson for bringing it back, this is Ray Frager at his desk on Calvert Street. Back to you. ...

Speaking of back to you, on that same SportsNite, that program was anchored by Sage Steele and Kelli Johnson. It wouldn't have been too long ago that two female anchors on a sports news show would be quite remarkable. However, other than the fact that I just remarked upon it, this was remarkably unremarkable. Funny how progress just sneaks up on you. (Man, do I sound old or what?)

On Monday at 8:30 p.m. on ESPN2, Art Modell is the subject of ESPN's new series Top 5 Reasons You Can't Blame ... . The program presents alternatives to laying all the blame on Modell for moving the Browns from Cleveland to Baltimore. Guess who gets to share the responsibility? New England Patriots genius Bill Belichick, somewhat less brilliant when he coached the Browns. And the top surprising talking head? Comedian/actor Martin Mull, Ohio-raised and forever beloved as the star of Fernwood 2Night. ...

After the Modell program, ESPN2 airs an edition of Who's #1? counting down the NFL's biggest draft busts. Todd Marinovich and Brian Bosworth fans probably shouldn't watch. ... ESPN2's Timeless series tomorrow at 11:30 a.m. includes a piece on the Naval Academy's boxing tournament. ...

Starting with tomorrow's MCI Heritage Classic (3 p.m.), Comcast will carry four PGA events on its CN8 channel when the CBS coverage conflicts with Orioles games on WJZ.

USA Today's Rudy Martzke wasn't the first to write a TV sports column and wasn't the best at it, but he certainly became the most well-known and - by some accounts - wielded great influence in sports television. Martzke retires today. Wonder if he's going to sit on the couch watching games?

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