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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

WSI's FLYINGSOCK.COM.  Chicago White Sox coverage with totally biased attitude!

Eighty-One Years and Waiting


Lousy Attendance
& Cable TV:
Not Unrelated

by George Bova

It’s with great amusement that I’ve read the Spring '98 headlines in Chicago's newspapers.  WGN-TV is taking major heat from Cub fans for the decision the Tribune Company made to move sixty Cub games from the network to the local cable tv outlet, CLTV.  Pinch me, Sox fans!  We’ve been through all of this before.  Pay attention because an explanation for our own team’s current poor predicament can be found here.

What has Cub fans so upset is the success of their new pitching hero Kerry Wood.  Kerry-K sent them into a tizzy by striking out twenty hitters in a single game (tying a major league record), then striking out another thirteen hitters in his next start (breaking the consecutive game major league record).  Ah, but the second game wasn’t broadcast on WGN-TV or the cable superstation.  Instead, CLTV showed the game to its cable viewers in the Chicago area only.  Thus the legions of Cubs fans across the country were locked out from viewing Kerry’s performance.  So too were the local fans without cable or CLTV access.  As a Sox fan, may I offer the Cub fans  a sarcastic sob, “Boo Hoo!”

We should have is so good!  Our ownership should have as much foresight as Cubs management to use television as a means to grow and strengthen the fan base, not just another profit center.  We should be so lucky that transferring sixty games to cable tv left our team with “only” forty games for free broadcast tv.  Our fan base should be as large and as deep as the Cubs’ fan base to create such a stir amongst the television executives.

But the facts are none of these dreams can come true for us Sox fans.  Our owners pulled the Sox off the superstation back in 1982 --- just as most of the city (and the nation) was getting cable.  Our owners created the ill-fated premium pay channel SportsVision that died from lack of subscribers.  Our owners stubbornly refused to sell broadcast rights to WGN even as viewership on WFLD plummeted.  As if mismanaging their own team’s television deals wasn’t bad enough, one of our owners then gave the entire nation the disastrous Baseball Network --- so bad euthanasia was applied after just one season.  That’s the White Sox’ television legacy.  That’s what Jerry and Eddie have given us.

Are Cubs fans that much better than us?  Or is Cubs ownership that much smarter than ours?  TELEVISION built the Cubs fan base.  Wrigley Field is merely the cute outdoor studio where 81 episodes are televised each summer.  Do you think retirees in Arizona care more about the Cubs or watching baseball on daytime television, day after day after day?  Do you think fans from Iowa plan trips to Wrigley to see the Cubs, or act out exactly what they see on their televisions back in Des Moines?  Are all those cold and freezing souls at Wrigley in April there to watch the Cubs, or simply following through on the vacations plans they made weeks or months in advance?  Television makes all this possible for Cubs fans.  Their numbers are large and growing because of the role television has played in cultivating and retaining fans.  And every single bit of this is absolutely foreign to Jerry Reinsdorf and Eddie Einhorn.

So what do we Sox fans get for putting up with this?  Pity?  Hardly.  We’re accused of being front runners and unsupportive of our team.  Eighteen years of Jerry and Eddie and now *we* have become the problem.  Got rid of the old ballpark and had the taxpayers build a brand new one.  Got rid of the cheap seats and replaced them with high-profit corporate suites.  Got rid of most of what Sox loyalists had come to love and cherish about their team’s ninety-year-old traditions, too.  Paved paradise, put up a parking lot.  And now WE are the problem!!!!!  What’s the matter, Jerry, can’t find any other scapegoats?


George Bova is editor and founder of White Sox Interactive.  You can write George at george@whitesoxinteractive.com

More features from George Bova here!

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