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Wednesday, October 20, 2021

If you build it, MLB will black it out


Who cares if ghosts come out of the corn if you can’t watch them anyway?

Who cares if ghosts come out of the corn if you can’t watch them anyway?
Image: AP

Iowa is such the middle of nowhere for Major League Baseball that the idea of having a game amid the cornstalks at the Field of Dreams site only came about after games in London, Australia, and Mexico.

Dyersville, Iowa, is four hours from Chicago, home of the White Sox — the host team for the stunt game because of their cinematic connection through Shoeless Joe Jackson. Minneapolis is also four hours away, Milwaukee three, and St. Louis and Kansas City each more than a five-hour drive, a haul even by Midwestern standards.

And yet, if you want to watch a regular White Sox, Cubs, Twins, Brewers, Cardinals, or Royals game in Iowa, you’d be better off trying to find The Godfather playing at a movie theater. Thanks to Major League Baseball’s draconian and self-imposed television rules, even if you’re willing to pay for the league’s streaming service, you can’t watch the teams of the upper Midwest in Iowa, because their local broadcasts aren’t actually available there.

It’s been the same stupidity for years, even though someone in New York can use the same service to access games in closer-by Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington. Somehow, despite being repeatedly shunned by MLB, Iowans still want to see games, as evidenced by a Dubuque billboard with an audience of one this week: commissioner Rob Manfred.

Thursday’s game is on Fox, so all it takes to see it is an old-fashioned TV antenna. Maybe it’s that old-time spirit that leads MLB to believe folks in Iowa are just fine so long as they can hear the Cardinals on powerful KMOX (or one of six Iowa-based affiliates), the Cubs and White Sox on WSCR and WMVP, the Twins on WCCO, or the Brewers on WTMJ — all 50-kilowatt powerhouses through the night sky.

More likely, MLB just doesn’t care. They’re happy to accommodate their TV partners by upholding an arcane system that isn’t good for anyone, including the rights holders who mistakenly believe they’re protecting their investment by barring streams, even in areas where their broadcasts cannot be accessed.

But, hey, Costner and his cinema dad, Dwier Brown, are out at Yankees-White Sox to have a catch. It’s just too bad that anyone who sees it, and then wants to see more of the White Sox in Iowa, will spend eternity wandering in the corn without finding what they’re looking for. Is this heaven? No, it’s blackout hell.

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