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Are Vintage & Virtual Games Really Better Than Nothing?

“I’d rather hear or see a vintage game than watch one simulated on a computer gaming platform. Realistically though, neither option replace the real thing a live broadcast with unpredictability.”

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Opening day in baseball is usually such a great day, so great that it should be deemed a national holiday. Schools should be closed, as should so many businesses to allow people to head out to the ballpark or watch or listen to their favorite team’s first game of the season. Well, be careful what you wish for, as the saying goes.

The Coronavirus pandemic has already caused part of that equation to come to life. Schools are closed, businesses are closed, and much of our day-to-day lives have skidded to a halt. The spread of the virus has put the baseball season on hold, meaning no Opening Day, at least not yet. 

AP Source: 2020 MLB opening day to be earliest ever - Sportsnet.ca

Fans are searching for things to do to keep busy during quarantine time. They are craving sports. Radio and TV programmers are looking for ways to fill this enormous void in their ‘on air’ schedules. What do you do? How can you possibly provide a sports fan with he/she needs at a time like this? Especially on opening day in Major League Baseball. 

Some stations and websites tried to give fans the Opening Day “experience” in different ways. To me, as a hard-core baseball fan, who has attended his fair share of openers as a fan and broadcaster, this a tough sell. It’s hard to replicate the true feeling and emotion one might have without the real thing, but I give these outlets a little credit for their outward thinking. 

In Phoenix, Arizona Sports 98.7 featured a full day of what they called “Opening Day Dreaming”. The station promoted it by saying just because opening day is postponed, fans should still enjoy the nostalgia of America’s Pastime. How did they do that? Well, every hour from 6am until 6pm the weekday lineup of hosts also featured former Diamondbacks players and broadcasters to offer up some Opening Day memories. The Opening Day Dreaming finished up with a broadcast of the 2001 World Series Game 7 in which the Diamondbacks beat the Yankees to win the title. Not a bad way to wrap up a day if you’re a D-Backs fan. 

680 The Fan in Atlanta took a different approach. The station figured since there would be no Opening Day game, they’d play one anyway. How? The station turned to eSports and streamed the game between the Braves and Diamondbacks played on MLB The Show 20. The game was simulated on the PS4 console, with the station calling it, “Digital Opening Day.” Fans were invited to follow the “action” on 680 The Fan’s website and on YouTube. Station hosts were interacting with fans and adding commentary. It’s an interesting take, certainly a more millennial-friendly approach, but hey you’ve got to try something to entertain your baseball audience, right? 

MLB Network Radio on Sirius/XM was supposed to air Opening Day games, but now the channel will air five classic games from Opening Days this century. The games were chosen by a listener poll on Twitter. A good way to keep the audience as a part of the decision-making process, but classic games don’t necessarily fill the void of no live baseball.   

The fact is, Opening Day is just a small portion of what the stations that normally carry games have to fill. Many are leaning on rebroadcasts of vintage games. An easier proposition in some markets than in others based on the franchises the stations are associated with. Will listeners tune in? Do listeners want to hear games in which they already know the outcome? In other words, is this a satisfying alternative for a listener/viewer? 

Meet The Man Behind The Yankees' 'Thumbs Down' Move - YouTube

Here in Chicago, TV and radio stations have aired White Sox games from the 2005 World Series season. Some have vintage 2010 Chicago Blackhawks games being aired while the NHL season is suspended. Another has 2016 Cubs broadcasts and NBC Sports Chicago is airing 1996 Bulls post season games. It’s all popular here, but can the same strategy work in other markets?

Around the country RSN’s (Regional Sports Networks) are doing what they can. In Toronto, TSN and Sportsnet is let fans travel the road to the Toronto Raptors first NBA title in franchise history. In New York, MSG Networks is airing NBA and NHL replays from the 2019-20 season, as well as showing classics dating back to the ‘80s. 

With no NCAA Tournament this year, CBS has been showing classic championship games every weekend. The tourney’s radio partner, Westwood One, is re-airing some of the most iconic games in NCAA Tournament history, including championship games, upsets, and buzzer beating moments. Fun to relive? Sure, but if I have no dog in the fight, I’d probably tune in for the end of the game and that’s probably about it. 

Villanova player who hit buzzer-beater to win NCAA title wasn't ...

I’d rather hear or see a vintage game than watch one simulated on a computer gaming platform. Realistically though, neither option replace the real thing a live broadcast with unpredictability. With drama on every pitch. The outcome is in doubt. 

I will admit I can sucked in by nostalgia. Even knowing the outcome of some of the games I sit down to watch, I feel the adrenalin pumping, waiting for that moment. A big goal, a three pointer, a home run or a long touchdown pass. It was thrilling then and it can be thrilling now. It has to be, because it’s all we have right now. It’s all the sports media has to give right now. As sports junkies, we are aware that every little bit can feed that hunger we all have for the real thing. 

The events of the world and this insidious virus rightfully have taken the forefront while sports wait it’s turn in the background.  With every passing day, it is missed as the distraction that we all need right now. 

Barrett Blogs

BSM’s Black Friday SALE on BSM Summit Tickets is Underway!

Jason Barrett

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Each year I’m asked if there are ways to save money on tickets to the 2023 BSM Summit. I always answer yes but not everyone takes advantage of it. For those interested in doing so, here’s your shot.

For TODAY ONLY, individual tickets to the 2023 BSM Summit are reduced by $50.00. Two ticket and four ticket packages are also lowered at $50 per ticket. To secure your seat at a discounted price, just log on to BSMSummit.com. This sale ends tonight at 11:59pm ET.

If you’re flying to Los Angeles for the event, be sure to reserve your hotel room. Our hotel partner this year is the USC Hotel. It’s walking distance of our venue. Full details on hotel rooms can also be found via the conference website.

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BSM Writers

Media Noise: What Does The Return of Bob Iger Mean to ESPN?

Demetri Ravanos

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Demetri Ravanos has questions about Disney going back to the future with Bob Iger. This entire episode of Media Noise is all about what the change at the top of the Walt Disney Company indicates about the future of ESPN.

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BSM Writers

Media Noise: What Is Realistic For FOX at the World Cup?

Demetri Ravanos

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On this special holiday edition of Media Noise, Demetri Ravanos dives into the controversy and criticism surrounding FOX’s coverage of the World Cup in Qatar.

ITunes: https://buff.ly/3PjJWpO

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