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Saturday, September 7, 2013

Just Not Feeling It

It has been a while since my last post - just shy of a year and a half.  A lot has happened since then as far as Caps and NHL news goes (and yes, if you read my last post - I was wrong - the Caps did make the playoffs in 2011-12 and even won the first round.....yeah Joel Ward!).

With the Reds beating the Dodgers and the Nats getting destroyed by Miami (thus putting DC 8 games back of the 2nd Wild Card spot) -- baseball season is effectively over in Washington.  Normally, this would be when I turn my attention more sharply over to the Capitals.  The start of hockey season traditionally brings great joy to me -- as does the thought of keeping track of the Caps day in and day out for 6 months + 1 or 2 rounds of the playoffs.

Of course, one year ago we were on the verge of a lockout that wiped out the first 34 games of the 2013 season.  Gary Bettman and the owners milked their leverage and squeezed the NHLPA as hard as they could.  The MBA in me understands this is how it is done in the real world.  The fan in me wanted to stop being a fan.

Gary Bettman wound up making that decision easy for me last year.  When the lockout ended, he merely needed to spend 30 seconds on social media to find a way to make it up to the fans.  Just give the fans NHL Gamecenter for free during the 2013 season.  Seems simple.  Seems fair.  I would argue that it was such a ridiculously easy out that Gary Bettman should have done it immediately following the lockout's end.  No brainer.  Right?

What did he do?  As you know, NHL Gamecenter was $50 for the shortened season.  As if that wasn't frustrating enough -- he cited business partners as the reason why NHL Gamecenter couldn't be free.  He could have easily compensated the business partners for whatever revenue they lost.  He chose to insult our intelligence.

Like I said, my decision was easy last year.  No NHL Gamecenter for me.  I simply didn't watch the Caps (ok, I watched the two NBC games -- both losses).  I kept up a little via the internet.  I might have caught an additional game here and there.  And I caught snippets of that fabulous Game 7 against the Rangers.

In the aftermath of the playoff elimination, I heard George McPhee bitch about the Game 6 officiating, Alex Ovechkin bitch about the Game 6 officiating, Adam Oates say he could beat up John Tortorella, and I read Ted Leonsis' "Successful, But Short of Ultimate Goal" blog post from May 21, 2013.

I could write another blog post in response to Ted's blog post.  Yes, he does say "I assure you our organization's daily commitment is keenly focused on winning the Stanley Cup".  But, he also countered another playoff collapse with citing accomplishments such as:  making the playoffs, the home sellout streak, the season ticket renewal rate, and the number of regular season home wins since 2007-2008.  At best, he is sending mixed messages.  I'll leave it at that....

Anyway, I promised myself I would move on from the Capitals' playoff disappointment and enjoy the summer.  It's not like I don't have plenty of practice with this.  Watch baseball, play golf, go to the beach, grill, do what you need to do to forget that Lucy pulled the football out from under you so that you feel comfortable lining up for another kick come October.

So here we are.  October is coming.  And I am faced with the one, key tactical decision that I have been putting off.  Do I buy NHL Gamecenter this season?

Let me start by saying I don't have cable.  It is just not worth it.  I have the money.  I see no value in it.  Further, where I live -- NBCSN is not a basic-tier channel.  The NHL Network isn't even offered.

Now, this season Gary Bettman has been kind enough to offer an "early bird" special that runs through Halloween.  If I buy before then, I could pay the low, low price of $150.

But, consider this:  I am locked into MLB.TV at $125 per season.  An MLB season is 162 games.  When factoring in the number of times the Nats are blacked out due to Sunday Night Baseball, FOX regional nights, and local blackouts when they play the team in my market -- there are still roughly 145 games available for me to watch.

That is a price of $0.86/game ($125/145 games).  Granted, it didn't guarantee a playoff berth this year.  And, I would say the FOX regional broadcasts are frustrating.  But, all in all, it is a great deal.  I am a satisfied customer.

Now, if you peruse the Capitals' TV schedule for 2013-2014 you will find that they are on NBCSN and the NHL Network a total of 24 times.  Yup, 24 times.  All 24 of those games are blacked out on NHL Gamecenter.

That means only 58 Caps games will be shown live on NHL Gamecenter this season.  Hey, it's almost like another lockout!!!!

Your price per game for NHL Gamecenter this season is $2.59 ($150/58).  That includes the $10 early bird discount.  It also graciously ignores that a few more games will be blacked out because my local market is now a Metropolitan division market (BTW -- what a horrible name).

$2.59 vs. $0.86.  Hmmmmmmm.....

I'm not here to debate the NHL Gamecenter blackout policy.  I know it isn't going away.  It would be nice, but as my idol George Carlin says, "We don't have time for rational solutions"...

I would point out, though, if the NHL thinks I'm going to get cable just so I can then get the NBCSN tier (remember, NBCSN isn't basic and I can't get the NHL Network) it is out of its mind.

True, it is not a new blackout policy.  I put up with it in 2011-2012.  I don't have an exact number, but the Caps were on Versus/NBCSN and the NHL Network a comparable number of times.  The price of NHL Gamecenter was also similar.  I had just finished grad school and was feeling giddy.

Now, I'm not so giddy.  I can't really pinpoint what specifically is driving my frustration.  Is it the lockout?  Gary Bettman?  The price of NHL Gamecenter?  Its frustrating blackout policies?  Ted Leonsis?  George McPhee?  Alex Ovechkin?  Game 7 vs. the Rangers?

I don't know.  There are just so many different things that are floating around it is hard to put my finger on the precise reason.

I do know this -- I'm not just some bandwagon fan.  I am one or two seasons away from season #30.  If I wanted to quit on the Caps due to playoff collapses, I would have done that a long time ago.

I do know that I feel as if the NHL/Caps are probably indifferent to how close to the edge they have pushed me.  I don't think they realize how remarkable a feat it is to take a die-hard fan like myself and make him blase about hockey season (and in case Gary Bettman needs clarification -- it's not remarkable in a good way).

Will the Caps be good this season -- the team's first full season with Adam Oates as coach?  Pardon the truncated analysis -- I think it will be same old, same old.  They'll make the playoffs.  Maybe they'll get out of the first round.  That's as much as I expect out of these guys.  That's the team's potential.  Even with Mikhail Grabovski -- I see no reason for more optimism than a first round win.  If they go further than that -- great -- but they certainly haven't earned any bold preseason predictions from me.  They are guilty until proven innocent.

So - I've basically just crammed 18 months of thoughts into one blog post.  I could have streamlined.  I could have organized my thoughts.  But, really, that's more effort than I'm willing to give the NHL or the Caps at this point.

Maybe the NHL will surprise me and eliminate their NHL Gamecenter blackout policy.  Maybe they'll drop the price to $0.86/game (for a total charge of $50 for the season....58*$0.86.....and yes....the full 2013-2014 season....not the 2013 lockout shortened season).

But, likely, I'll go through the next 6 months without engaging much in the NHL.  I've proven I can occupy my time.  I can do without the NHL.  The NHL can apparently do without me.

As Todd Bertuzzi once said (over and over), "It is what it is".....


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