Watching a Mets game used to be easy. All I did was turn on the TV and twist the plastic and metal dial, click by click, to channel 9. Since then, media has expanded, from cable TV to satellite to the internet.
In 1982, SportsChannel came along. My parents didn’t see the need to get cable. They were Mets fans too, but channel 9 (then known by the call letters WOR), still had the majority of games. And we were content listening to the rest on WMCA or WHN. Eventually SC picked up more games per year, and I convinced my parents to get cable, shortly before the 1987 season.
My Professional Mets Career
In 1993, I went to work for channel 9, by then known as WWOR, in the operations department. I did some Mets-related tasks, including preparing the script for the announcers (which contained things like billboard reads, pitching change break options, and “now a word from (a sponser that I would include based on that day’s schedule)” at the end of every half inning. I also helped determine how to fill extra time when the game finished off-time, that is, not on an hour or half-hour. Remember those Three-Stooges shorts? Yeah, that was me. You’re welcome.
During this time, my interest level in the Mets decreased proportionately with the amount of work I did for their broadcasts. So much so, that I even turned down an official Production Assistant job with the Mets’ broadcast crew. What was I thinking? It was a paycut, but it wasn’t like I was making six figures or anything. However, during the 1996 season, the station’s sales people unloaded lots of free tickets on me (business was down, the team was bad, so I benefited from the unused dockets). I went to ten games that year, more than I ever had or ever would again. And all I needed was a stack of quarters to get from Bergen County, NJ to Queens (these were the dark times before EZ Pass). That year’s team still holds a special place in my heart. They had a great lineup, a decent starting rotation, but maybe the worst bullpen I’ve ever seen.
The next year, I abandoned my cushy life of free Mets tickets to take a new job in the field of broadcast software in Colorado. That meant abandoning channel 9, WFAN (the Mets radio home since 1988), and Shea Stadium. I followed the team on unpolished HTML websites over my bandwidth-challenged dial-up modem, and yes, box scores in the local Colorado Springs newspaper. Occasionally, they would appear on national television, but not very often considering the quality of the team at the time.
In the meantime, I managed to develop a social life in my new location (though I would occasionally peek at an ESPN score ticker or Baseball Tonight on a TV in the bar), and embraced the habit of not watching a game every night.
As the World Wide Web expanded, GameCasts, GameDays, DayCasts, and the like appeared, giving the user a graphical interpretation of each pitch. This, and the Mets improved play from 1998-2001, restoked my interest. I even got tickets to Shea in 1998 from someone I knew from WWOR when I was in New York on business. It happened to be the game the Mets debuted their black jerseys and Masato Yoshii. Through subsequent cable and satellite companies, I tried the MLB ExtraInnings package. OK, but expensive, and listening to the other team’s announcers when the Mets were on the road was exhausting. I signed up for MLB.tv in 2006-2007, but was disappointed with the quality and choppiness of the video. I tried again this year, and it is much improved.
The New Media and the Mets
Fast forward to today. I live in the Dallas, TX area, and I have a ton of Mets-following options at my disposal. MLB.tv on my PS3 (in HD on the big screen), or on the laptop, the MLB Network, ESPN, satellite radio, internet radio, the MLB app on my iPad and Blackberry, GameDay, AtBat, Twitter, Blogs – I don’t even have to try anymore – the Mets are everywhere, and there’s no escape!
The choices I have today versus the choices I had thirty years ago speak volumes about the expansion and complexity of today’s media. A TV signal is no longer transmitted from a tower at the station to your rabbit ears at home. It goes through uplinks, downlinks, head ends, servers, streamers, encoders, decoders, transcoders, you name it! It’s kind of like the wild west, only with more baseball.
No one is really sure where all this is going, but benefits are there, especially for a transplanted Mets fan.