Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Take this sport and love it

Oh Major League Baseball. I wish I could quit you.

Spring training is underway, and our season tickets arrived on Friday. All fired up about the new season -- not to mention our newly-Internet-connected television -- I splurged and signed up for the MLB.TV 2011 subscription.

Initial reactions:

1. It's great to have baseball back

2. The picture quality is terrible. MLB, don't you dare blame this on my bad throughput. Movies from Netflix look great on my set. Even during peak usage, content from other parts of the Internet don't look quite so much like YouTube postings shot with a cell phone. So the problem is on your end. Take some of your billions of dollars and spring for better servers or whatever it takes to deliver a professional quality product.

3. I can't tell which games I can watch and which I can't. Would it really be so hard to add a "this game is available" icon to the team names and stats in the listings?

4. Different channels have a different understanding of what "HD" means. I've watched three games so far. The first was on the Mets' network. It was fine (other than #2 above). The second was a Cubs game on WGN, a superstation that apparently thinks HD is the old 3x4 aspect ratio plus gray bars on the sides. That would have been less galling if they hadn't kept flashing a "WGN in HD" graphic, which obviously it wasn't. Then the Angels game took the cake with the new aspect ratio letterboxed and then crammed between gray bars. I shudder to think what Fox Sports Kansas City will come up with.

5. It's great to have baseball back.

In other words, MLB's implementation of 21st century video technology is infected by the same careless arrogance that infests every other aspect of the sport's interaction with its fans. For six months of the year it keeps me mindful of the definition and nature of a "love-hate relationship."

And apparently here we go again.

By the way, for those of you reading this blog for stuff more directly related to the 8sails mission (destroying popular culture as we know it), rest assured that the extended baseball gripes will be few and far between. I mention it here only within the context of new media technology.

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