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June 3, 2004

Breaking Balls

[Team Name Here]

by Derek Zumsteg

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Fox Sports Net lies to you. I'm sure you're all shocked, since it's right next to Fox News Channel in the taxonomy of Rupert Murdoch's vast empire, a collection of businesses renowned for raising the level of intellectual discourse across the country.

This is about their television ads. If you don't know what I'm talking about, let me explain:

  • Ad #1: Burglars break into a house and start looting like it was Los Angeles on April 29, 1992, until they come upon a collection of local sports team memorabilia. They quickly retreat, carefully replacing everything, and leave an apologetic note with "Go [team name here]!" at the bottom.

  • Ad #2: Working guy declines to go catch a [team name here] game and endures a series of horrible industrial accidents. I'm honestly not sure if this is supposed to convey fear (God, who exists, is a [team name here] fan. And he isn't forgiving at all but is really vengeful and particular about persecuting individual fans who chose to provide for their families rather than watch a sporting event), or funny (It's funny that God, who exists, is....You get where I'm going with that).

  • Ad #3: This series of ads features brothers joined at the finger. They're both hometown fans, but one becomes a bandwagon fan for some other team, depending on the market. This causes all kinds of trouble for the conjoined brothers, as you might imagine.

  • Ad 4: The requisite musical impressionistic number. As generic rock music plays ("You are/you are/in our house"), people paint themselves with team colors, shave their head to reveal a handy team logo above their ear, cheer from the backs of pickups, and so on.

The kick-in-the-fun-bubble is that each of these ads end with "Fox Sports Net, where [team or region name here] fans come first." Every team may come first, but only if it's a 30-way tie. Of course, then no one really came in first, if we're going to be honest about it. And to be fair, it's not a 30-way tie, since some teams have their own networks and lovingly tend their fan bases under high-intensity grow lights.

FSN went out of their way to recycle the maximum amount of content and feed it to fans around the country. A flashlight flickers over Angels stuff. Want to use it in another market? Just swap it out with a different team's souvenirs. A note is taped to the door, taken down, and another take is shot with a different team. Now that I write this, I wonder how much of it's digitally edited; people are pretty slick with those computers these days.

Fox Sports Network, which controls more television rights of major league teams than anyone else, constructs ad campaigns to promote their own product where they deceive their audience and lie about their priorities. What kind of a conversation started these things, years ago?

"We've got a lot of unsold ad inventory on our Fox regional networks."

"We should promote our programming, like the Worst Freaking Sports Show Ever."

"Okay, we're on that. We've still have time left over."

"Let's promote the regional networks. There's $30 in the bank, go make a spot."

"For which one?"

(sigh) "All of them, dummy. Just put something flashy together on Avid, lots of bats swinging and flashing glove, and then edit one of their players into it toward the end. Say we love their team."

"But we don't, boss. We're a gigantic soulless corporation incapable of compassion or love."

"Just go do it, they'll eat it up."

I guess it worked.

Not to make too much of this, but this is exactly the kind of easily tolerated lying that drives me insane. Fox Sports Net doesn't care about me, or "Northwest fans" as they claim to in my market. And what's the point of this dishonesty? To create awareness of Fox Sports Net? They carry all the games--it's not like I can go buy Generic Local Sports Network-brand coverage instead.

Is the point to feel good about Fox Sports Net? Is anyone ever likely to make a choice about watching or not watching their regional Fox channel based on their emotional connection to the Fox Sports Net brand? In disputes with carriers, will fans call up their cable company and demand to see their baseball games? Or will they complain that they're missing their daily "You've Got To See This" rerun with that one BMX accident featuring the guy and the railing?

It must have occurred to someone at some point that there are people like me who look through the day's games, looking for good matchups to watch, regardless of region, hoping to catch something like Randy Johnson's perfect game. These people would see these ads on all the different broadcasts, and get mad--and Fox figured that no one would care.

In that way: Writing off the hardest of hard-core fans and lying to achieve nebulous, ill-conceived goals, I have to say that Major League Baseball might have found a particularly well-matched broadcast partner.

We've long complained about baseball's network deals--too few games as well as gimmicky post-season coverage that pushes the game back in favor of anything else. But regional sports networks have done great things for getting games on the air, and FSN has probably done more to make regular baseball available than any other company. I guess asking for sincerity is hoping for too much, and I should be grateful for what we have.

And the ad with the burglar comes on again.

Related Content:  FOX

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<< Previous Article
Premium Article The Tribe's Quest for ... (06/03)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Breaking Balls: The Mo... (06/02)
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Premium Article Breaking Balls: The Ti... (06/08)
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Premium Article Under The Knife: Conte... (06/03)

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