July 25, 2011
Although I write this mainly as my own experience as a fan of the Toronto Blue Jays living in Utah, I would like to note that this situation can fix the hole caused in any out-of-market fan scenario. This also can work for any sport, not just baseball and definitely for the 29 other teams in the Great American game.
I bet the last thought of any man, woman or child as they close the door on their childhood home — or their latest residence for that matter — is, “wow, I’m no longer in my favorite team’s market zone anymore.”
I know my final thoughts when I made the cross-country trip from the fickle-weathered, humid western New York town of Henrietta to the barren desert that is Southern Utah involved childhood memories, family and friends. It wasn’t closing a chapter in my life, it felt more like the ending of a book and Utah was the lucrative contract sequel.
But when I found myself residing 2,000 miles away a home, I first fell into a state of shock. I had never spent more than two weeks abroad — or at least it felt abroad — from my home. But there I was, sitting on a couch, flipping through channels to see what was on TV as the sun set across the rocky sky.
Believe it or not, but one of the first cultural shocks I found was on the TV. I didn’t know the channels, the stations and even the commercials were so foreign to me. Who the hell is Les Olson? I thought.
Then I got to Fox Sports Net Rocky Mountain. The game involved a heated affair between the Rockies and Diamondbacks. Normally I’d kill to actually see two teams I never got to see on TV, but I was more shell-shocked.
In New York, western and upstate, you’re treated to the Mets and Yankees if you have cable. Sure I hated both teams, but if I had nothing else to do, at least I could look forward to watching Michael Kay and Ken Singleton call the games on the YES Network.
I’d mark 19 days on my calendar. Those days were the 19 times my favorite Toronto Blue Jays faced New York. Come to think about it, moving to Utah made me a second-hand out-of-town mess.
Henrietta is based on the NYS Thru-Way. The interstate was practically in my backyard. One trip west on that road, mixed with the horrendous QEW, could connect me to the Rogers Centre. It took about three hours, but that’s much shorter than the trip to New York City.
Now it was a four-hour plane ride away, but that’s when I discovered a new path; a guideline for the out-of-town fan. In a world closer together, the Internet makes reaching your hometown team possible from anywhere.
My Survival Tips:
1. Get MLB.tv
Although I enjoyed watching Cargo, Tulo and my personal favorite “Mr. Late Night” Seth Smith, I decided to invest in MLB.tv. At a price of about $110, I could feel like I lived in Toronto or somewhere in the Blue Jays market at least.
If you go out and get the total package, you get live games available anywhere on your desktop, laptop or even on your smart phone. You can also DVR every game you miss. On top of that, you can get exclusive radio broadcast streaming of each game online or on your phone.
Christian Ross, an ex-coworker of mine and fellow out-of-market fan, agrees with me when I say that perk is supreme. The guys on TV are often boring and obnoxious; guys calling play-by-play on the radio are often more knowledgeable, interesting, detailed, funny, witty and just more pleasant to listen to.
In a 162-game season, I recommend this because it’s less than $1 a day to get every game in baseball and on any station. Not only can you get your out-of-market team, but you can watch anybody — I tend to take advantage of this and watch pitchers like Halladay or Verlander when I can. (This year I’ve watched a lot of the Pirates games as they fight on for playoff berth.)
Another tip, let’s call this “1-A” is to mute the video of the game and turn on the radio. They’re usually in sync, but with the visuals of the TV and the audio of the radio, it’s probably the next best thing after actually being in the crowd.
2. Read your team’s local paper online.
This one is a key especially for the die-hard fans. It’s helpful for me, as I want to jump into this career, but it’s also helpful in learning all the details within the club.
I ran into a Blue Jays scout over the summer at a T-Bird baseball game and we joked about how some of the stupidest details and trivia probably could get you money or free beers at a bar. Our example, Jays infielder John McDonald, who was traded to Detroit for a player to be named later; he was later traded back to Toronto as that player, thus completing the deal. Essentially, he was dealt for himself.
If that gets you a free beer this weekend, you can thank me. But, more importantly for a die-hard fan is knowing what the club is doing. That way you look like a man by knowing the team you cheer for instead of a low-life bandwagoner.
Besides nobody reads anymore, so give your reading skills a boost. It also can entertain you with great stories of your favorite team and its players.
3. Listen to sports radio livestreams.
If radio is more of your thing, almost every station worldwide streams their airwaves over the Internet for free. I found myself a frequent caller on Toronto’s Fan 590. Eventually some hosts just dubbed me as “Carter from Utah” or “The American Jays Fan.”
I don’t know what it is, but a lot of sports fans like to argue about sports. I’m not only guilty, but innocent of not being guilty on this charge. Women argue clothes; men argue sports. There’s various exceptions of this, but it’s a generally accepted stereotype.
However, I also find interviews with athletes interesting. I know Ricky Romero pitches well, but what goes on in his head when he does? That’s a question that can be quickly answered. I find these to be fascinating actually and eventually you learn more of the person behind the uniform.
Most of my favorite athletes are those with more likable personalities — i.e. Ken Griffey, Jr. and Cal Ripken, Jr. You can quickly learn a person’s personality in an interview.
4. Follow your favorite athletes on Twitter.
Ten years ago, you were a freak and a stalker if you knew as much as you can now know of any baseball player. Now you’re just one tweet away from knowing more about your favorite athlete. Hell, most even interact with the fans which makes for an even more enjoyable time.
But what I like the most about it is you get to really see the comradery among teammates. Nobody likes a team that hates each other.
An added boost is it's easy to pass breaking news across Twitter. Instead of writing a 300-word story about an injury, trade, death, suspension or whatnot, you can break the news through 140 characters. Thank you technology!
Plus you can get that information anyway, as I like to read tweets from my phone.It's a valuable tool come trade deadline for the most hardcore of fans, like me.
So if you find yourself in a "woe is me" scenario as your favorite team is out-of-market from your television, here are a few steps to get back in touch. Especially for the sports nerds like me.