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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, April 18, 2010

Blackouts in Hawaii black eye for MLB

By Ferd Lewis

Baseball fans in Hawai'i, we are wanted.

Right up and down the West Coast. The San Francisco Giants want us. The Oakland Athletics, too. Not to mention the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

All have claimed us and designated these islands as part of their "home markets" for broadcast purposes. Few areas in the country are apparently so coveted.

But before feeling too good about it, recognize the situation for what it is, a form of second-class status that has done us no favors and diminished us in a way that defies geography and snickers at common sense.

Because with being part of the designated "home markets" for those teams comes the head-scratching restriction that home games not sold out 48 hours are blacked out on many cable outlets and channels here, including MLB Extra Innings and MLB.com.

"Unfortunately, games involving Giants, A's Dodgers and Angels remain on the black-out list," Lonnie Shupp, director of program services for Oceanic Time Warner Cable, wrote in an e-mail Friday in response to questions.

Never mind that unlike someone living smack dab in the middle of San Francisco or Los Angeles, when you reside here there is no hopping into a car or jumping on a bus to get to a Giants, Dodgers, A's or Angels game. We know, we've tried and it gets wet.

You'd think that being separated by 2,500 miles of Pacific Ocean might qualify for some sort of an exemption. But that would be to assume logic plays some part in all this. And, after two years of checking, be assured it plays very little. This would not have happened if Bud Selig, the fans' commissioner, were still alive.

Apparently only Seattle passed geography 101 because, Oceanic said, the Mariners a while ago lifted their blackout "as a test" and have, so far, not reinstated it.

Or, perhaps like somebody involved with the Giants some years ago there was what the San Francisco Chronicle termed an "in-house error" made and, unlike the Giants, not caught. Presumably the offending Giants' employee was sent to the deep minors.

A number of Hawai'i residents have repeatedly tried to make their case to the powers that be MLB, the clubs, their rights holders, cable networks. In the process they have run into more walls than Ken Griffey Jr.; seen more fingers pointed and less action than a session of Congress.

And here we are wading into another season and still no relief in sight. "We have pleaded our case for years to MLB to no avail," Shupp wrote. "Sorry, it is difficult to understand and very frustrating."

In the meantime, baseball fans, be wary of MLB doing us any more favors.