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The Start of the 2020 White Sox Season Was Blacked Out by More Than Just Weather

Why we cannot watch White Sox Cactus League games is potentially a colossal failure.

Photo: Associated Press

Yesterday should’ve been a joyous day for us as Sox fans. After the Cactus League opener was cancelled due to rain in Arizona on Saturday, Sunday signified the official beginning of baseball season for us. There was only one problem: we couldn’t watch it. Yes, that’s right, five months into a new TV deal with NBC Sports Chicago, we are unable to watch our baseball team on it’s exclusive TV home.

The reaction on Twitter was about as strong as you’d expect from this fanbase, one which isn’t shy about letting people know when we’re pissed off at the team. The very fact that every Sox game aside from the Field of Dreams Game will be televised on NBC Sports Chicago, yet we get to watch a whopping six Spring Training games is mind-boggling to me. This team was active this winter and has improved, yet we get to see it six times before the season opens on March 26th at 35th and Shields. On what planet does this make any sense? It surely isn’t this one.

We are in a unique time in the Chicago baseball landscape. The city’s other tenant is involved in a carriage-fee dispute with the largest cable provider in the market. Did I mention that very same cable provider is the parent company of the network that signed the exclusive deal to air White Sox broadcasts beginning this season?

So only one baseball team will have its games on NBC Sports Chicago this year and the Sox, the network, or both decided it wasn’t worth broadcasting more than six Cactus League games going into a season where fans are actually excited about the team. Who are the boobs making these decisions here?

Given all the negative publicity that has surrounded the city’s other team in the last year, you would think the organization and network would look to capitalize on this opportunity to, you know, grow the brand! I did in fact major in marketing at an illustrious Midwest university and let me tell you, this is some next level idiocy here. I would love for someone to explain to me how this is a good brand strategy in any way!

It’s not as if broadcasting White Sox Cactus League games would be detrimental to the network’s programming. In the event that the Blackhawks, as was the case on Sunday, or Bulls have a regular season game scheduled during a Sox Cactus League game, they could always move the Sox to NBC Sports Chicago Plus. Yes, this network has two channels on which it can broadcast the games. Oh no, that would require them possibly bumping the Chicago G League Basketball team and all six of it’s viewers to another channel in place of a team that it just entered into an exclusive agreement for almost $1 million per game for the next five years.

Now, let’s think about the weekday games during the Cactus League schedule. We couldn’t expect the network to not replay encore episodes of Beer Money from years past. Now listen, as a former Beer Money champion (#HumbleBrag), I love seeing these episodes at 2:00 a.m. if I can’t sleep. To air this content or Wisconsin bass fishing in place of Major League baseball when you have the exclusive broadcast rights for a team is just asinine.

Is it possible that the network just doesn’t want to incur the expenses of producing the Cactus League games? I suppose that could be the case, but it would be an odd juxtaposition given the network’s official Twitter account has gone out of its way to hype up the 2020 White Sox season. If low ratings in recent seasons are the driving factor behind this decision, then surely that would change given the genuine level of excitement that is currently surrounding this team. Again, much of that excitement has been nurtured by the very network’s own social media content.

The very fact that we as Sox fans have actual reason to be excited about this team heading into the season is something, given what we’ve endured in the last decade. In a lot of ways this fan-base is a powder keg waiting to explode. We’ve simply needed a reason and we may have that this season. Yet, we are being prevented from consuming the very product and it makes no sense.

How this was not a discussion point during the negotiations for the new deal with NBC Sports Chicago defies logic. If it was the team, network, or worse both decided it wasn’t worth broadcasting more games, then this is a colossal failure. The organization put us through three years of rebuilding hell, told us that 2020 was the opening of the window which just so happened to coincide with a new exclusive TV deal, yet we don’t get to watch the players we have been sold as the next core.

Now, I understand a lot of people won’t watch Cactus League games on a day-to-day basis and the results are largely meaningless, but there are still plenty of us who would consume the product. We should be given the ability to do that. This team and its exclusive broadcast partner have sold the fans short. The excitement for the start of games is palpable within the fan-base and you would think the parties involved would want to capitalize on that excitement. I guess they’re content with giving the people what they want: countless encore presentations of my stellar vocals from my Beer Money championship performance. That is surely to drive ratings.


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Former scrub JUCO pitcher

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Bret
Bret
2 years ago

I just realized last night after looking it up on MLB.com that my favorite team is only airing 10-11 Spring training games. Two years ago I could watch like 80-90% of them. Starting last year they cut that number back to about 50% and this year it’s down to 12 total games including yesterday’s rainout. My team is the Astros and I know a lot of ppl hate them but, we are still a top team and I want to watch the games. I pay for the channel root sports SW and every other cable channel available, including mlb season pass on direct tv that let’s me watch every single game of every single team. They just have decided their is no money value in airing all or most of the games b/c otherwise it makes no sense. Their should at least be a way to watch them on the internet via streaming if your willing to pay. But I looked it up and it’s not available. I feel your pain and I’m perplexed by both our teams situations.

Dre Herron
Dre Herron
2 years ago

You realize that they only air 6 spring training games a year regardless right? They’ve done that every year for as long as I can remember. So your little “rant” was pointless.

Mike
Mike
2 years ago

I subscribed to mlb.tv earlier than I usually do, just so I could catch some Sox ST games. Logged on yesterday and all that was available was a radio broadcast (no thanks). Could you guess which game was televised? The Cubs…

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