Her broadcast was solid — more confident than her March outing — and my biggest complaint was that at times, Spillborghs and Huson didn’t give her space to do enough analysis of the game, which she’s shown she’s more than capable of doing. I suspect this was the result of their trying to help her feel comfortable rather than doubting her knowledge, and this became less problematic as the broadcast progressed.
Then there was the big moment everyone was waiting for. The bottom of the first inning, DJ LeMahieu is on third, Nolan Arenado steps to the plate, and he hits a home run. What would Jenny Cavnar’s home run call be?
“Fire up the fountains! She’s gone!”
Spilborghs and Huson celebrated with her, and #RockiesTwitter caught fire with approval. (“Can we get t-shirts with that on it?”) What a great and historic night to be watching baseball! I get chills even typing this description. I love this sport!
Here’s how I experienced the big moment from my house in northern Wyoming:
Yes, I experienced Fire up the Fountains! through Jake Shapiro’s Twitter. My cable company, Charter-Spectrum, aired a Rod Hundley documentary before the Jazz game, and MLB.tv had the game blacked out because my region theoretically had coverage. That means that I, a female fan, didn’t get to watch a female announcer, Jenny Cavnar, make history in real time, even though I pay for cable television and MLB.tv.
I’ll be honest: I’m a bit cranky about it.
I couldn’t even watch on my cable company’s app because they don’t have an agreement with AT&T SportsNet. In the top of the 5th inning, Spilly pointed out that he had friends with daughters watching who never watch baseball because Cavnar was calling the game. I’m thankful all of those daughters got to see in real time what I missed because these moments matter to girls as they set their aspirations.
The problems with MLB blackouts have been well documented. (Alexandra DeSanctis provides a nice overview here.) MLB.tv will let me watch an archived version of the game 90 minutes after its conclusion, which would have had me starting around midnight. Given that I have a job, this isn’t really workable.
So, MLB and MLB.TV, I’m talking to you.
First, I understand that you need to turn a profit, and blackouts are money-makers. I’m a believer that information isn’t free. So I paid for access on two platforms, but I still couldn’t watch the game. That’s a problem.
Second, we all keep hearing about baseball’s declining audience and Rob Manfred’s obsession with pace-of-play issues. (I happen to agree with him and have written about it here.) But if you want to draw in new fans and cultivate those you already have, access is key. I’m not the only fan who has limited access through no fault of my own.
Third, as a media consumer, portability is key — wherever I am, I want access to media I have paid for. That means if I want to watch the Rockies on my iPad from my office, I should be able to do it — except I can’t because of blackout restrictions, again, for services I have paid for. So last night, I ended up listening to the game on KOA radio, which I’ve got nothing but respect for, but that wasn’t where history was being made. Moreover, this is the old-school technology I use when I’m farming in a remote field where I don’t have internet access, not when I’m in my extremely wired house.
You may answer by saying that the fact that I’m watching the game the morning after fulfills your end of the deal. But I most enjoy watching the Rockies with #RockiesTwitter, which is a wonderful and wild place. If you’re not watching the game at the same time as everyone else, that social experience is lost — and if you’re trying to engage fans, especially younger fans, that kind of engagement is key.
And there’s a bit of Final Countdown anxiety that goes with delayed watching. See, as much as I enjoy “Fire up the fountains!” and morning-after listening to Jenny, Spilly, and Jeff having fun in the booth, I know that the seventh inning is coming, and it’s going to be bad, all 45 minutes of it, and there’s nothing I can do. It takes the fun out of the broadcast.
Cavnar’s taking the lead in the booth last night with co-analysts Ryan Spilborghs and Jeff Huson received considerable (and well deserved) media attention (see here, here, and here) given that she was the first woman to do the MLB play by play in a regular season game since Gayle Gardner first did it in 1993. Cavnar’s skills came as no surprise to Rockies fans who watched her do her first play-by-play game in spring training when the Rockies played the Reds. (I wrote about that broadcast here, and I recommend former Purple Row writer Drew Creasman's article on her radio debut.) I just wish I could have experienced it along with everyone else.
MLB and MLB.tv, you need to do better and stop depriving fans of experiencing history as it’s being made.
Jenny Cavnar, you are fantastic. We have waited too long for you to talk about A League of Their Own. Fire up the fountains! And may we hear you calling more games soon.