Hey, where's my refund?
Before we commence this tirade about the NFL Network, let's pause to be thankful that on days like this, with world leaders being assassinated and tigers mauling people at the zoo (the zoo across town from where I'm staying for the Emerald Bowl), we can go on tirades about safe, relatively trivial subjects like the NFL Network.
Now ... do we DirecTV customers get refunds for Saturday's Patriots-Giants game?
That didn't cross my mind until this morning, but it's a worthwhile question. Believe me, I didn't get DirecTV because I enjoy watching a screen that's completely blank except for the notation "Searching for signal ...'' whenever a storm blows through, which has happened way too often in the past year. (Note to Verizon Fios: what's the deal with not having NBA League Pass? You're losing a customer on that one.) I didn't necessarily get it for the NFL Network, either, but that was a nice perk.
I could look at it as the NFL's version of the free Showtime weekends, planned specifically to attract possible subscribers, and the NFL is trying to spin it in much that way. However, there are plenty of other movie channels I could choose to pay for. There is only one place you can get that slate of NFL games every season. You make the sacrifice, whatever sacrifice it might be, to get the network, and then they give it away for free at the last second, giving away the exclusivity we grudgingly pay for, whether it's financially in paying for a higher sports tier, or getting a satellite that can be unreliable, and that doesn't have On Demand, which killed any chance for me to catch up on last season's The Wire.
Not that everybody shouldn't have regular access to the games. The NFL shouldn't be forcing its fans to make those kinds of choices. It was a stupid, arrogant plan to begin with, albeit perfectly suited to what's still the most arrogant sports league around (amazing with the continued existence of Major League Baseball). If the NFL wants to make people jump through hoops for its programming the rest of the year, fine. If you're that much of a fanatic that you'll pay a premium for combine coverage and live minicamps and, you know, cheerleading competitions, then you ought to be able to. NBA fans do it, with both NBA TV and League Pass. They know what they're getting, they know what they're paying for, they've made a conscious choice.
But this whole idea of withholding a product that was smartly and fairly distributed for the last several decades - yes, including to ESPN, which has been on basic cable forever and has blocked out a far, far smaller percentage of the audience - and try to flip the blame onto the cable companies and tell the fans to leave them alone and go complain to Comcast or whoever? That's so brazen, so obnoxious, so greedy, that the NFL deserves to pay mightily and for a long time for trying it.
That includes not only caving in and giving the game away to two major networks (wonder why Fox was left out - possibly because Fox and DirecTV are both owned by the same company) but also refunding whatever extra subscribers to all the systems carrying the game had to pay for the network strictly to see the restricted games.
I got holiday bills to pay. I expect my refund check ASAP.