Readers John Rucynski of Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture, and Ken Smith of Tokyo e-mailed this column and, respectively, wanted to know why the Pacific League Stage 2 playoff games between the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks and Chiba Lotte Marines were not televised, and why NHK BS-1 did not carry live Games 5 and 6 of the National League Championship Series.
Rucynski asked, “Do you have any idea why games of such importance are not even nationally televised? It seemed that making the playoff system was another ploy to finally give more attention to the over-looked Pacific League.
“But how can the league get more attention if these games aren’t even televised? In many ways, I actually now prefer NPB to MLB, but things like this still confuse me. Any answers?”
Yes. First of all, every game of the series was televised. They were just not all on terrestrial channels.
Games 1, 2 and 3 of the Lotte-SoftBank series were carried on cable via ESPN Sports-i. The first game was also on BS-i (a satellite affiliate of TBS), the second on BS-Fuji and the third on BS-Asahi.
Games 4 and 5 also had coverage by ESPN Sports-i, as well as BS-Japan.
Finally a terrestrial channel, TV Tokyo, joined to pick up the action an hour into the games at 7 p.m. I watched all five games in their entirety, from “Play Ball!” at 6 p.m. until the conclusion of the post-game hero interviews, the game highlights and Lotte’s celebration.
Teams tend to give the stations that support them all year the rights to the playoff games. It’s only fair.
ESPN Sports-i paid for permission to telecast Hawks home games all season long. So, SoftBank gave that station preference for the playoffs while allowing the BS channels of standard broadcasters to bounce the signal into your home and limiting coverage on terrestrial TV.
As for the Astros-Cardinals games, they were carried live on SKY PerfecTV which paid Major League Baseball for the rights to do that. I pay SPTV and saw them all.
NHK ran delayed telecasts of those but will carry all games of the World Series live on BS-1.
I am not sure what to tell you here, John and Ken, and everyone else who missed seeing live that great comeback by SoftBank in the ninth inning of Game 3 of the PL Championship Series and Albert Pujols’ dramatic come-from-behind three-run homer with two outs in the ninth in Game 5 between St. Louis and Houston.
This is 2005, the 21st century, the age of cable and satellite and, if you are a baseball fan looking to see the games live, but you don’t have extra-terrestrial reception capability, it is going to get worse.
Probably, within a few years, fewer and fewer games will be telecast on the conventional channels, and more and more will be on cable or satellite.
But, to look at it from the opposite angle, it is going to get better. It has gotten better. A lot better.
Go back about 25 years, and all we got on TV throughout Japan were the Tokyo Giants games, home and road, picked up an hour into the game and usually cut off long before the final out was recorded.
Today, if you have the right systems, you can get all six Japan pro baseball games any day of the season, from the first pitch all the way through the hero interview, even if the game goes 12 innings or five hours.
We can also get two or three MLB games per day during the season, all the playoff games and the World Series, live and in English.
What more do you want?
It is there; seek and ye shall find. It is not very expensive, either. Trust me.
The answer, Rucynski-san and Smith-san, is this: get cable and satellite.
Look into what channels are available on cable systems and satellite services in your area. Look for deals where you get free tuners and dish antennas, and check the monthly subscription prices.
Christmas is coming; think about buying your family whatever it takes to get hooked up to the new wave of TV coverage.
When the NHK fee collector knocks on your door, don’t laugh at the guy, give him an argument or play the “dumb gaijin” game.
Pay the man, give him a smile, thank him for televising MLB playoffs and the World Series (and the NFL Super Bowl and the NBA Finals) live, and ask him to keep the games coming.
In the meantime, you can see all World Series games live this week on NHK-BS 1 (provided you have that), beginning about 9 a.m. JST on Oct. 23, 24, 26, 27 and, if necessary, Oct. 28, 30 and 31. Breakfast and baseball.
The Japan Series schedule includes Game 1 on Oct. 22 carried from Chiba on TV-Asahi and affiliates, Game 2 on Oct. 23 found on the TV-Tokyo network, Game 3 from Koshien on Oct. 25 hosted by Osaka’s TV-Asahi, Game 4 on Oct. 26 on Kansai’s MBS (TBS network) and, if necessary, Game 5 on Oct. 27 on YTV (NTV net), Game 6 back in Chiba on Oct. 29 on TV-Asahi and Game 7 on Oct. 30 on TV-Tokyo again. Yakyu and yakitori.
Finally this week, ABC radio syndicated newsman Paul Harvey reported that Eduardo Perez, former Hanshin Tigers player now with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, on the final day of the regular season injured his knee posing for the team photo. Ouch!
Talk about freak accidents; it reminds me of the time in 1990 when Greg “Boomer” Wells was playing here for the Orix Braves, and his teammate Hiromitsu Kadota hit a home run.
Wells congratulated Kadota with a high-five, and the Japanese player sustained a separated shoulder which knocked him out of action for six weeks.