Give Us Back Our Baseball

Eric PhillipsContributor IJune 30, 2009

21 Oct 2001:  Randy Johnson #51 of the Arizona Diamondbacks tips his cap as he leaves the field as Diamondbacks celebrate their 3-2 victory over the Atlanta Braves in game five to win the National League Champsionship Series at Turner Field in Atlanta, Georgia. DIGITAL IMAGE. Mandatory Credit: Doug Pensinger/ALLSPORT

     I was recently overwhelmed by the desire to watch a perfect game using the highly-touted World Wide Web. The first gem to come to mind was that of the Big Unit. He was marvelous that day, mowing down Brave after Brave at a smidgeon over 40 and leaping elatedly into his catcher's arms.  Ah, it was truly awesome as a baseball fan.  To my dismay, however, the now five-year-old video is still stongly entrenched within the pitfalls of MLB licensing. After a standard Google search and seventeen hope-tapering pages later, the conclusion was made that the Big Unit's no-no has become Big Industry's no-no. And it now seems as if baseball has been taken from its fans.

     The most distressing aspect of this search query was not any abscence of the video, but that several sites, which shall remain nameless, were charging as much as $4 for an outdated standard download of the gem. While licensing by no means constitutes an inherent evil, there must be some statute of limitations regarding this media content. Imagine Randy Johnson, on a Monday night layover in Los Angeles, towering over his laptop in Terminal 9 of LAX. He thinks to himself, "Let's watch the perfect game I threw five years ago to bide some time." His enormous hands envelop the keyboard as he submits "Randy Johnson no hitter" into a small white bar atop his screen. He rises up, narrowly jamming his head into an overhead rental car sign to pull his wallet and credit card, because HE wants to watch a half decade old video of himself.  Now imagine fifty million baseball parishioners doing the same. It's lunacy folks.

     Major League Baseball needs to address the question of media rights. Why is it that offers a four minute video of Justin Verlander's no-no while Johnson's perfect game must be purchased? Is this some form of merit-based system, where a couple walks tossed in between strikeouts warrants the free bin, while perfection is still on the racks? If Chris Carpenter throws a perfect game tomorrow, we'll see it on ESPN, on ESPN2, and all over syndicated news. But five years from now, will the gem still echo from the arches, or will it have a price tag that we as baseball fans must pay? The heartbeat of Major League Baseball is in its fans because we buy tickets, we buy merchandise and cable viewing packages, and because we covet the redolence of leather and pine.

     Randy Johnson's perfect game is now legend, as with Henderson's 939th bag swipe, or Hoffman's 479th door-slammer. But to baseball fans abroad, this display of excellence, and others like it (Try finding a full David Cone video) remain lost amidst corporate greed and licensing policies wrought with borderline extortion. Until the day these wrongdoings are addressed we'll have to relive many of baseball's greatest moments in our imaginations, or pony up the $4 it'll take to show our children one of the greatest games ever thrown. Give us back our baseball, please.