Well, that went smoothly.
Of all the things that could have gone wrong in an oft-criticized opener in Japan, it’s hard to imagine anything worse than TV coverage going kaput for the folks back home. Not only did DirecTV’s ESPN2 and NESN feeds come over blank, in certain sections of Massachusetts, Comcast customers got the early morning denial as well. Nobody can definitively explain if the two issues are related.
Similar situations arose across New England – across the country – this morning, when thousands of Red Sox and A’s fans woke up at the crack of dawn or the middle of the night to catch Opening Day in Japan, only to be greeted by a darkness that could have ideally still been from the back of their eyelids.
No game. Only disconnect.
This is Major League Baseball Opening Day in Japan. A monumental nightmare for many stateside.
According to a Comcast spokesperson, an accident in the North Attleborough area caused issues for Comcast customers in southeastern Massachusetts. No NESN. No ESPN2. No HGTV, which is how I found out our home was affected when I received an early morning panic call from my wife, who evidently needed a strong Suzanne Whang fix in lieu of watching ongoing rebuilding project Daisuke Matsuzaka before work.
DirecTV customers have had a decidedly more difficult time getting to the root of their problem, one user finally being told it was an issue with the receiver software, causing widespread outages. When I finally reached a DirecTV customer service rep at 9:40 this morning, I was told a transponder went out with no further information available.
DirecTV finally released the following statement this afternoon: "We experienced some temporary technical difficulties early this morning that resulted in some channels not being available to customers. The majority of our channels were not affected and we have since corrected the problem. In the case of the Red Sox season opener, we were able to bring the NESN channel back up at the top of the seventh inning. ESPN2 came back on later, after the game was over. We deeply apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused our customers - and particularly Red Sox Fans. ESPN2 is planning to carry a repeat of the game at 2 p.m."
If you were working in high definition on DirecTV, you were fine, and caught every pitch. Perhaps today’s game was brought to you by Best Buy, urging you to upgrade.
But standard definition was a different story, and a literal rude awakening for those who adjusted their sleeping schedule in order to catch the game. Here at the Globe, where I’m sure you envision an ESPN Zone atmosphere in the sports department, complete with cheerleaders, pretzel vendors, and HD flat screens as far as the eye can see, it was the same thing. Blank TVs sat at our work stations, the bouncing DirecTV icon a taunting reminder of what was unavailable.
Seventeen percent and we can’t even watch a single pitch?
The frustration on the part of baseball fans is understandable. They were promised morning baseball, breakfast with the Sox. Instead, all that remains are soggy eggs, left on the counter an hour too long while trying to get answers on the phone all morning.
I’m sure these are the scenes Bud Selig and Larry Lucchino imagined back home when they concocted this silly trip:
A couple dozen bleary-eyed Red Sox fans were at Stockhouse Restaurant on Main Street this morning to catch the Red Sox season-opener at 6:05a. Instead of witnessing Daisuke Matsuzaka being battered, though, fans at the Westbrook restaurant were treated to the spectacle of the DIRECTV logo bounding around the screen ceaselessly, while the Stockhouse owner scrambled to secure the feed from Japan. When I left at around 7am, the crowd had melted away, and the game still wasn't on.
At least the breakfast was decent.
I’m visiting my in-laws on Cape Hatteras, North Carolina and I wake up at 5:30 to watch the game. I have the coffee all ready to go, my bowl of Cheerios in front of me, and nobody trying to snag the big leather recliner. I fire up the TV, flip through all the 800 other ESPNs, and get to ESPN2…where there is no reception. Not snow, not a blurry screen, not a fuzzy picture…nothing. After 25 minutes I get through to the nice folks at DTV and…they’re aware of the problem, and if it makes me feel any better, it’s happening everywhere in the country, but if I call back in an HOUR OR TWO they might have some more information.
I thought nothing could be worse than Cablevision. This is worse than Cablevision.
Oh, and, MLB Audio is “currently performing maintenance operations,” MLBTV is telling me that the Outer Banks of NC is apparently included in their blackout zone, and Dice-K is trying to remind everyone in Japan that he’s capable of throwing 180 pitches…without making it out of the sixth inning. Sigh.
-- Seth Mnookin
Update, 7:40am: Since I can't get them on the phone (despite my scintillating Comcast phone plan), i've been trying to compose a letter to the good folks at Comcast, to explain just how much they've &@#ked up Opening Day for me. At least I'm at home; what if I'd gotten up at 3:30 to drive to some bar to watch it on the big screen with fellow Sox fans? I'm imagining some if not all Boston bars are experiencing the same problem. On the upside, to avoid a riot, the bars might let the beer run cheaper, and when college chicks start hitting the sauce before 7:00am, the day really can't get much better.
At 9:03 this morning, DirecTV’s standard definition NESN feed finally returned to the airwaves in the bottom of the ninth, having already missed Brandon Moss’s game-tying home run in the top of the inning. As of 8 this morning, Comcast did not yet have a timetable for the issues that plagued it.
For those who decided to stay away and live in a bubble the remainder of the day, NESN will re-air the contest today at 2:30 and 11 p.m. But that’s little solace for those who awoke at odd hours to watch today’s game, only to be greeted by a sad darkness.
But hey, they do it all again tomorrow. Six a.m. Mulligan time.
You bring the coffee cake muffins and transistor radio. I’ll bring the Lake and Lodge coffee beans and customer service numbers. What could go wrong?