Last week Time Warner finally agreed to carry the NFL Network, ending one of those strange cable TV disputes that always spring up and are always confusing, though they always involve obscene amounts of money. As a loyal Time Warner customer — one of their main offices is a 7-iron away from our apartment — I looked forward to enjoying it for the first time on Sunday. The cable company also now offers the famed RedZone package, which I have read about for a few years now from people who talk about it with the giddiness usually reserved for those who see a new version of the iPhone for the first time. Since I receive some type of tiered sports package — the one they put ESPN Classic on about a year ago, so I now pay four bucks a month for the privilege of watching the Russo and Steele car auctions — I would also get the RedZone.
So Sunday shaped up to be an exciting day.
The RedZone channel promised to bring me all the action from inside the 20-yard line and all the touchdowns from all the games. And what a first day to welcome the new channels. Insane games up and down whatever qualifies as a dial these days. Chiefs stunning the Saints, the Vikings doing the same to the Niners; the Lions tying the game against the Titans on a Hail Mary, only to lose it on a what-the-hell play; the Raiders and Jaguars winning in the final seconds.
They all sounded exciting. Didn’t see any of it live. I only saw highlights on the postgame shows. All day a screen telling me NFL Network and RedZone were not available greeted me each time I turned to channel 176 or 177. A very helpful customer service woman named Jackie (unsure of exact spelling; our relationship didn’t last long enough for me to get it) told me, “Yes, you now get the NFL Network. And you’re right, it is not working.” She let out a heavy sigh, the kind you give after you’ve recited the same line for the 125th straight time. She apologized for sounding robotic. Unlike most of the callers Jackie likely dealt with — who I imagine called her six beers into their day, decked out in a Mark Gastineau throwback jersey stained with three types of ketchup and two brands of mayo — I wasn’t upset. I’ve lived 37 years and three months without the channels, one more day or four more hours without it was not a big deal. I simply wanted to make sure I hadn’t screwed up somehow, always a possibility when new technology enters the Fury household. Jackie insisted they were working on it and both channels would appear by the end of the day.
Both channels finally popped up, sometime after 7 p.m. So while I can now watch the NFL Network’s highlight show, I didn’t get the opportunity to enjoy the RedZone coverage. Maybe next week.
With the addition of the NFL Network, I now have access to all of the official sports channels, from NBA TV to the MLB Network. Some thoughts on the others:
* NBA TV. Shows numerous live games during the season. Shows the WNBA during the NBA’s off-season. Offers up some original programming, like the superb Dream Team documentary. Occasionally breaks out NBA Hardwood Classics, although far too often it’s a game involving Michael Jordan’s Bulls. Want to see the Flu Game or Game 6 of the 1998 Finals? Wait a few days and they’ll appear. At one time I was convinced NBA TV’s Classics showed many more Celtics victories than Lakers triumphs from the 1980s but that was during my brief flirtation with various conspiracy theories. One of the network’s newer shows is an offshoot of VH1’s I Love the ’80s shows. But instead of having comedians you’ve never heard of riff on Silver Spoons and parachute pants, you get comedians you’ve never heard of riffing on Spud Webb and Moses Malone’s “fo, fo, fo.” It’s as unwatchable as it sounds.
* The Golf Channel. Love Feherty’s show. Enjoy the early-round coverage and the replays on Sunday nights of the day’s broadcast on CBS or NBC. I could do without Brandel Chamblee talking about Tiger Woods as if his swing is as bad as mine. They also create some cool original programming and broadcast great highlight shows of previous majors whenever the current one rolls around.
And here’s where I put a plea in for someone to create a network that shows nothing but classic events. It’d be the classic games on MLB Network and the Hardwood Classics and the great NFL games and memorable golf tournaments. Twenty-four hours a day. It’s what ESPN Classic could be but never will be.
* MLB Network. I can turn this on at anytime of the day and settle in for awhile. The highlights are great and during the offseason they show great old games and original shows. The tiny field the studio guys use is somewhat laughable but gets the job done, even though it looks like something that would appear during a baseball episode of a syndicated sitcom.
* Tennis channel. It’s up in the 400s so I always forget about it, but if you love tournaments from small European countries, it seems like a great network.
The NFL Network, and the RedZone? Glad to have them. They should live up to expectations. If not, it’s a second date with Jackie.