Long-time Chicago Cubs fan and Evanston resident James Genden says he is satisfied by the way City Council has made the playoff games accessible to residents. He does not have the same praise for the Chicago Cubs owners who, he says, are on a path keeping the televised games from fans.

“Back in August I contacted the Evanston City Council to see if they could provide a place where Evanstonians without cable TV access could watch the Cubs in the playoffs.  I had proposed this last year and they arranged for viewing at the Levy Center.  This year, the Council agreed with my suggestion that the games should be shown at all of the community centers.

Major League Baseball has put all of the post-season games (but not, I believe, the World Series) on cable, even though a growing percentage of households do not have cable.” Many have limited or no cable access; still others are “cutting the cord.”

Most of the viewing in Evanston community centers has been successful, except for Game Two, said Parks, Recreation and Community Service Director Lawrence Hemingway. “A few dozen” people showed up to watch the games at the Levy, Chandler-Newberger, Fleetwood-Jourdain, Gibbs Morrison and Robert Crown community centers. He said the City “will continue to broadcast the games at the Levy Center, Chandler-Newberger and Robert Crown.” 

Mr. Genden said he sees the immediate as well as the long-term pictures in the opening of the community centers. “The City trying to help its citizens and taking immediate and effective action,” he said, but that brings out the problems of those who are unable to watch the games at home or in a bar. In the longer term, he said, the situation “underscores the extent to which major league sports are cutting out large swaths of their fans in their greedy eagerness to monetize every possible aspect of fandom.  It is particularly significant in the context of the Cubs’ long-term plans to deny TV access to all games to fans who do not have cable and subscribe to a plan that includes the proprietary Cubs channel they hope to introduce by 2020,” he said.

A nearly life-long Cubs fan, Mr. Genden attended his first game at age 6, and, as a high-schooler in 1964 living on Waveland Avenue, he could pay 75¢ for a seat in the bleachers and $5.85 for a set in the grandstand.

Now, without cable – as are many baseball fans – Mr. Genden says he is grateful to the City but hopes the City Manager and the City Council will protest this increasingly limited television access to playoff games. “It is scandalous that Major League Baseball, which even has a legal immunity from anti-trust lawsuits, has chosen to put post-season games (but apparently not this year’s World Series) on cable where up to 20% of fans cannot see the games, and then tops this by putting many of the games on a channel where many people who do subscribe to cable still cannot see the games.  

When even a major city like Evanston cannot provide TV access for the games to its citizens, there is something deeply wrong,” he said, adding, “This is worthy of a City Council resolution of condemnation, which certainly would get some headlines.”