When the Boston Red Sox opened the 2021 season Friday afternoon, I tuned in old school. Old school with a modern technological twist, anyway.

I listened. You know what? It was fantastic.

Thanks to a drawn out staring contest between YouTube TV, the streaming live television service, and NESN, the home of the Red Sox television broadcast, I currently have no television option for Red Sox games. YouTube TV dropped NESN last Halloween, and it appears the sticking point between the two is cost. YouTube TV decided NESN’s per subscriber fee is too high, and NESN isn’t willing to lower that fee to a point YouTube TV finds acceptable. One would think with all the money at stake, a compromise could be reached, but here we are.

There are viewing options. Fubo, another live television streaming service, offers NESN. Fubo does not include WMTW, the Portland station that broadcasts Jeopardy, another favorite in this house. During a free trial of Fubo in January, I did not care for user interface. It felt clunkier than phrases like user interface.

A couple weeks ago, I spent an hour and 15 minutes on the phone with a very patient Spectrum cable representative, trying to figure out a way to get a package that would include NESN and cost roughly the same as I pay now for live television and internet service. It could not be done. It wasn’t for lack of effort.

When I was a kid in Vermont, NESN was in its infancy and did not broadcast every Red Sox game. Local affiliates did not pick up every broadcast of TV 38, the Red Sox’s other television partner. So radio was often the only choice. When I got to college at the University of Maine, there was no cable option in the dorms, so radio again became the gateway to Sox games.


This is not a complaint. While I’d love to see YouTube TV and NESN come to their senses and cut a deal, my thirst for Red Sox coverage does not leave me parched. As my forefathers before me did, I shall listen to games. I shall listen to the game and let the pictures form in my mind. I shall envision every Xander Bogaerts hit, every Rafael Devers error, and every piece of succulent produce described by play-by-play man Joe Castiglione in those Shaw’s ads peppered throughout the game.

It’s possible to tune in to a radio broadcast without actually turning on a radio. Satellite radio service SiriusXM has apps that allow subscribers to listen on their phone, television or laptop. Friday afternoon, after first checking to see if the broadcast on MLB Network was blacked out (it was, as I suspected), I closed YouTube TV and opened the SiriusXM app on my television.

Seconds later, after a few clicks through a few screens, there it was. The WEEI broadcast of the Red Sox game, with Castiglione, Will Flemming and Lou Merloni on the call. If I wanted, I could’ve listened to the Baltimore Orioles broadcast of the game, or alternated between the two to get an odd side-by-side comparison.

It was fun listening to Merloni become more agitated as the game went on and the Sox couldn’t string together hits. It was more fun to listen to an exasperated Merloni describe the slow slop thrown by Orioles closer Cesar Valdez and Boston’s inability to hit it. I didn’t need to see Valdez’ below average fastball to know how below average it was. Merloni’s frustration became my frustration.

This is not an ode to the romantic notion of listening to the ballgame. This is not nostalgia for good old days and memories of listening to games on the screened in porch as fireflies dance and the condensation running off your beer bottle splashes your hand. This is an ode to modern consumerism. I’m willing to pay for what I pay for and have found a fiscal balance. Toppling that balance in a digital game of Jenga for the sake of watching baseball doesn’t work for me. Maybe it does for you.

Maybe YouTube TV and NESN will strike a deal. Maybe they did today and this entire column is moot. In the meantime, Joe, tell me about those produce specials again.

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