Posted by mike in Annoyances,Entertainment,Sports at 10:40 pm on September 15, 2008

I would put the over/under on Cubs games that I watch each season at about 130, and the amount that I listen to on the radio (be it via XM or MLB.TV’s audio streams) right around 25. I don’t think I’m exaggerating to put my level of team-following at 95%; I’m a pretty big fan, and don’t miss many games, especially in a year like the one they’re currently having, which is not only one of the best during my lifetime, but one of their best ever.

I used to think that being this devoted to following a team was tough while living in Champaign, an area that is not really in the Chicago market but is at least close enough to get the Chicago channels. When we decided to move to California, I somewhat erroneously thought that all I would have to do to keep up my rate of game-watching was to get the MLB Extra Innings package along with my return to DirecTV that was made a necessity due to their monopoly on the NFL Sunday Ticket offering and my unwillingness to miss Bears games.

The most unfortunate part of returning to DirecTV—indeed, the reason I did not stick with them when moving to HD in the first place—is their terrible DVR software. After using it for about 3 months now, I think it may be even worse than the Insight/Comcast DVR that I used to put up with. One of the many frustrating things about it is that it will sometimes arbitrarily decide that a game should be blacked out for me, in some cases even after I’ve watched half of it. MLB’s blackout rules are infuriating enough without needing to be made worse by an overzealous adherence to them on the part of poorly-written software.

The single worst (and most unique) example of this came yesterday. As a result of Hurrican Ike ravishing the Houston area, the Cubs’ series with the Astros was moved to a “neutral site” in Milwaukee (at the park that Cubs fans affectionately refer to as “Wrigley North”—admittedly not the most neutral of options). Before going to a Sunday afternoon movie, I verified that my MLB package would get me the rescheduled game and that my DVR was intending to record it. After returning from the movie, when attempting to view the game—I prefer to be able to fast-forward through the commercials, so I watch most games slightly after the fact—I found this:

Searching for authorized content

For some reason, DirecTV and my DVR had decided that this game was a pay-per-view event (albeit with a price of $0.00). It had recorded it anyway, thankfully, or so it appeared. When attempting to watch the game, all I got was this:

No information available

Unfortunately this is something I’ve contended with multiple times this season, usually the result of the stupid blackout rules (although thankfully such occurrences are few and far between). This particular occasion was made all the more upsetting, of course, by the significance of this particular game, in which my favorite player, the ace of the Cubs pitching staff, threw his first no-hitter—something I’ve been anxiously awaiting for the past few seasons, as Carlos Zambrano has shown no-hit stuff multiple times in recent years. Could anything be more frustrating for a sports fan?

Not wanting to repeat the experience, I listened to today’s game while at work, and was almost treated to an echoing performance from Ted Lilly. Not relying on my satellite service or their DVR software at all seems like the only reliable way to not be disappointed and angered by them.

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