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Watching the Braves

By Mike Ruffin There was a time in the history of human civilization when you couldn’t watch major league baseball on television very often. When it came to doing so, the United States hadn’t advanced much beyond the town of Bedrock. Those were the ancient times when there were only three commercial television networks (CBS, NBC, and ABC). Of those three only NBC showed baseball games, and they only showed one per week. The Saturday afternoon Game of the Week was must-see TV to me. At some point they added an occasional Monday night game, which brought some welcome joy to the beginning of the week. I was a Braves fan. It frustrated me that the Braves seldom if ever appeared on the Game of the Week. I asked my father, the late great Champ Ruffin, why that was. ‘They only show the good teams,’ he said. He had a point. The Braves did win the Western Division in 1969, the first season that divisions existed, but otherwise the teams of the late 1960s and the 1970s were pretty bad. Fortunately, during much of that period we had the privilege of following Mr. Henry Aaron’s pursuit of the career home run record. WSB-TV did show around twenty Braves games per year, no matter how bad the team was. As I recall, they showed only road games. I would sit quietly, transfixed by the activity that our outside antenna captured from the air and transmitted to our nineteen-inch black-and-white window on the world. Then, Ted Turner suddenly beamed down from the starship Outrageous, and the next thing you knew, people were watching what was now dubbed ‘America’s Team’ (I regarded the slogan as forgivable exaggeration, no matter how hard Yankees fans laughed at it) on the self-proclaimed ‘Superstation’ via something called ‘cable television.’ When they finally strung enough cable together, the new technology reached all the way to Barnesville, and lo and behold, we could watch every Braves game from the comfort of our own homes. It was the dawning of the age of Aquarius. WTBS had let the sunshine in. When my Good Wife and I moved to Louisville, Kentucky so I could attend seminary, we rented an apartment in a seminary-owned complex that bore the imaginative name ‘Seminary Village.’ Somewhere along the way, more creative minds nicknamed it ‘the Gospel Ghetto.’ It wasn’t all that bad. It also wasn’t all that good. One deprivation we had to live with was lack of access to cable television. I guess it was one of the ways we suffered for Jesus. We finished our penance and moved out of the Ghetto after a couple of years. I am happy to be able to report that we were able to watch the Braves without interruption for the next forty years, via either cable or those newfangled satellite dishes they came up with. Then an even newer technology came along that seemed like a good idea: streaming. So, we joined the proud throng of cable-cutters and subscribed to a streaming television service that we liked very much. It provided us with access to all the stations that carry the Braves. Until it didn’t. Due to market forces or capitalism or greed or something (I’m pretty sure socialism had nothing to do with it), our streaming service (and most streaming services) stopped carrying the regional sports channels that show the Braves games. Now we can only watch the nationally televised games. On one hand, it feels like regression. On the other hand, we now have more time to do more important things. And you know, despite all the time I just spent writing about it, there really are much more important things than watching the Braves ‘¦

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