It was recently announced that ESPN will cease its broadcasts to a number of regions including Israel as of the end of July. This means that neither Hot, the national cable company, nor Yes, the national satellite TV company, will be able to offer the channel. This has nothing to do with a dispute over prices which led to beloved channels being denied to the Israeli public in the past. ESPN, for its own reasons, has simply decided to pull out of the market here.
It is true that ESPN’s broadcasts here have been weak in recent years. They cut back on broadcasts of the American Sports Center for example. This show gave us the highlights of all of the sports in America, including the NBA, NHL, NFL and Major League Baseball (I saved the best for last.) It also offered way too much golf and fishing. But ESPN did give us three live broadcasts of MLB games each week. It also gave us live broadcasts of Sunday Night and Monday Night Football. And if you actually work for a living and could not stay up all night to watch the games then you could either tape them – Israel’s version of DVR just isn’t worth what they charge for it — or watch the re-broadcast the next day. I always preferred to tape the games. The re-broadcast has a set ending, so you basically know that a team on the losing side will not be making a comeback if there are only a few minutes left in the broadcast. For example, I forgot to tape the Yankees-Red Sox game Sunday Night and so I watched the replay. It was tied 7 to 7 with two outs in the bottom of the eleventh with only a minute left in the broadcast. At this point I knew that the Sox would win on a walk off homer because that’s all there was time for and that’s exactly what happened.
Now I know that the average Israeli does not care and probably never watched ESPN since it did not broadcast NBA games. I also know that not all English speakers here are American, but most are. I also know that Israelis and Europeans all think that baseball is boring and do not understand why we like it. But I forgive them their cultural shortcomings. On that point, Americans aren’t the only ones who love baseball. It’s the national pass time in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Cuba, The Dominican Republic, Mexico, and Panama and is popular all over Latin America.
Obviously this is not an issue that I expect the Knesset to be taking up any time soon. But for the American sports fan in the country I just want to say that I feel your pain. So here is my ode to ESPN in Israel:
E is for the sense of Eternal loss that I now feel.
S is for the Special place that you will always have in my heart.
P is for the Pain that we will all feel as of August first.
N is for Never forgetting you oh ESPN.
Now here are a few legal options for sports fans. I won’t mention the ones that are technically illegal because I don’t want to get David into any trouble:
1) For a one time fee of several thousand Shekels you can purchase a satellite dish with a cable box. With this you can receive many channels including several versions of ESPN which are available and that carry more sporting events then the one we received on cable here. But this is not really an option for renters such as me.
2) Get someone in the US to set up a Slingbox. This will allow you to watch American television here through the Internet.
3) Invest in one or more of the season packages that the major sports all offer through the Internet. The best is NFL.com which allows you to access rebroadcasts without seeing the home page first where you might see the scores before you get to see the game.
4) Move back to America.