|Just say YES to incredible programming|
By Jim Caple
Page 2 columnist
The vast Cablevision cartel continues to hold hard-working fans hostage in New York, forcing many to follow Yankee games via complicated systems involving carrier pigeons, tin cans with strings and Mickey Rivers.
Some isolated parts of Suffolk County are still waiting to hear how the season opener turned out, while a numbers runner in Westchester lost more than $40,000 and his thumbs when he misread the semaphores and reversed the score to Saturday's victory over Tampa Bay.
This awful situation is extremely frustrating, but fans can at least take comfort in the knowledge that the rest of the country hasn't been deprived access to the greatest and most beloved franchise in American sports. Thanks to a special satellite and broadband system that George Steinbrenner generously developed and paid for with his own money, the YES network is available to fans throughout the rest of the U.S.
And the verdict is in: Local fans are missing some amazing television.
Critics scoffed when the Yankees announced their own 24-hour channel, but those same naysayers now are straining the limits of TiVo to record what the Washington Post's Tom Shales describes as "the greatest advance in home entertainment since Lucy met Ethel."
YES offers so much quality programming that it's a wonder anyone can get anything done. In fact, early indications reveal that more people are getting less done than any time since the Hoover administration, as fans and non-fans alike lie on the couch all day watching YES instead (so many people in Portland, Ore., phoned in sick last Thursday that the city cut all non-essential services). The channel is that addicting, that compelling.
And how about that special recording of the lost Lennon-McCartney songs available only to YES subscribers?
Meanwhile, Ruben Rivera's Clubhouse Shopping Network (weekdays, noon to 3 p.m.) is a guilty pleasure for many, thanks to the former New York outfielder's unprecedented access to rare and coveted sports collectibles. I bought Jeter's 1999 World Series ring for $189.58 two nights ago, but I'm still kicking myself for not picking up the phone faster to take advantage of the closeout special on Nick Johnson's hubcaps.
Of course, the highlight of the YES package is the broadcast of all 162 Yankees games. Has there ever been a more complete, coverage of a baseball game? I don't think so. YES covers every possible angle -- from manager Joe Torre's closed-door meetings with his players (wasn't that shouting match with David Wells something?) to the miked conferences on the mound to Bernie Williams' impromptu post-game guitar rifs, it's all there. Watching the game on YES is better than being there, especially when you consider the high definition TV feed and the special Dolby Surround Sound that comes free with every broadcast.
And while everyone knows the YES technology group handpicks its employees from the smartest minds at NASA, Sony and ESPN, I still don't know how they figured out a way to transmit a live, unedited broadcast of a four-hour game in just 2 hours, 30 minutes. I'm just glad they did. The games start at 7:05 p.m. and end at 9:35 on the dot every night, so viewers are in bed while fans at Yankee Stadium are still in line at the concession stand.
All this would be a bargain at any price, but what makes the national YES feeds so extraordinary is that Steinbrenner and the Yankees pay viewers $5 to tune in each day. Cynics receiving payola from the soulless Cablevision cartel say it's nothing more than a plot to cripple the broadcast deals for local teams, but Yankees fans know better. YES is just another benefit the game's best and most generous owner offers the game's best and most knowledgeable fans for their continued loyalty to the game's best and most successful team.
Now, if you'll excuse me, it's time for TRL with Don Zimmer.
Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.