Four months after I graduated from The Ohio State University, I left Ohio, the only state I’d ever really called home. My parents had already moved south, and I had an internship working for the Big Ten Conference just outside of Chicago. In my year with the B1G, the plans for what would become the Big Ten Network were just beginning to take shape. However, after my time with the conference, I moved on, and 13 years later, I have yet to move back to Ohio, or even inside the now-expanded Big Ten footprint.
Through the years, as opportunities took me to new states— often further south—, I felt my connection to home not exactly fading, as I was still a fiercely proud Buckeye; by both birth and diploma; but simply retreating ever slowly from the forefront of my identity.
With physical distance, came a weakening in the connection to home, especially in terms of OSU athletics. No longer could I easily listen to former Buckeyes talk upcoming games on local radio. No longer could I commiserate why Tressel wouldn’t open up the offense with the kid bagging my groceries. No longer could I take pride in the camaraderie of our omnipresent fandom. Those connections were now severed.
Growing up in Ohio, it was odd if you went somewhere, anywhere, and didn’t see a dozen people wearing Ohio State apparel. So, as I ventured further into Big XII, ACC, and SEC Country, at first I would be excited to see a fellow Buckeye repping the Scarlet and Gray, and I would give them a subtle “Go Bucks” as I passed.
However, as time went on, especially as I ended up in the tourist haven of Central Florida, more often than not when I’d spot an OSU shirt in the crowd, if I offered an ever-so-subdued “OH,” instead of an “IO” in return, I would get a confused look, or an embarrassed explanation that the person wasn’t really an OSU fan, his brother-in-law went there, so he just has the shirt; or, she got it at a thrift store because she thought Brutus was cute. So, eventually, I just stopped greeting potential Buckeyes spotted in the wild. One more connection to home severed.
However, the one saving grace was knowing that, by virtue of Ohio State being Ohio State, every football Saturday, I wouldn’t have to hide my allegiance, or worry that my essential Buckeyeness was slipping, because no matter the opponent, OSU would be on TV.
And while those four-ish hours were but a small part of my week, they were important, because they allowed me to be fully me, and to celebrate (or commiserate) as one of millions across the country. As BTN grew and expanded, I started getting the same feeling from watching OSU basketball— men or women—, baseball, soccer, softball, heck, even track and field; and don’t get me started about how much I looked forward to a Columbus segment on “Campus Eats.”
These games and programs on a third-tier cable network; nestled in between the likes of the Outdoor Channel, beIN Sport, NBCSN, and others; were more than just games and programs. They were memories, they were pride, they were connection, and they were home.
However, earlier this month, Comcast, the largest broadband company in the country,
unceremoniously announced they that would be pulling BTN from its sports packages outside of the conference’s 11 states (although Comcast does not service Iowa or Nebraska). In my region, the change was almost immediate, as two days later, as I was planning to watch Ohio State’s spring game, I realized that the channel was already officially gone, and with the move, yet another connection was severed.
Fortunately for Buckeye fans, when it comes to football, this is far less of a problem than for many of our B1G brethren. OSU had only two early season games on the network last season, which they won by a combined 110-21. And for those two games, out-of-luck Comcast subscribers can find a friend or restaurant or alumni club with DirecTV to watch the games.
Unfortunately, fans of other schools and alumni in more out of the way locales who rely more on BTN for broadcasts might not be as lucky, and they might now be forced to miss games, and the dwindling feeling of home that they provide, because one of the largest media conglomerates in the world is worried about carriage fees.
Now, that doesn’t even begin to account for the loss of basketball and non-revenue sport contests. The Ohio State’s men’s basketball team played 17 games on BTN or its streaming service last season, that’s exactly half of their total games. So, fans like me— devoted, but out of state— can either subscribe to BTN’s online service, or go without the games; go without the lifeline to a place we love.
Am I being melodramatic? Probably, but we are talking about big time college athletics, when are fans not melodramatic? Not being able to watch BTN at home isn’t going to make me less of a Buckeye (especially as I will still be working for this website), but I fear that for many fans in the 39 non-B1G states, it might be one more missed connection to who they once were.
If you are losing BTN from Comcast, how will you compensate?
This poll is closed
Watch all of the games (football and basketball) at a friend’s, restaurant, or watch party.
Find a place to just watch football.
Subscribe to BTN’s online service.
Cancel Comcast all together.