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If Smyrna, the home of Truist Park and your Atlanta Braves, is the epicenter of Braves Country, Chattanooga may be the heart of it.
At least geographically.
Braves country easily reaches into Kentucky and Virginia, across the Carolinas and into Mississippi.
OK, it may not go much further South than, say Jacksonville, but that still draws a pretty wide circle around the region, and the 423 may be the center of it.
No, this is not a pop geography quiz to make up for the multitude of days our tots have been out of school.
This is a disclaimer before we get to the looming news that is visible on the horizon.
We could be facing a summer without Braves baseball on the radio in these parts, and after 2024, there is a very real chance a majority of Braves games on TV would be on a streaming service or offered direct to customers for a price.
First, the radio issue. Brewer Media sold 95.3 FM, which hosted the local ESPN national feed as well as local sports staple Press Row. And 95.3 also was the Braves affiliate in this area.
Reportedly, in mid-March, the 95.3 feed will switch to a Christian format, and, while Braves baseball is a religion to a lot of folks, here's betting the new station chiefs are more more focused on the Good Book rather than the book of baseball. Sorry, Brian McCann.
So currently, the Braves are without a radio home here heading into the season.
That's not good. Or as Ronald Acuña Jr. would say after our radio audience missed another lead-off homer from the reigning NL MVP: "No bueno."
But that outrage would be dwarfed across the region if the first dominoes of the latest sports-TV-online talks come to fruition.
And I say this knowing that every Braves under the age of, say 40, will have little to no trouble finding the South's Boys of Summer on whatever device they prefer. Heck, the streaming flexibility, like so many things in today's media world, could make the lack of a radio broadcast almost negligible.
Still, a vast majority of Braves fans from Tifton to Tiftonia and from the Outer Banks to Inner Memphis are named Uzell or Imogene and are still trying to find ways to get that dang VCR to work again so they can tape that fiesty Pat Sajak on The Wheel.
Braves fans do not adjust well to change, whether it's Bobby Cox hitting the bricks or Freddie Freeman hitting the free agent market.
I know a lot of older Braves fans who leave their TV — and their radio — on the Braves' regular station so they "don't have to go searchin'" at game time.
In my more than 12 years as the sports editor of this fine fishwraper, the order of focus on complaints/calls were:
1. Why do you love/hate Baylor/McCallie more than you hate/love Baylor/McCallie.
2. You know Chattanooga is in Tennessee right? Why is there all this Alabama and Georgia in my paper?
3. What station are the Braves on?
Those questions could very well be more pressing and more expensive sooner rather than later.
Here's the background: The Braves are televised on Bally Sports, which was bought by Diamond Sports in the last few years. Diamond Sports, which has the TV rights for 11 MLB teams as well as several other NBA and NHL teams (including the Hawks and Grizzlies) went belly-up in 2023 and '24 was going to be its last year of operation.
Enter streaming giant Amazon, which on Wednesday agreed to a cash infusion for 15% of the new venture with a chance to invest as much as $50 million more in coming months, according to The Athletic.
The news release announcing the deal included few broadcast details and none on specific teams like the Braves, but that makes sense considering Diamond has longterm deals with 11 MLB teams and potential extensions with three more.
But, per the same release, Diamond leaders forecast that direct-to-consumer revenues would go from less-than-$50 million in 2023 to more than $658 million by '26.
And gang, not to cause too much panic for Uzell or Imogene, is there anyway in this day and age that is fueled by new deals and new platforms, is there anyway that a broadcast collective without the Dodgers or the Yankees can increase "direct-to-customer" revenues by more than 1200% in two-plus years without partnering with streaming services?
It's a Braves' new world for sure.
A true (Diaper) Dandy
I have never been a huge fan of Dickie V's broadcasting style, and his apologetic style for the Knights and the Pitinos of the world was bad.
But we can all say a prayer for the man who is facing another round of surgery on his vocal cords.
God bless Dickie V.
In truth, ESPN has done a great job of raising hundreds of millions through the Jimmy V Foundation to fight cancer.
It should find a similar outlet or venture — or even add to the name, "The Jimmy and Dickie V Foundation" has a nice ring — considering the effect Vitale had in the early growth of the Worldwide Leader in Sports.
Style preferences aside, no one has been a bigger advocate for college basketball in general through the year than Dick Vitale.
Sure, it served him well financially and publicly. Heck, it made him the first big ESPN superstar, if we are being honest.
Live college hoops was the first stepping stone into the mainstream for ESPN. And Dickie V was their first true personality, even before Chris Berman's nicknames and Dan and Keith made The Big Show must-see TV.
Moreover, unlike several other soon-to-be-minted sports-broadcasting stars — like Berman and Keith Olbermann — Dickie V matched his A-list status with an A-list personality.
In truth, I'm not sure I've ever met a one-named sports giant like Dickie V who was courtesy of his time, more geniune and more engaging.
Met him at a spring training game 20 years ago — he loves baseball, and loves, loves, LOVES the Tampa Rays — with a slew of drunken fraternity guys, and this was at the height of his powers and the middle of March Madness.
He could not have been more giving of his time or his personality. He instantly flipped into, "Gonna be the Heels cuttin' down the nets, BAY-BEEEEE" routine. (Side note: Think the Heels lost the next round to Bill Curley and BC, if memory serves.)
Good Dickie V; you are in my prayers, BAY-BEE.
Racist or raucus?
OK, this was on Fox News, which was created to a) make money and b) rile up conservatives and c) make more money by riling up conservatives, so I will take it with a 5-gallon-sized grain of salt.
But the video of JA Ameduri and his family is and interesting discussion for me.
Here's the story, and the main photo is of JA, a middle school student in California, at a school sporting event with the majority of his face — under his eyes and all of his cheeks and jaw — in eye black.
The school suspended JA for 2 days and banned him from sporting events for wearing "blackface."
Shouldn't intent matter here? Blackface is on the short list of pretty universal no-nos, especially for celebrities and folks in the public eye.
It's a one-way ticket to the cancel/consequence conversation.
But how many high school/middle school sporting events, especially football games, have you folks been to? I've been to at least that many if not three times that number.
And the rage of the middle school kids — at least some of them — is a face-full of eye black, like the high school players, the college players and even the NFL players wear.
This and that
— Happy Birthday, Thelma Mae. She turned a spry 110 this week. Man, think about that like this: She could have memories of WWI as a preschooler, she struggled through the Great Depression, and she was 27 when Pearl Harbor was bombed.
— Here's the next class of the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Which of this class — Steely Dan, REM, Timbaland (Spy's choice), Hillary Lindsey or Dean Pitchford — is your favorite?
— Auburn is making some football hires, and while I appreciate the importance of recruiting prowess, uh, Hugh, can we get some dudes who can coach some of the offensive guys up and call some ball plays, please?
— Also in the above story, is the details of more Alabama players entering the portal. Anyone else noticing the complete meltdown of Bama Backers and the T-Town sycophant media members — locally and nationally — who NOW have a problem with the transfer portal since they are the one being scavenged rather than being the scavenger? Discuss.
— In college hoops, nice win for the Mocs. And the Auburn Tigers. And the UK Wildcats.
It's one of those anything goes Thursdays — the ol' AGT — so we will start here:
Who is the nicest sports superstar you have met? Dickie V is very high on my very short list.
Also, for JA above, is it innocent eye-black or racist blackface?
Fire away, and remember the mailbag friends.
As for today, Jan. 18, well, here's hoping there is some weather normalcy on the horizon.
Kevin Costner is 69 today. We've done his Rushmore, right? "Bull Durham" is far left, right?
Also, and this is a big one for those of us of a certain generation.
"The $6 Million Man" debuted on this day 50 years ago.
Dude, he was boss, right?
Rushmore of TV shows with a number in the title. Go, and remember the mailbag.