Last year when the Rockets acquired Dwight Howard, there was much talk about how landing a marquee free agent not only made the Rockets a legitimate title contender, but that it was sure to provide the needed impetus for completing a deal to get CSN Houston, the television home of the Rockets, on networks other than Comcast.
We are now reaching the waning days of the 2013-14 season and still no deal in sight. In fact, it could be argued that between the bankruptcy filing by CSN, the fraud lawsuit from Astros owner Jim Crane and now word that Comcast will not buy the network as Crane had suggested -- and many had hoped -- the network is farther than ever from a resolution and probably closer to collapse than success.
And all this has occurred amid the best season for the Rockets in 15 years, nevermind the three-game setback this past week. This is a team that is racking up wins at a nearly franchise record pace, beating some of the best teams in the league and doing it in high flying, high scoring fashion. Yet, they remain dark on the TV sets of 60 percent of Houstonians.
But, this should surprise no one. Sports fans in general and fans of the Rockets in particular love to believe that something as simple as a high profile free agent signing or a promising season is enough to move the needle on a television deal. Perhaps that is because it has been a very long time since we have been able to celebrate either and the change feels so substantive, we imagined it would make everyone involved in the CSN disaster rush to do whatever necessary to get the team on the air.
The reality is this deal is significantly bigger than one winning season or one all-star player. This is a deal that will have ramifications for the Rockets, Astros and Dynamo for the next decade. As much as we like to make Jim Crane the punching bag because he has blocked deals that would get CSN on U-Verse and other cable providers, anyone who wants financial stability and, more to the point, viability for these teams should want whatever constitutes the best deal, even if that means short term pain.
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When we were in the midst of a stadium boom her in Houston, it served to bring football back to the city and keep baseball and basketball here. But, more importantly, it was part of a renaissance that spurred development throughout downtown and the surrounding area. It turned what was a ghost town into a thriving area for culture and commerce. It was a win-win situation and we still had to fight tooth and nail to make it happen.
This is not to say I don't think the parties involved in the CSN negotiations and lawsuits are stubborn or that they may not have the best interests of the fans and community in mind. It is far more likely their biggest concern lies with making money. But, in this case, their goals and ours align. More money means more revenue pumped into the city and more dollars spent on the field (or court). If that means we miss a couple seasons of televised local sports to make that happen so be it.
But there will be a tipping point where keeping the hopes of CSN alive are incompatible with making the best deal. If Crane had his way, that day would be today. For the sake of CSN and all its employees, I certainly hope that day never comes. But, if it does and that is the best way to protect the long term viability of the teams, then it will be time to look elsewhere for the broadcast opportunities for everyone.
One thing is certain, winning and losing for one season isn't going to change that, nor should it.