But for 2 miles, this fan would see her Phils

Posted: April 28, 2014

MECHANICSBURG, Pa. - Tootie Eutzy bleeds Phillies red. A 69-year-old retired corrections officer, she has scored Phillies games on homemade scorecards for 30 years, even attending her son's 1987 high school graduation with a portable radio and earplugs to chart strikeouts, walks, hits, and runs.

"Pete Rose won the World Series in 1980, and I was hooked," she says of her infatuation with the Phils.

But Eutzy won't get to watch more than about a dozen Phillies games this year on television at her home here near Harrisburg.

She lives in central Pennsylvania's baseball dead zone, where the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Baltimore Orioles, the Washington Nationals, and the Phillies hold home-market blackout rights that force fans to watch the games on Root Sports in Pittsburgh, Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic in Washington and Baltimore, or Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia.

DirecTV and Dish don't carry the Phillies even in central Pennsylvania, because of a dispute with Comcast.

And after the Phillies and Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia inked a new TV deal in January, most Phillies games that could be watched on over-the-air TV will duck behind cable's pay wall.

So Eutzy says she is at the mercy of Comcast Corp., and the cable-TV giant has decided she's an Orioles and Nationals fan and provides her Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic.

Eutzy's predicament - unable to watch baseball games she would like to watch because of exclusive territories and blackout rules - has captured the attention of Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D., Conn.), who in 2013 introduced legislation that would revoke antitrust and other special exemptions for sports leagues if they do not make their games more available.

In 2012, the Philadelphia law firm Langer Grogan & Diver P.C. filed a consumer lawsuit in New York federal court claiming the sports territories were anticompetitive.

"Before we bought this place I asked the former owner if I could get the Phillies," said Eutzy, from the kitchen of her Mechanicsburg home with her husband, Joe. "[The former owner] had a dish, and you can't get the Phillies on a dish. I was going to have it written into the contract that I wouldn't buy the house if I didn't get the Phillies."

The former owner told her she would get the Phillies after calling Comcast. The Eutzys bought the house on 19 acres in November 2006 and then learned that Comcast delivered the Orioles and Nationals games through Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic - and there was no Comcast SportsNet out of Philadelphia.

Eutzy complained to Comcast, but "they told me because I'm two miles west of the turnpike, I get Mid-Atlantic." She watches the Orioles and Nationals only when they play the Phillies.

'Lousy'

Joe Eutzy, a 79-year-old retired plumber dressed in Tootie's well-worn blue corrections shirt with a Dauphin County patch, had been quietly listening to his wife. "They dictate to you what you get," he said of Comcast. "It's a lousy organization."

Comcast says most of its subscribers in central Pennsylvania get the Phillies. But Eutzy's house is served by its Carlisle system, and those subscribers get the Nationals and Orioles.

"A very small number of customers in Mechanicsburg receive our Carlisle lineup, which, historically, has received Baltimore/Washington-based sports programming," Comcast spokesman Bob Grove said in a statement. "Based on that and other business considerations, the Carlisle lineup receives CSN Mid-Atlantic."

Eutzy said she believed that Major League Baseball's digital media company could solve her Phillies drought. The company streams all out-of-market baseball games to subscribers who pay $129.99 for the season.

'Baloney'

Eutzy thought she lived outside the Phillies' TV market. She did not know that Major League Baseball considers her part of the Phillies' market - as well as the Pirates', Orioles', and Nationals' markets.

She got many Phillies games with the MLB package, but about 30 were blacked out. When she called to complain, a customer-support employee told her the company did not know what was wrong.

"I said that's baloney," Eutzy related. "Why can't you fix it?"

An employee also told her to watch Phillies games on the archive. "But I told them I don't want to watch them on archive," Eutzy said. "I want to watch them now!"

Joe Eutzy spoke again. "I'd be out there in the other room trying to watch TV, and all I could hear was her hollering," he said. "She'd be saying, 'It's the third inning, and I haven't watched anything.' "

Eutzy could get the Phillies as part of Verizon Communications Inc.'s FiOS TV service. But several years ago the company charged her $275 after claiming she did not return TV equipment. Eutzy said she returned the equipment, and refused to pay.

"I wouldn't deal with them again," she said.

She says she does not think Verizon should be the only way for her to get the Phillies. She says Comcast should add the Phillies to her channel lineup, or she should have the option of getting the games on the Internet, broadcast TV, or satellite TV.

Eutzy called Comcast again, and a customer-service representative told her that for an additional four payments of $50 she could get out-of-market baseball games - similar to the MLB streaming package.

Even if she was willing to spend the money, the cable-TV Extra Innings package would not solve her Phillies problem. The cable-TV package is constrained by the same blackout rules as baseball's streaming service. Comcast confirmed last week that Eutzy would not get the Phillies with Extra Innings.


bfernandez@phillynews.com

215-854-5897

@bobfernandez1

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