On getting closer to the action

April 29, 2004

This morning I read an article about wireless access at the San Francisco Giants’ ballpark. It interviews the Giants’ chief technology officer, who explains that the team got religion on WiFi when it learned that SBC (the park’s namesake these days) would pay to install it at the stadium.

The interview is fine but for one thing: It didn’t offer the guy’s opinion on one of the issues raised by wireless access to the ballpark: How does the team protect its copyright on the game’s broadcast when wireless effectively allows anybody in the park — not just the people in the pressbox with “express written permission” — to transmit images, words, descriptions and other details to people outside the park?

A Major League Baseball ticket has fine print explaining that such things are prohibited, but who reads (much less heeds) the fine print?

I had already mulled over the WiFi at SBC Park issue after dreaming up my Blog Me Out To The Ballgame get-together. Within and hour after deciding to go to an A’s game in Oakland, it occurred to me the more obvious choice would’ve been SBC Park to test out its WiFi.

Then I learned that blogging a ballgame live from within the stadium is verboten if any of the “game information” is involved. You could blog about the crowd, the weather and anything else that struck your fancy, so long as you didn’t say anything about the precise reason for going to the park.

So I had all these highly specific questions bouncing around in my head and didn’t see any of them addressed in the Wired News article. The Wired News folks didn’t share my perspective, such as it was, so my question never found a voice in their story.

Stuff like this happens because despite our delusions of “telling it like it is,” we almost never directly participate in the stories we cover. A lot of the questions never occur to us because the participant experiences things the observer can’t anticipate.

We can’t ask, much less answer, every question, but we can get more of the story if we’re constantly asking: What am I missing because I’m not participating in the story?

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