I recently sat down with the “boss” of Padres to the People, and writer for the Union-Tribune – Matthew T. Hall. Since June, Hall has been one of the lone voices in San Diego media to call out the fans, the team, and the cable providers to get a TV deal done. He’s written several columns about the subject, held a Padres to the People rally at Petco Park, and has given fans a place to turn.
I first came in contact with Hall over Twitter. After reading his first column about the TV debacle, I decided to write my own column backing his play. I also got most of the facts about his life wrong. This is because the research budget at Chicken Friars is $0.00, and I was too lazy to troll the Interwebs. However, Hall couldn’t have been more understanding and in turn backed my column, and we became Twitter besties.
I’ll quickly give you a run down on the actual Matthew T. Hall. He moved to San Diego from the East Coast (New Hampshire at the time) in 1999 to continue his writing career. After a stint at the Daily Transcript, a print venture with local radio legend, Scott Riggs, called Static Magazine, he eventually landed at the Union-Tribune. He writes very opinionated columns about sports, politics and sometimes animals. He is 56 years old. That is a lie. I don’t know how old he is, and it doesn’t matter. He is probably around 35, but could easily pass for 31. You can follow him on Twitter @SDuncovered
Hall and I talked about the TV deal, Padres to the People and steroids. We talked for a while, and instead of editing out great stuff this will be split into two parts. Part Two will be posted on Wednesday, enjoy Part One:
(I pushed record in the middle of apologizing to him for getting the facts of his life wrong. Which started a conversation about how passionate fans will always correct you for getting the most mundane of facts incorrect.)
MH: Padres fans are passionate, and they’re gonna let you know if you got a fact wrong. They really care about the team, but has the team done a lot to justify that love?
I mean that’s an open question of course. Clearly during the Moorad and Moores years they didn’t. The team made the playoffs a couple times after they got Petco built, but then starting trudging along as, you know, not the greatest collection of players.
D: Oh yea, it’s been terrible. I wrote about this the other day, leaving Baseball in ’94 as a fan and then coming back in ’98 mainly because the Padres got to the series; I got excited that they were actually trying, but then 1999 happened…
MH: Yep, fire sale.
D: Yea, and then here we go! Klesko and Nevin for the next five, six years! It was like I got sucker punched.
D: From first place World Series to who is Ruben Rivera?
MH: Yea, a buddy of mine had a ticket package at Qualcomm, and I used to love going to games, but then we dumped the tickets when my kids came. I used to love going to games and rooting for the Padres. I’m from Boston, but the Padres are my adopted team and I want to see them do well, and now I just want to be able to see them! And, that’s how the whole TV thing started.
D: Yes, Padres to the People, or better yet, hashtag Padres to the People.
MH: Right, right. I kind of stepped into a void though, cause no one was really doing anything. I mean, the columnists at our paper we’d been writing about the TV deal or lack thereof, occasionally, but almost nothing inside the sports pages. I got my column in May and the season had already started, but the Padres got off to such an abysmal start that no one was pissed off about not being to watch the Padres, cause no one wanted to watch them anyway!
D: (Laughs) Exactly.
MH: But, then I started to talk to people and realized there are die-hard fans out there that want to see their team regardless, so I wanted to give them a voice. No one was giving them one and Padres fans didn’t really know what to do. It’s not like fans are going to be able to call up and get these top executives on the phone, and whoever they could get a hold of wouldn’t take their concerns seriously.
D: Right, right. Who’s gonna actually listen?
MH: Right, so my first column I wrote about it got people really agitated because I basically blamed the fans. You know, I said if this was Boston or New York there’d be people on the streets with pitchforks!
MH: I mean probably not literally, but you know what I mean.
D: Well, maybe literally…
MH: Ha! Yea, but you know people wouldn’t stand for this out there. Just recently when people in New York couldn’t see Jeremy Lin play on the Knicks, the city dragged everyone into public meetings and basically scared them straight and a deal got done. But, here the politicians weren’t doing anything, so I blamed them. The team wasn’t doing anything, so I blamed them, and the fans, I basically said, “stand up and be counted!” and they did, man. They let me have it! I got more e-mails that next day then on any particular story in my career.
D: Was it just mainly negative e-mails?
MH: No, it was actually a good mix. I mean people were saying, “How dare you?” and stuff like that, you know?
D: Right, of course.
MH: But, then I started getting, “You’re right. We want to stand up, but we don’t know to who or what to say!” So, then I thought about it and said, “OK. Let’s all get together at Petco and complain about it together.” I didn’t really know where to go from there, but let’s do it!
D: Exactly. Finding a starting point.
MH: Yea, yea. So, a couple weeks later we got together.
D: The Padres to the People rally at Petco, right?
MH: Yea, about 150 people showed up.
D: So, about the same that shows up for games.
MH: Yea, it was fun man. I brought a cooler to stand on and brought a bullhorn that I borrowed. And, we basically all decided to let them have it you know? Let’s e-mail these guys. So, that’s when I started publishing some of these head (cable company/team officials) guy’s e-mails in the paper.
D: That’s awesome! Did you get any backlash from those guys for giving out their e-mails?
MH: No, I mean they knew where I was coming from and I had talked to all of them before. I don’t think they knew I was going to put their e-mails in the paper, you know?
So, that might have come as a surprise. But, I didn’t get any blowback from them; in fact I think they started to take it more seriously. Now, they knew people could reach out to them and many people did. That all went down near the end of the season, and I think fans started to realize they weren’t gonna get anything done this season – but, maybe, next season. So, then fast forward to the last day of the season and I posted my last column about it, I basically said, “This is your last day to not watch the Padres, so make the most of it!”
Then that day AT&T U-Verse aired the last game! They didn’t tell anybody, do a press release or anything. I think they didn’t want to make a big deal out of it, so they could get the kinks out and get it ready for next season, and then they can make a big deal out of it. So, now that leaves only Dish and Time Warner as the only two providers in town that don’t show the team. So, there’s still work to be done. I don’t know when I’ll start banging the drum again, but it’s becoming a national story. There’s around a million people in Los Angeles right now who can’t watch the Lakers. It’s a war between providers and it’s going on everywhere.
D: Going off the little knowledge I have about distribution, aren’t the providers who won’t show games losing ad revenue? I mean, shouldn’t that push these guys a little bit to get something done?
MH: Yea, and with the Padres they have this 20-year deal with Fox Sports, and there’s going to come a point, and they know it, and we know that they know it that they’re going to start losing money. However, in year one of those twenty years they probably don’t care as much. But, see this is the overarching thing: I watch all my TV on DVR. I don’t wanna watch the commercials. I wanna watch 42 minutes of Walking Dead and move on, you know? But, sports are the only thing I wanna watch live. People always want to watch live, and that’s why teams and companies are making gazillions and gazillions of dollars. People will always want to watch games live. So, they should get a deal done, I don’t know why they aren’t, and I still think people should be more outraged!
–Stay tuned for Part Two of the interview, when we get a lot more in depth about Yasmani Grandal. That’s on Wednesday.
For more Padres stuff and other things you might not care about follow me on Twitter @dallas_mc