The local sports calendar offered a hockey-baseball doubleheader Saturday for fans with access to Fox Sports North.
The Wild played at Colorado in a matchup of two of the hottest teams in the NHL, followed by a Twins spring training game. Judging by incessant frustration being vented on social media, there are lots of folks who had to find something else to do with their time.
Out of curiosity, I asked Twitter followers recently to raise their virtual hand if they had switched from cable to a streaming option and no longer get FSN because of an ongoing stalemate between Sinclair, which owns regional sports networks, and streaming providers.
The reaction came fast and furious, as if I asked people to raise their hand if they want a million bucks deposited into their bank account. Twenty-five affirmatives in the first two minutes. Within hours, 500 yeses and 2,000 more likes.
Multiple people familiar with the situation told me local franchises with FSN ties are looking at viewership losses of between one-quarter and one-third of their audience. That's big, and sobering.
Apparently, I'm one of the few remaining cable dinosaurs who pays the equivalent of Harvard tuition every month to have access to seven channels that I like and 4,000 that I never watch.
Teams in this market have a major problem. They are caught in the middle of a messy situation and undoubtedly are losing fans because, as the saying goes: out of sight, out of mind.
Some of the lost audience might be a product of people finding other outlets for their time and attention during the pandemic, but only a small percentage. The majority went to streaming options that included FSN and then had games taken away.
Teams are worried and frustrated. The cord-cutting demographic skews younger, which is the exact demographic that sports teams fear losing. Losing a significant chunk of viewers is "something that keeps me up at night," Twins President Dave St. Peter acknowledged.
"The distribution of our games via television has always been the most powerful marketing tool that a sports franchise has," St. Peter said.
Watching sports on TV is how most of us became fans of a team or a particular athlete. Dale Murphy was my childhood idol because I watched the Atlanta Braves every night on TBS.
My family couldn't afford season tickets. If we were lucky, we went to one game a season. But TBS made the Braves my team and Murphy my guy.
A person doesn't need to be Gordon Gekko to realize that what is happening between Sinclair and streaming providers is bad business. I won't pretend to know the inner workings of TV contracts and distribution pricing, but I typically blame corporate greed in situations like this.
St. Peter said the Twins have had discussions with Sinclair/FSN to express their concern, but the team isn't involved in negotiations. St. Peter feels fan anger like a blowtorch, though.
"I don't enjoy going to my Twitter account as often as I used to because there are some people who are taking it out on me," he said. "That's OK. I've got a thick skin. Look, life is hard in a lot of cases and people want to be able to watch their teams. I don't think that is an unrealistic or unfair expectation from our fans."
Fans are justifiably annoyed. The Twins look like a playoff team again. The Wild has a superstar-in-the-making in rookie Kirill Kaprizov. Timberwolves fans have had their allegiance tested to the nth degree, but No. 1 pick Anthony Edwards suddenly is providing reason for optimism.
This whole situation stinks for fans who gave up cable for less-expensive streaming options such as YouTube TV or Hulu (AT&T is one option where FSN is still available), and then had FSN taken away.
It stinks for teams, too. St. Peter said he's "not overly optimistic" that a resolution will happen before their season opener April 1. This stalemate could be lengthy.
"I can tell you flat out, we care," St. Peter said. "The Twins care. We're trying to do everything we can."
Is anyone listening?
The corporate executives can dig in their heels, but it's hard to find any winners right now.