All is well that ends well might be the appropriate cliche to describe the Fire's long awaited announcement of their regional television broadcast schedule. The broadcast partnership will include games televised on Comcast SportsNet and NBC Chicago Nonstop along with other nationally televised matches. CSN appeared to be out of the picture as recently as two days ago but common sense apparently prevailed among the club's top decision makers prompting a move back to the flagship station of professional local sports cable broadcasting (WGN notwithstanding).
Fans angered that a local broadcast schedule had not yet been released voiced their displeasure with the delay on this platform and others. A rumored move to broadcast games over NBC Chicago's secondary station, Chicago Nonstop (or NBC 5.2) panicked fans who feared they may not be able to pick up the station via their individual television providers. Those supporters can be somewhat assured this afternoon that every match will be available to them since matches carried on NBC5.2 will not be blacked out on MLS Live or on MLS Direct Kick packages.
The newly revamped package will not include My50, which had been part of the Fire's broadcast team over the last few seasons but will include one match televised on NBC 5 Chicago. The May 26 game at Columbus will be shown live on NBC's main local outlet, channel 5.
All regionally broadcast games will feature a 30 minute pre-game show, something that has been missing from Fire telecasts and has been long overdue. Dan Kelly and Evan Whitfield return as the team in the booth with Kevin Egan serving as the sideline reporter.
The move to partner with Comcast again, which is partially owned by NBCUniversal, and NBC locally now makes sense from a growth perspective as opposed to the prospect of playing "hide the Fire" with the team's matches broadcast over outlets with vastly smaller potential audiences. Furthermore, NBC5.2 along with being virtually unknown by most fans currently carries Chicago Wolves and high school basketball and football as their main sports programming, and the Fire as an organization could not afford to foster the perception of a minor league operation by assocating their telecasts solely with minor league hockey and high school sports while the other "major league" teams in the city played with the big boys.
As recently as this morning, CSN's website excluded the Fire's name from the list of tabs dedicated to each professional franchise in Chicago and had relegated them to the the all inclusive "More" tab which featured MMA and prep sports. This afternoon the Fire's tab returned as the announcement was made. As soccer continues to increase it's presence in the American sporting landscaping through the vitally crucial television vehicle it's important that the Fire not take steps backward while the rest of the league goes forward. This newly announced partnership gives them a chance to stay in the game of relevancy on a local scale.
Saturday's opener against Montreal will be televised by CSN and will feature a 30 minute pre-game show.
All is well that ends well.
The question is, what took so long and why did it have to be so painful?