TODAY'S PAPER
61° Good Evening
61° Good Evening
SportsColumnistsNeil Best

SPORTS WATCH: So far, SNY closed to captioning

Carl DeStefanis is deaf, and thus doesn't bother with TV

shows that do not offer closed captions.

One exception: Mets games on SNY, which he called "a continuous reminder of

my disability."

"I can't help but try to watch the Mets," DeStefanis, 24, wrote in an

e-mail, "but every time I do, I find myself wishing people weren't so

shortsighted with supplying this much-needed service."

For a network praised for its Mets announcers and extras such as in-game

interviews, and that is about to unveil new technical gizmos and add more

postgame coverage, it is a glaring, hard-to-figure omission: SNY does not

provide captioning for the hard of hearing.

Legally, the network has done nothing wrong. The FCC provides new channels

burdened with start-up costs four years to institute captioning, so SNY is in

the clear through March 16, 2010.

But that is no consolation to fans for whom Gary, Ron and Keith are

familiar faces who mouth only silence - and have been for three seasons now.

"We understand the importance of closed captioning," SNY spokesman Andrew

Fegyveresi said.

"There are many improvements that we want to make - and continue to make -

at SNY, and closed captioning is certainly one that is in our plans."

But captioning is more than an improvement for the deaf; it is a necessity,

as has become clear in the numerous, impassioned e-mails I have received from

those affected since SNY launched.

"Businesses like the Mets should not be doing [only] what they are required

to do but should be offering good public service," said Janice Schacter,

chairwoman of the Hearing Access Program.

"It's just disgusting. SNY should be ashamed of themselves and

embarrassed."

The lack of captioning also affects people who are not deaf, from

inconveniencing fans in sports bars and gyms to frustrating those with partial

hearing loss.

Bob Buscavage, 64, of Moriches wears a hearing aid at times but is

susceptible to infections and can't always do so. He said late at night he

turns down the sound on games to avoid waking his wife, but then has to rely on

captioning.

"It's kind of a sore spot," he said. "Major League Baseball, which just

started the new network, they have it up and running. It's kind of a puzzle."

Indeed, the 3-month-old MLB Network has captioning, as YES did when it

debuted in 2002.

So what is the problem? Evidently, nothing more complicated than money.

Captioning prices vary widely, so it is difficult to say precisely what it

would cost. But offering it only for Mets games likely would require no more

than $100,000 for the season - not much more than Johan Santana earned per

inning last season.

"It's technically correct, but it's just stupid to drag your heels because

you have the four years," said Schacter, whose 14-year-old daughter, Arielle,

is hard of hearing.

"Fans want to be able to watch the game just like anybody else. It's sad.

It's really sad."

Said DeStefanis, who lives in Rocky Hill, Conn.:

"As a result of no captioning, I rarely sit through an entire game. It's

always on at my house because it's a near family obsession, but it's very

difficult to keep my interest when I'm in the dark, so to speak."

Best's bets: ESPN planning to tell 'Her Story'

The temptation would have been for ESPN to dust off well-worn tales for

tonight's hour-long special, "Her Story," in celebration of Women's History

Month.

(Who even knew March is Women's History Month? Raise your hand.)

Instead, the focus will be young women and fresh stories.

"Rather than go back into the people that paved the way," host Hannah Storm

said, "it goes into current people and young people that are pressing forward."

That naturally should appeal to tween and teen viewers, whose eyes tend to

glaze over at the mere sight of black-and-white footage, especially when it

shows people with bad 1970s hairdos.

Among the stories on the show are Bethany Hamilton, who returned to surfing

after losing her left arm in a shark attack; the barriers to wider

participation among Hispanic girls; Courtney and Ashley Paris of the Oklahoma

basketball team, and the comeback of roller derby.

"I hope a lot of dads watch with their daughters," Storm said. "That would

really mean a lot."

Couldn't that be a problem, given the conflict with the regional semifinals

of the NCAAs?

Executive VP John Skipper said the overall project will reach "millions and

millions of people" not only tonight but elsewhere on ESPN's platforms.

And the show itself will be replayed April 5.

Hey fans, good seats (priciest, too) still available

The Giants have sold out of personal seat licenses for non-club seats at their

stadium opening in 2010, leaving only those for three club areas with PSLs

ranging from $7,500 to $20,000 and ticket prices from $400 to $700.

How many are left? Officially, a "limited number," but likely in the

thousands.

The team is down to about No. 40,000 on its waiting list as it offers fans

the chance to buy PSLs, leaving about 93,000 remaining candidates, who will be

contacted in groups of about 10,000. Information for many of the first 40,000

was out of date, so the team actually has contacted significantly fewer people

than that.) Many wait-list fans contacted to this point opted for non-club

seats with $5,000 PSLs and $120 tickets, leaving the priciest real estate

available.

The Giants said because most PSLs have been sold, they hope to give fans

exact seat locations in the fall rather than waiting until the spring of 2010,

as originally planned. About 90 percent of current season ticket accounts have

purchased tickets in the new building, the team said.

- NEIL BEST

Strange but true: A slam dunk for Francesa

When I heard Mike Francesa accept the Mets' invitation Wednesday to visit the

dunk tank at Citi Field, I assumed one of two things:

That he was kidding, or that he thought the invite was to be the dunker,

not the dunkee.

So I asked. Turns out he was not kidding and is up for getting wet in

public - for a cause. "As long as it's a nice, warm day and it would be for

charity, I'll gladly go in the tank," he said.

Really? "I'm sure I will draw quite a crowd of Mets fans looking to dunk

me. I'm looking forward to it."

What would he charge?

"We'll try to make it very steep for the media."

Just wondering: Is Kornheiser back at MNF?

On Monday, the NFL announced its "Monday Night Football" opener, a TV-friendly

matchup of the Buffalo T.O.'s at New England Bradys.

Which got me wondering, as I do every year: Will resident kibitzer and

lightning rod (Lynbrook) Tony Kornheiser return for another season?

"We expect Tony to be back," a spokesman said.

What about you, Tony? You in?

"I told them I would like to do it again if they wanted me back," he said,

citing his belief that the show has improved, with "last year better than the

year before and better than the year before that."

After Ron Jaworski replaced Joe Theismann for 2007 and booth guests and

sideline reports largely were ditched for '08, viewer complaints dwindled.

Kornheiser is not everyone's cup of tea, but he no longer is as easy a

target for viewers and critics who considered ESPN's early approach overly

cluttered.

Not that all guests are a bad idea.

"If I ran the zoo and I could get Gisele Bundchen in the booth, I'd try,"

Kornheiser said.

"I don't care if she says anything. I'd just like to do a cutaway shot of

her sitting there."

Comments

We're revamping our Comments section. Learn more and share your input.

New York Sports