By Ryan Divish
As the trucks for Omega Television Productions roll toward Havre in preparation for Saturday's football doubleheader, I am reminded about something I wrote a while ago. About two years ago, to be exact.
It was during my lengthy college career that I wrote one of my many columns for my school newspaper, the Montana Kaimin. It was about the importance of Omega Television Productions and its telecasts of Montana college and high school sporting events.
And now I find myself writing about Omega again.
To be perfectly honest, I didn't think that the productions would still be around.
Why? Well, because Omega is still a business. And in business, it doesn't matter about seeing athletes' faces; rather it matters about seeing dead presidents' faces. Money.
I thought money or lack thereof would always be the downfall of Omega. The productions costs are so high, while the advertising and the number of Montana households just don't make up enough to defray those costs. The finances just don't add up.
Unfortunately, I was almost right. Earlier this year, it looked like Omega's televised games were going to stop.
Two weeks before the scheduled telecast of its first game, Omega was unsure it would have enough finances to pay for a fourth season and considered canceling the broadcasts. With a significant drop in advertising and increased fees from AT&T cable, Omega president Steve Dees didn't think his company would be able to break even.
Thankfully for the young athletes across Montana and their fans, that didn't happen. Dees was able to round up enough sponsors to continue the programming and will have a full schedule of football and basketball games to add to the more than 200 games that Omega has already broadcast.
It would have been an absolute shame if Omega couldn't continue its productions. Some people may not see their importance, but for a kid who grew up playing sports in Montana and a Montana sports fan, these broadcasts are a must. They are truly a great representation of Montana sports.
Yes, I know there always seems to be some sort of technical difficulties and the telecasts can be a little stiff. But we're not talking about "Monday Night Football" here. We're talking about local sports telecasts that, like many of the teams they cover, seem to get better every week.
Omega has said that about 24,000 households tune in to the broadcasts. I don't know how to calculate ratings, but even I know that the ratings aren't high. High ratings equals more advertising sponsors which in turn means more money for Omega.
Obviously, Omega Television Productions isn't making a mint from these telecasts. Dees has said all along that he isn't trying to make a ton of money; he'd be happy just coming out a little ahead or just breaking even.
Because making money isn't what Omega's telecasts are about. They're about bringing faces to the names of athletes in newspaper box scores.
They're about opportunity.
The opportunity for Montana sports fans to see athletes from around the state that they might not otherwise have a chance to see.
It was not that long ago that viewers got to see a relatively unknown 6-foot-8 sophomore from Heart Butte named Mike Chavez win a state championship. Thanks to Omega's telecasts of Heart Butte and then Browning high school games over the next two years, everybody in the state got to see Chavez make magic on a basketball floor.
It is the opportunity for parents who can't afford to make a road trip to still get to see their child play.
It is the opportunity for Montana football head coach Joe Glenn to watch his son Casey play football for Carroll College, when Glenn is in the midst of his own season.
It is the opportunity for alumni to watch their old school's team play, even if they no longer live in their school's town.
It is the opportunity for some kids to compete and possibly shine on television an opportunity they probably won't have again.
It is the opportunity to watch sports in its purest form. There are no Randy Mosses taking every third play off, making a gajillion dollars and still finding time to run down an occasional traffic cop. There are no holdouts, lockouts, collective bargaining agreements or strikes. There are simpler things such as pride, competition and sportsmanship.
Like somebody once said, "It's not about the name on the back of the jersey, it's about the name on the front."
If there is one thing that bothers me about the Omega telecasts, it's that I didn't get be on one. I'll admit that I'm jealous. I would have loved to have Omega broadcast a game when I was playing for the Ponies. People around the state could have seen me line up at cornerback and then get smoked by opposing wide receivers. Wait, maybe I'm glad that Omega wasn't around back then.
But, I am certainly glad that Omega Television Productions is around now and I am writing about it. Hopefully, five years from now, I will write about it again.