The NCAA tournament started last week, and Super Regionals started two days ago for NCAA Softball. There’s a good chance you knew that though, right? If you frequent the ESPN stations you do. Even as a casual softball/sports fan, you probably knew that it was tournament time with the games being broadcasted over ESPN, ESPN2, SEC Network, ESPNU, and ESPNews. Chances are at some point you stopped on one of those channels and noticed that softball was on.
But did you know the National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) season starts on May 28? Most likely not.
So, what’s the deal?
Why is the growth of the game at the collegiate level not translating to the pro level?
I am in no way qualified to answer this question in an educated manner. Instead, I am going to answer it from my point of view. My point of view can be defined as someone who tries to watch every game of the NCAA tournament to never really watching an NPF game before.
Obviously the NCAA tournament is a different atmosphere. We always seem to put any NCAA tournament into the holy grail of sports tournaments, and rightfully so. There’s a different excitement than what happens during the season. There’s more weight and pressure behind games when you are on the brink of elimination. For those of us who are casual softball/sports fans, watching the NCAA tournament is easy for us. We don’t have to go searching for games. They practically find us.
To watch the NPF requires a little more effort from us fans. So what? That’s not a bad thing. We should be doing more as fans anyways. We do have to pay extra to watch. Again, so what? It’s not a bad thing. In fact, it’s great for the league and the players.
The National Pro Fastpitch league allows those of us to follow our favorite college softball players to the pros. But being able to watch them is a different story. The NPF site says this, “In the 2019 season, the entire slate of action, all 144 games plus the Championship Series, will stream live on a myriad of digital platforms, including NPFTV, FloSoftball, and ESPN+. This coverage consistently generates measurable return for league sponsors, partners and suppliers.” Having multiple outlets, shouldn’t be surprising to anyone. But if you go the NPF site and go to schedule, there’s nothing listened under the broadcast portion. If you go to ESPN+, there doesn’t seem to be anything. You can only see up until June 22, and I found nothing listed for NPF. When you check out FloSoftball, it’s a different story. The whole season is listed.
So, I’m just going to assume that all the games will be on FloSoftball and very limited, if any, on the other outlets. According to their website, plans start at $12.49/month. A rough calculation, for a season that starts at the end of May and ends in the middle of August, is about $37. There’s a 144 guaranteed games, which means it costs 26 cents per game for a FloSoftball membership. That’s as close as you can get to free for each game. But the question is, will the casual fan pay that? I don’t really know. I would like to think they would, but I am not betting on that. You could say if the price was closer to what ESPN+ offers ($4.99/month), it would be insane for people not to purchase the subscription for the NPF. But here’s the thing, for the casual fan, they’re spending at the least $12.49 and at most $37. That is not too much to ask for. Try it for a month, and if they happen to not like it, they’re out $12.49. Make coffee at home for a week versus going to Starbucks. That will balance it out. Buy the membership.
And here’s the other thing. If you live anywhere near a team, go to a game! The closest team (Chicago Bandits) to me is an hour away and has tickets that range from $7 to $16. So catch me at one or more of those games this upcoming season! And buy the FloSoftball membership.
Another thing, check out the drafted players (https://profastpitch.com/draft/#tab-id-1), pick one (or more), follow them this postseason right now on the ESPN network, and then follow them as they go for a roster spot in the NPF. And buy the FloSoftball membership.
We too often think of reasons not to do something versus thinking of reasons to do something. When I set out to write this, I was thinking of reasons not to watch, and as I started to write it became clear that it would be foolish not to watch. Support the league. Support the players. It’s that simple. And buy the FloSoftball membership.
Check back in this summer for more editions to ‘What’s the Deal?’ and more!