Very early this year, my company told me that I was doing to be done with the weekly commute back-and-forth to our headquarters in the Boston area, and I’d be assigned to my first long-term customer engagement, in New Jersey. I was told that after an initial period of weekly commuting to the customer’s office to get acclimated, the pattern would change to be something more like alternating weeks working from home and at their office. I’d be spending a lot more time here in my home office under that kind of arrangement, so I got busy nesting.
One of my acquisitions at the time was an AM/FM receiver. My motivation for this was pretty straightforward. I know that I can stream at no cost (other than listening to commercials) pretty much any AM/FM station in the country, along with a million other
artist ripoff streaming services. Above the free tier, there is for-pay streaming content, and I have no general objection to paying. I do so regularly. That said, there’s something that really feels skeevy and gross to me about paying MLB and the NHL for their content. I can’t put my finger on it. Just, ick. Once in a while, they’ll stream a random game for free, but it’s never what I want. Another Yankees game? Super.
On the other hand, the content I do want is literally available to be plucked out of the air for free every night. Well, “free,” once you discount or amortize the cost of the receiver, I guess. Maybe I failed the cost/benefit analysis part of this decision. I could stream many years of Sox and Blackhawks games for what I paid for this box. But this unit also comes with a CD player, and there are still circumstances where I want to listen to (or, more likely, import) physical media, and I felt that helped justify the cost. It wasn’t really about the money, it was about avoiding paying cringey leagues. And it was still within my toy budget. Plus it just looks cool, OK?
The year’s events make this purchase look better all the time. Obviously, though I couldn’t have known it at the time, I’m not leaving this office again for the rest of my professional career. Having that receiver in the rack is more than just a thing for half the weeks on my schedule. I use it every day. But far, far more surprising than a species-altering, once-in-a-century killer global pandemic, the Blackhawks made the playoffs (briefly, at least) and the Sox are all but certain to. In the same year. Even if you do pony up for those leagues’ usurious regular season streaming packages, you often have to pay extra for playoff games. Sometimes you can’t stream them at any cost. Problem solved. I’ll hear them all.
Finally, there’s the old-fashioned sound of static in the background, particularly on the AM band. To some that’s a bug, but to me it’s a feature. I crave any kind of analog connection these days, and not only do those random jolts of electromagnetic energy from who-knows-where bring back a sensory experience that’s passing into memory, they also feel a little like a message from the stuff we’re part of and made of. Invisible airwaves, crackling with life.