The Washington Nationals' most intriguing battle this season isn't on the field. Rather, it's in conference rooms, where they are fighting the Baltimore Orioles over the number of golden eggs they should get from the goose known as MASN.
The Orioles, of course, own the goose, and now the Nationals, who have been receiving some eggs since the network began, want more from the nest.
The fairy tale come true in all this is that MASN generates hundreds of million dollars annually in revenue. When it began, the network was one ugly duckling.
Ask Mel Proctor. He was there at the beginning, and he tells the story of that first season as the Nationals' play-by-play broadcaster on MASN in a chapter of his recently released e-book, "I Love the Work, But Hate the Business."
Proctor was a local sports broadcasting favorite after calling Bullets and Orioles games in the 1980s and early 1990s on what was then Home Team Sports. He left to call games for the San Diego Padres but came back to Washington to be part of the new MASN network that was supposed to be broadcasting Nationals games starting in 2005. He was paired with former New York Mets pitcher Ron Darling.
According to Proctor, it was a historic, chaotic season in the broadcast booth for many reasons -- one of which was no one was watching.
Because of a dispute with Comcast, MASN's Nationals games were not shown locally in nearly any home. So it became the season that didn't exist on television.
Proctor said he wasn't made aware of the fight that kept the games off the air before he took the job.
"I realized that Ronnie and I had fallen into the most bizarre situation in the history of sports broadcasting," he wrote.
At one point during the season, Proctor said on the air, "We've heard nobody is watching these games. Here's my cell phone number. ... If anyone is watching, please call me."
Proctor said he got one call from a MASN worker in the production truck who said, "Go Nats."
The next day he got another call.
"Insubordination!" a MASN boss yelled. "You're undermining the product."
Remember this was a product no one saw. Now it's the center of a multimillion dollar battle.
Neither Proctor nor Darling was back in 2006, when the Comcast dispute was settled and the Nationals could be seen on local television. Proctor is living in San Diego and looking to get back into broadcasting.
He said the current MASN dispute doesn't surprise him.
"When the deal was originally signed, I knew it would lead to further trouble down the road," he said.
And so it did.