About 100 sports bars and establishments also have agreements with Cox to show the games, he says.

Suns fans weren't the only ones to have trouble swallowing the concept--pay-per-view met with an angry reaction in Seattle, as well as in Denver, where much of the proceeds are put back into the community. "This year," says a Nuggets spokesman, "we're donating a lot of money to the Oklahoma City bombing relief effort, which people can certainly understand."

And, compared to those in Seattle, Phoenix fans are getting a bargain--pay-per-view contests in the Emerald City go for $21.95 per game in a package deal, $26.95 for individual games.

Portland was, fittingly, the trailblazer in pay-per-view, which started when Bill Walton led the team to the NBA championship in 1977. At the time, people paid $5 a head to watch the games at a big site downtown; now they can get them on their TV sets. Portland also was the first NBA team to take full command of its radio and TV transmissions, in 1985.

So maybe if there were more of us, or perhaps if our potatoes were couched further east, we might be spared the burden of pay-per-view. Of course, there's always Salt Lake City, where there is no pay-per-view--and, as a result, a number of Stockton-to-Malone feeds throughout the season that don't end up broadcast at all.

"They've talked about it here, but I wonder if the market is big enough for it," says Utah Jazz spokesman Mark Kelly. "People are a little bit spoiled. To me, as a fan myself, it wouldn't go over real big if I had to pay $8 to $10 to watch a game, because on the same night, the NBA is on somewhere. I think people would just wait for the free ones.

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