TV Blackouts: The Beginning of the End of the NFL
by Gus Jarvis
Sep 03, 2009 | 923 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
While the economy starts to mend itself all too slowly for any huge sigh of relief across the country, the biggest, richest and trendiest professional sports league, the National Football League, is not out of the woods yet either. TV blackouts of certain NFL games, which seem to have been an antiquated thing of the early 80s, could be making a return to your TV set this year.

Now rest assured, Bronco fans, this isn’t you. (In fact Bronco fans have had a continuous sellout game record that goes back to the 70s and the waiting list remains long.) There are other markets with professional teams that can’t seem to sell tickets to their games as the 2009 regular season approaches. According to report in Tuesday’s in USA Today, there are two teams (Jacksonville and San Diego) that are saying it’s likely that they will have TV blackouts this season because of their inability to sell out their stadiums and that 10 other NFL teams could face blackouts as well.

The team spokesman for the Jaguars said blackouts are likely, but doesn’t know how many, while a San Diego representative simply said “blackouts are likely.”

Florida, as any newspaper reader knows, has experienced one of the worst examples of the housing crunch across the nation. With San Diego, I am surprised, however, because they have a good fan following and, hey, they were the AFC champions last year and have a great shot at being the AFC champs again this year. It proves that evening winning teams can’t get fans to the game when their pocketbooks are tight.

It may seem like it is the team’s decision to black-out games, to get fans off the couch and into the stands, but a league rule set by the NFL prevents local TV blackouts for any games that fail to sell out 72 hours prior to game time.

For those of you who have purchased that expensive DirecTV premium NFL package, the blackout will extend to you as well.

What I didn’t know is that there were nine NFL games blacked out last season across the league – at a time when nobody knew how bad things were going to get, economically speaking. Last season, many who still believed they could spend an average of $72 a ticket for a game (plus the five $8 beers, $9 nachos and $60 sweatshirt).

So if we had nine blackouts last year, it is going to be even worse this year, because now we know what we can’t afford to spend. Economic reality has set in for the NFL fan – and it has set in for NFL teams as well.

The problem is this: Reality hasn’t set in for the NFL. Its blackout rule is basically a big middle finger in the face of dedicated NFL fans, who just can’t afford to go to games. Can you imagine the misery of having to tell your husband or wife or kids they can’t go to the football game this year because money is tight. That dejection will carry even further when they try to drown their sorrows by enthusiastically donning on their team’s jersey for an afternoon of football – only to find the game will be blacked out. Talk about NFL salt poured in fans’ open wounds.

Teams facing blackouts need to get creative to. The Vikings’ hiring a geriatric QB was pretty creative and it worked.

Here’s another idea: Lower ticket prices – especially those up in the nosebleeds. Incentivize buying more than one ticket – as it buy two, get the third free. They might still be expensive, but it could lead to a price point attractive to fans close to being able to afford a day at the game. Teams need to do anything to fill those seats.

The NFL on the other hand needs to have a heart about this whole thing. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and his cronies need to understand that the fans really want to go to the game and that blackouts will only work against the NFL in the long run. While nobody knows when the economy will truly rebound, we can be sure it will be a slow and painful process. Goodell needs to think in the long term with these blackouts – and in my opinion, he should find a way to not black-out any games.

If this recession lasts long enough, a long string of blacked-out games will mortally injure the NFL and the game of football, and fans will turn their attention to $5 baseball games instead.

The NFL needs to think in the long-term here and practice some self preservation by finding away to avoid any blackout games this season.
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