Pride Goeth…

     The NFL didn’t become the juggernaut it is through sheer luck. Team and league officials didn’t turn the sport into the cash cow it is by luck. That said, there’s either some pure stupidity, or more probably thick arrogance, floating around the league for the NFL to continue to enforce its idiotic blackout policy two years, give or take, into an economic downturn that hasn’t been seen in this country since the Great Depression.
     The blackout policy states that a game cannot be televised in the local market of the home team if the game is not sold out 72 hours prior to kick-off. In fact, the NFL has a complex set of rules for broadcasting its games; for example, and this never occurred to me, the Jets and the Giants never play at the same time, unless they’re playing each other, absent unusual scheduling circumstances. Last year was the first year the two teams played different opponents at the same time since 1984.
     Until 1973, every home game was blacked out from television coverage, regardless of whether or not the game was sold out. Then, the league decided it would broadcast games so long as the seats were full.
     In theory, I understand the blackout policy. If you truly want to see the game and can go buy a ticket, then the policy makes sense. But the problem with the NFL is that it seems to think people still have enough discretionary money lying around to shell out obscene amounts to go be entertained for three hours. Maybe someone should tell NFL chief Roger Goodell that the country’s been in a recession for several years and prospects for recovery are about as bright as the Buffalo Bills’ playoff prospects.
     Even the Cleveland Browns have the gall to charge an average of $54 per non-premium ticket. Say the average game lasts three hours; that’s about $18 per hour, to watch the Browns. And people have the temerity to complain about the price of movie tickets.
     Anyway, the point of the blackout policy is to get the stands full, so the game can be broadcast. But if people aren’t buying tickets, the games get blacked out. And then the people in the local market lose interest, making future sellouts even more problematic. Put simply, this blackout policy is not causing panic in the streets.
     Instead, it’s causing people to realize they can do other things for entertainment, things that are far, far cheaper than paying $396.36, the average cost of taking a family of four to an NFL game according to Team Marketing Report, to watch millionaires play a game.
     The NFL became as big as it is, in large part, on people’s abilities to watch their team’s games from the comfort of their own homes. In fact, league revenues from television contracts are far, far more lucrative than gate receipts. Each team last year made about $141.6 million just from television revenue; the Dallas Cowboys, in a brand new stadium and one of the league’s perennial fan favorites, made only $112 million on the turnstiles. The Detroit Lions earned approximately $37 million in ticket sales, more than $100 million less than its television cut.
     Facing a lockout, the NFL is shooting itself in the foot by blacking out games. It’s an idiotic policy in a recession, and it’s going to cost the league quite a bit of fans.

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