Possible Blackouts loom for the San Diego Chargers and 10 other NFL teams

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Photo from 'hyku' via Flickr

Photo from 'hyku' via Flickr

By Paul Arnold

This year, more than ever, preseason games for many NFL teams have faced a blackout on local television because the stadium hasn’t been “sold out.” Going into the regular season, it appears that our own San Diego Chargers may be facing games which will not be televised, based on the existing NFL blackout policy.

For those of you readers who may not know, the blackout policy is a longstanding policy in the NFL, which basically states that if the stadium is not sold out by the Thursday before Sunday’s game, it will not be shown in the local TV market. NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell said recently, “It has served us well. It has served the public well, and I do not anticipate any changes with our blackout policy.”

To that I say with the most sincerity I can muster, “bullshit”. This situation is nothing more that greed and arrogance. Yeah, I know the NFL is the most successful organization of its kind. I know they have built such a dynasty and ‘cash cow’ that everyone in the free world (and parts of Canada) would kill to duplicate. But in this case they are just plain wrong. Through 2011, the NFL has contracts that will pay it a combined $11.6 billion by CBS, NBC and FOX for television rights fees. Through 2013, the league also has an agreement with ESPN that will generate $8.8 billion. That’s $20.4 billion- This is greater than the gross domestic product of most countries!

That revenue windfall, combined with the economic realities facing many Americans, added to the ridiculous costs of attending an NFL game these days could have provided the league and the owners with a perfect opportunity to give a little back, even if it were in the form of a temporary policy.

But alas, the NFL won’t consider the merits of telling their customers that they understand the tough situation out there and because they care, the blackout policy will be lifted this season. Instead, they dogmatically cling to a policy that just doesn’t fly in the face of what’s going on in the real world. Do you think the Detroit Lions will fill their stadium, given the 20-plus percent unemployment in that market (plus the fact that the Lions will likely suck again)? So, then the Lion’s fan who has looked forward to sitting in his (or her) lounge chair with a beer to see the local team play is just out of luck.

Here in San Diego, it has always been a tough sports town. The majority of people who live here grew up somewhere else, so that traditional deep-seeded loyalty is simply not present. Add in the plethora of other cool activities available to San Diegans on a sunny fall Sunday, compared to say Philadelphia or Pittsburgh and it adds even more likelihood that the stadium will not be full. Of course, San Diegans tend to be ‘bandwagon’ jumpers, so if the team starts fast for a change, that may positively impact attendance. But still…


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