As if Madison residents needed another reason to hate Charter Communications, a glitch at Fox 47 during the Packers-Rams game made things even worse. It caused the video feed to freeze unexpectedly for about an hour Sunday on standard definition cable in the area, sending Packers fans into a frenzy to find a way to watch their beloved team.
Fortunately for the Madison-based Cheeseheads, the signal was restored midway through the third quarter, just in time to watch the Pack cruise to victory in St. Louis.
Fans in Detroit were not nearly as lucky, however.
Sure, they were ecstatic when the game ended with the Lions earning their first victory since December 2007, but all was not well in Detroit. You see, since the Lions had been so terrible over their last 19 games, no one outside true diehards wanted to shell out $50 to $240 per ticket to watch what most people expected to be the team’s 20th consecutive loss.
In fact, out of 65,000 seats, only 40,896 fans — the smallest crowd since the team opened its new stadium — filled Ford Field for Sunday’s game. That equates to roughly 63 percent of capacity, a far cry from the sellout expected every week by the NFL.
Since the game did not sell out 72 hours before kickoff, it was blacked out on television within 75 miles of the stadium. It was one of three blackouts in the first three weeks of the season and perhaps the most disappointing yet.
And those who have NFL Sunday Ticket in the area were still out of luck. Imagine that: You’re a Lions fan in Detroit wanting to see some good teams play once in a while too, yet this week you do not get to see the boys in blue and silver.
So much for “every game, every Sunday.”
It’s hard to blame fans for not wanting to pay such a high cost to watch a team that has been so bad in the last decade, especially when watching the NFL at home is generally a more enjoyable experience anyway. Add on a poor economy and it really seems more surprising that there were even 40,000 people crazy enough to go to this game.
And there are only so many people who can sit in those $57 all-you-can-eat seats they offer.
All of these things added up to a large number of Lions fans being forced to listen to their favorite team on local radio, without the ability to watch their team. So when the Lions managed to snap their 19-game losing streak, Detroit, Lansing, Mich. and Toledo, Ohio residents not in attendance had to wait for highlights on the local news or ESPN.
Which makes for the perfect example of why the NFL — which usually gets everything so incredibly right — is so wrong in this case.
How can you require a team to sellout each week in order to have its game aired on television? It’s not like every fan of every team can afford to buy tickets.
And shouldn’t a fan have the right to choose between watching the game in the comfort of his or her home and spending an inordinate amount of money to attend? Maybe if tickets weren’t so unreasonably high I could understand the blackouts, but $240 for a Lions game?!? You could not pay me to watch the Lions, let alone get me to shell out $240.
Of course, the NFL knows exactly what it is doing.
According a Forbes.com article about the blackouts, about $400,000 in additional game-day revenue is generated by a game that is blacked out locally. And while it would be hard to determine how many of those 40,896 fans attended Sunday’s game due to the blackout, one thing is clear: The NFL is not worried about fans being able to watch games from home.
They want people in the seats and money in their pockets, and if that means keeping anyone within 75 miles of the stadium from watching on television when the game is not sold out, the NFL is perfectly fine with that.
Financially, they are obviously doing what is best for the league and the teams. But the blackouts are a public relations nightmare.
Imagine yourself, clad in blue and silver, perhaps with a Matthew Stafford jersey on. You get everything ready for the game — beer, chips, pizza, more beer — and sit down at about 12:55 p.m. to watch what you expect to be yet another loss, but what you hope could be the one.
Little do you know, instead of watching Stafford lead the Lions to victory, you will get to enjoy the Vikings-49ers game. Talk about adding insult to injury. Instead of watching your favorite team earn its first win in more than 640 days, you get to watch Brett Favre unleash an epic last-minute touchdown pass to lead Minnesota to victory.
Of course, the NFL is on top of the sports world and has been for awhile, so it’s not like they cannot afford to lose a few fans, whether it be in Detroit, Oakland, Calif. or elsewhere. And the NFL blackout policy has been in place for a long time, and is not going anywhere soon.
But maybe, just maybe, the league and commissioner Roger Goodell could make a special exception for Lions fans. I think they’ve suffered enough already.
Jordan is a senior majoring in journalism and political science. Do you agree that NFL fans should be able to watch on TV regardless of ticket sales? Or do you think the NFL is right? Let him know at [email protected]