Talk about down to the wire! The Indianapolis Colts narrowly avoided a television blackout of their playoff game. The threat came thanks to an NFL rule. When a team's game fails to sellout at least 72 hours before kickoff, there is no local broadcasting of the game. Harsh. In this case, the NBC affiliate at Fort Wayne would have been included in the blackout.
The Lucas Oil Stadium as a capacity of 66,000 seats, and on Monday, it looked like a failure to sellout wouldn't be an issue. The Colts announced that within several hours of ticket sales being announced, over 59,000 tickets had been sold. Things were looking to be on track. Then ticket sales stalled. Over the next couple of days, only about 1,500 tickets had been sold. At the rate things were going, there would be a few thousand tickets left and a blackout.
NFL granted the Colts an extension: They would have until 4:35PM on Friday to sell the remaining 4,500 tickets. Ticket sales skyrocketed in that short window However, with the deadline approaching, there were still about 1,200 seats. It was looking like the Colts would narrowly miss their chance to avoid a blackout when a Good Samaritan of sorts stepped in:
— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) January 3, 2014
How Meijer will distribute 1,200 tix: Indiana National Guard, Indiana Blue Star Salute, Survivor Outreach Services, Wish for Our Heroes
— Mike Wells (@MikeWellsNFL) January 3, 2014
Thanks to Meijer, the Colts successfully were able to sell out the game. There's also a chance for local veterans and their families to enjoy the exciting Indianapolis Colts versus Kansas City Chiefs clash for free. A happy ending for all involved.
It turns out that the Colts weren't the only team sweating it out this week. The Green Bay Packers and the Cincinnati Bengals were also faced with a possible blackout, but managed to sell out in time. In all cases, help came via major business franchises in the area.
Not everyone is happy that the NFL blackout rule even exists. Created in 1961, the rule was meant to encourage ticket sales by pushing local fans to support their team, otherwise there would be no game on local TV. Of course, a lot has changed since 1961. People can stream NFL games from anywhere on Earth and the American people are still limping away from a huge recession. There is also intense competition with NBA or MLB sporting events taking place during the same time period. There are simply a rising number of factors that can negatively impact the ability to sellout games. The fact that multiple teams struggled to do so might be a sign that this rule may need to be revisited.
It's been more than a decade since a team was actually blacked out (It happened to the Miami Dolphins back in 2002). One team might not create such a fuss. But multiple teams? It might do more harm than good. Perhaps that's why the NFL was so kind as to offer extensions. But then, perhaps it might be best to simply do away with the rule altogether. There are more efficient ways of stimulating ticket sales than punishing local fans.
Image via Indianapolis Colts Facebook