Thursday, November 05, 2009

Death by blackout

On ESPN.com, Greg Garber has a very interesting article about the viability of the NFL in Jacksonville. When a team flirting with .500 draws worse than the Lions and Raiders, you know there's a problem ...

and what makes it worse is blackouts. The blackout rule is a relic from the '50s, from a time where it really was the difference between watching on TV and driving down to the stadium for a game. Now, the only people who can afford to make that kind of decision could afford suite tickets if they really wanted to go: the general public is priced out of the impulse-buy market.

But professional leagues are very slow to adapt to the times: the NHL is stuck on a fourth-tier channel (thanks to its idiot commissioner) and still shows a significant number of games in SD, MLB as recently as last year was showing multiple playoff games at the same time, etc. Are they likely to realize that they're starving the golden goose? (I doubt the blackout rule is actually killing it, but it sure doesn't help.) Do they know what it means to Jacksonville that the Jaguars haven't been on TV at all this season?

With the spread of Sunday Ticket (a DirecTV exclusive because the NFL is stupid), fans are more free than ever to follow their favorite team no matter where they live, or to pick a new team if they can't watch their current team. A wise commissioner would work with the networks (who'd be more than happy to show all the games) and the owners (who need to realize what's happening) to rescind the blackout rule. Will Goodell figure this out?

Wayne Weaver, the Jaguars' owner, goes on to say that given time, they could be like Pittsburgh or Green Bay (smaller markets with avid fan support). But there's a big problem with that analogy: do you really think Green Bay would even get a team, much less support one, if they didn't have one now and were trying to land an expansion team? Hell no. The only reason Green Bay has a team is that they had one before the NFL was around. And yes, that's how old the Packers are.

How old are they? Check this out. It's the 1921 APFA standings. The APFA is the "league" that was the predecessor of the NFL. Items of note:

  • The Chicago Staleys, who moved from Decatur for the 1921 season. Those are now the Bears.
  • The Chicago Cardinals, who are now in Arizona.
  • And yes, the Green Bay Packers, who are now in ... Green Bay, approaching their 90th season there.


Also note the number of "baseball" teams ... football owners were not very original. The Giants kept the name of the baseball team long after it left for San Francisco (NY enters the league in 1925). The Boston Braves joined in 1932, changing their name to the Redskins in '33 and moving to Washington shortly thereafter, where the Lions have still never beaten them. (The baseball team moved to Milwaukee and then Atlanta.) And in '33, the Pittsburgh Pirates joined the league, becoming the Steelers in '41.

So yeah, Wayne, you can be like those teams. Just wait 60 years. Oh wait, you don't have 60 years.

Look, Florida is a great football state, but as any NASL owner will tell you, passion does not always translate to money spent on professional events. Jacksonville simply can't support an NFL team and everyone knows it.

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