The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Z_CNHI News Service

January 2, 2014

NFL blackmails fans with threats of playoff blackouts

The National Football League has proven it is good at blocking and tackling. Once again it shows that it’s not bad when it comes to blackmail, either.

That's been clear in recent days with news that three of this weekend's playoff games may not be televised in their local markets if all the tickets aren't sold. Hence, fans in Green Bay, Indianapolis and Cincinnati must pay up or miss out.

It's the ultimate threat – and punishment – for fans who support their teams throughout the season then get gouged when games mean the most and rewards are the highest.

Never mind that the majority of tickets have been sold, and the mammoth stadiums will be near capacity. The NFL's local TV blackout rule is about the game's image and the opportunity to wiggle every dollar from a fan’s wallet.

In Green Bay and Cincinnati, the teams should offer ticket buyers perks to attend this weekend's games. At Lambeau Field, the temperature is expected to hover around zero for Sunday afternoon's game between the Packers and the San Francisco 49ers.

Though it will be warmer in Cincinnati on Sunday, Paul Brown Stadium, which sits along the chilly Ohio River, is still expected to get the coldest temperatures of the year and perhaps a snowstorm.

Granted, playing conditions inside Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Saturday will be balmy by comparison.

But finding entertainment dollars in the family budget only days after another expensive Christmas and a night out on New Year’s Eve might test the skills of an accountant anywhere.

There’s nothing new about the NFL's annual guilt trip. It's just another league tradition.

The blackout rule was instituted in 1973 and has become the bane of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who has called the practice archaic and poor policy. That's especially true, he says, in markets where teams have used public financing to build stadiums.

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