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Extra Innings: If this column doesn't sell out, you can't read it

In the world of sports, fans are confronted almost everyday with the ridiculous. From Terrell Owens writing children books to Latrell Sprewell thinking that ten million dollars isn’t enough to feed his family, from Garth Brooks playing baseball to Barry Bonds ... well, to Barry Bonds doing anything, there’s always something that just doesn’t seem right.

For the past two weekends, Western New Yorkers have been rudely exposed to the pinnacle of sports absurdity: the NFL black out rule. According to the all-mighty NFL, if a game doesn’t sell out within a certain amount of time before gameday, then the team’s television market doesn’t get to watch. Basically, football fans need to pray that their neighbors are paying the hundreds of dollars needed to see a game in person just so they can watch it from the comfort of their home.

What doesn’t make sense about all of this is the blatant fact that most NFL stadiums — heck, most stadiums in any sport — are funded with public money. That’s taxpayer dollars going to build palaces for the emperors of the gridiron. If a game gets blacked out, you’re not allowed to watch a game that’s being played in a building you paid for, your parents paid for.

How this has been allowed to go on for years is beyond me. To me, the whole notion of the black out rule is extortion, blackmail, and theft. The NFL is forcing you to not only pay for their stadiums but then of course, they want you to pay to see the games. I can deal with that. That’s just the way the universe works. We pay taxes that go to sports teams and then are expected to fork over an exorbitant amount of money to see the games. Fine ... fine, I understand that.No other league tries to pull off this joke of a business practice. MLB airs hundreds of games a year and I’m pretty sure they don’t all sell out. The NBA is the same. Hockey — well, hockey begs you to watch, so they definitely aren’t going to penalize you for not selling out their games.

Not to play the part of Chicken Little here but the black out rule combined with the fact that most fans can’t watch NFL Network games plays into the logical evolution of more and more games being put on cable. Cable that fans have to once again pay for. Eventually, who knows? A pay-per-view Super Bowl?

When the NFL punishes these already taxpaying fans though for not paying to see games is when we need to put our collective foot down.

Let’s say fans were to turn the table on the NFL in terms of the black out rule. I propose that from now on, when teams aren’t performing up to our expectations, we lock them out of the stadiums we’re paying for. San Francisco, Houston, Oakland — you didn’t have a winning record within 72 hours of game time, so we’re not allowing you into the park this week. Go win on the road since we don’t really feel like paying to see you lose in our stadium.

How do you like them apples, NFL? Not so much, huh?

Let me watch my Bills on Sundays. Yeah, NFL fans are a pretty devoted bunch. Just look at Browns fans — their team left town in the middle of the night and all they got was Drew Carey for a couple years. I swear though, tick us off enough. Push this parity thing in our faces enough and make us watch 8-8 teams make the playoffs. Make us pay for seat licenses and luxury seats.

Or just let me ignore the fact that the NFL doesn’t get the public scrutiny on steroids that MLB suffers, that the Bengals are made up of criminals, and that Bill Belichick shouldn’t be allowed to wear cut-off sweatshirts and just let me watch the Bills on TV.

Originally published in the Cardinal Courier (Volume 6-Issue 6; Dec. 6, 2006).
Bill Kuchman
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