Blackouts Shouldn’t Give Jacksonville a Black Eye
There is no escaping it. Television blackouts will be a problem during the Jaguars’ 2009 season.
We all have heard the excuses about the lack of ticket sales here in Jacksonville. They never seem to stop. For a blackout to be lifted, the Jags need to sell 50,000 non-premium seats for home games. It was recently reported that the team has sold only around 35,000 non-premium tickets thus far.
It doesn’t take a math whiz to figure out that the Jaguars need to increase ticket sales. However, Jacksonville isn’t the only NFL city to suffer from blackouts, although some in the media act like we're unique.
The only way to avoid the infinite blackout excuses is to win. Fans forgive everything when a team wins. The Jags must improve upon last season’s 5-11 record. Five wins will not bring the fans out to the stadium for expensive food and questionable weather when home offers a big screen, solitude, homemade treats and sizable breaks if the game is going sour.
Since the Jack Del Rio era began in 2003, the Jaguars are 50-46. However, the s-shaped curve, in terms of total wins, has frustrated many people. In the 2003 season, the Jaguars finished 5-11, but because it was the start of a new era, fans purchased tickets. From the 2004 to the 2008 NFL season, the Jags ended their regular seasons with records of 9-7, 12-4, 8-8, 11-5 and 5-11.
Fans cannot get pumped up for home games without consistent results. Wins! It’s all about either the wins... or at least a highly competitive fight with the possibility of a win.
But these fans should understand that consistency is difficult to obtain in the ultra-competitive NFL. While challenging, it’s something the Jaguars must aim for this year. A split locker room and expensive free agent acquisitions are a philosophy of the past.
Thanks to the 45-year-old general manager Gene Smith, team unity is the fresh way of thinking. And, I know his team-first club will bring numerous on-lookers. I’m just not sure if he’ll bring enough spectators to fill Jacksonville Municipal Stadium. But the team’s new regime starts September 13th at Lucas Oil Field in Indianapolis. That’s where the consistency must begin.
Several NFL cities experience regular blackouts for their home games. Our NFL neighbors have suffered similar hardships.
The Atlanta Falcons have struggled the past few years with ticket sales. Prior to last season’s dream run, our neighbors to the north relied on Michael Vick’s stardom to sell the team. With their star serving a prison sentence, the team had to begin a new era.
A few years ago, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had a waiting list for season tickets. Now, no such list exists, and Bucs tickets are as easy to come across as bandwagon Tampa Bay Rays fans.
The Miami Dolphins also went through blackout extensions last season. Empty seats were a common occurrence in what was known as Dolphin Stadium. Blackouts are an issue for most teams as they develop and grow, and even some that are already established.
Other than in cities like New York City, Chicago, Green Bay or Pittsburgh, blackouts will always be a possibility in the NFL. This is a league that has become what it is because of television rights. The Jaguars almost certainly won’t have every 2009 home game televised. Discussions of Jaguars blackouts are to Jacksonville as rolling blackouts were to California under former Governor Gray Davis. It’s nothing new to this city.
In my opinion, television blackouts will not result in the departure of the city’s beloved Jaguars. The Chargers will become the London Broilers before the Jags leave Cowford.
The Buffalo Bills will move to Toronto before the Jags depart.
The Raiders will be out of the Bay Area within ten years.
The Browns might leave Cleveland again before the Jags call anywhere else home.
The talk of blackouts keeps Jaguars fans occupied during the offseason. Blackouts are over-hyped. It will just be history. Don’t mope about the blackouts. Don’t let them leave you bloody and bruised.
To contact Richard Miller: Richard.Miller@jaxobserver.com