New blackout rule unlikely to curb fan abuse Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Just two days ago we applauded news that the NFL would be relaxing its blackout rules, thus allowing more hometown fans to watch games on TV.

But there's of course a catch, and the Chargers - who accounted for two of the league's sixteen blackouts last season, with four blackouts the year before - say they will not take advantage of the change.

Traditionally, when a team fails to sell out a game, local fans get screwed over by losing the ability to watch that game on television. The idea here is that the blackout rule encourages fans to attend games in person and drop $100 for a ticket, $40 for parking, and $10 per beer, rather than stay on the couch, watch the game for free, and change the channel during commercials and halftime. As if that's a reasonable choice for many people.

Of all the NFL policies that serve to abuse its loyal fans, there's probably nothing worse than the blackout rule. Fans in areas like San Diego are stressing about whether they'll actually see the upcoming game, rather than anticipating it with excitement. And obviously, plenty of these fans cannot afford the time or money required to attend games in person.

The new policy will allow teams to lower their blackout thresholds to as low as 85% of capacity, which in theory would keep more games on television. Here's the catch, though - the deadline for lowering the threshold is July 15, and there is no turning back. It's not a week-to-week thing; a team can't simply trigger the lower threshold because they're in danger of a single blackout midseason. Once the team drops the blackout figure, it's there for the entire season.

How does this hurt the teams, you ask? There's a penalty - if the Chargers were to drop to the 85% figure, they would have to share a larger portion of their revenues with the rest of the league for every time they sell more than that 85%. Chargers owner Dean Spanos says this is too high a price for the team to consider lowering their blackout threshold, especially since his team plays in an older stadium and lacks naming and signage rights.

Now that we know the catch involved, it seems a lot less likely that any team will choose to lower its blackout figure.

While blackouts are probably the biggest week-to-week fan torture device, there's something even bigger that some fans face on a yearly basis: the threat their team will head out of town. And as for the memo sent by the Ginger Hammer laying out the requirements for teams looking to move to Los Angeles in 2013, Kevin Acee says it was a message intended for the Raiders, not the Chargers. Acee sees no possibility of the Bolts leaving town, at least not next year.

In support of that sentiment, Chargers special counsel Mark Fabiani says the memo does nothing to make Los Angeles more appealing for the team.

The fan abuse continues. Thank you, Mr. B.


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Doug is IAOFM’s resident newsman and spelling czar. Follow him on Twitter @IAOFM

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