One of the big sports stories of 1973 involved Buffalo Bills RB O.J. Simpson shattering Cleveland Browns Jim Brown’s single season rushing record and becoming the first running back in the NFL to rush for over 2,000 yards. Simpson’s accomplishment has become even more monumental in the years since, because only a handful of backs have been able to break the 2,000 yard milestone, even with two extra regular season games.
Simpson set the rushing record during the last game of the season against the New York Jets at a snowy Shea Stadium which was not sold out. Even though the game was not televised in the New York area, there were probably quite a few fans who had purchased tickets and did not even bother to show up to the game. Not even the possibility of watching history in the making could lure some of the more apathetic Jet fans to the stadium.
Speaking of no-shows, there was another sports story off the field prior to the beginning of the 1973 season, which had a rather large impact on the game of football. The U.S. Congress passed a bill which lifted local television blackouts of NFL home games which were sold out 48 hours in advance.
Commissioner Pete Rozelle and the league were not too happy with Congress, since they would lose concession revenue from fans who bought tickets, but preferred to watch games from the comfort of their livings rooms, instead of from the discomfort of a wind swept frozen stadium seat. Hence, the no-show fan was officially born.
With the price of game tickets escalating sharply since 1973 and the advent of domed stadiums in cold weather cities, the league is not as concerned today with no-shows as they were back then. In addition, today’s NFL has other avenues to generate income from fans staying home, such as selling internet game subscriptions and peddling official merchandise through their online marketplace.
And speaking of wind swept frozen seats and no-shows, Shea Stadium and the Jets saw their share of both in the 1970’s, as evidenced by Simpson’s historic game There were continuous local television black outs, since a Jet sellout in the 1970’s was about as commonplace as a Beatle’s concert during the decade.
Of course, it did not help the Jets would play their first three or four regular season games on the road, due to the MLB New York Mets not wanting their field torn up until their season had ended. The multiple early road games would not only take the Jets out of contention early in the season, the later home games were during the colder late autumn/early winter months which more fans tended to avoid.
The New England Patriots versus New York Jets games on Thanksgiving night was about 10,000 short of a sell out at MetLife Stadium, bringing back memories of those rather depressing 1970’s Jet seasons. Certainly, there are a lot more seats in MetLife than there were at Shea, but this is a team which is only two seasons removed from back to back AFC Conference Championship Game appearances.
Who thought with a new stadium the Jets would regress back to the days of their old stadium, which was really not their stadium? Bringing the 1970’s style blackout and no-show back into fashion, the Jets have gone retro. Unfortunately for the Jets and owner Woody Johnson, this is a time period they would prefer remains buried with those old Joe Namath panty hose commercials.