In what should be a surprise to approximately no one, the Cincinnati Bengals–San Diego Chargers Wild Card playoff tilt this Sunday was placed on a 24-hour extension to avoid being blacked out in local markets.
If it feels like you’ve heard this once before, it’s because you already have. The Week 13 meeting between these two in San Diego was subject to the NFL’s first blackout of the 2013 season, but many chalked that up to the apathetic fan culture around the city where the weather is so perfect every single day that going to a football game seems a bit superfluous.
Though the first tilt between these two wasn’t exactly enthralling, it was a tight game that came down to the wire with Cincy ultimately prevailing 17-10 over the Bolts. That’s what makes it even more difficult to explain the fact that a game between these two just 12 months earlier in that same Week 13 slot of the 2012 season was also subject to blackout. Apparently people just don’t care much when the Bengals and Chargers do battle, and this has to be a nightmare scenario for the league.
Two additional Wild Card games were also under threat of being blacked out this weekend in the Green Bay Packers–San Francisco 49ers tilt and the Indianapolis Colts–Kansas City Chiefs battle, and coincidentally – or maybe not – both of those games are rematches from earlier in the season as well. The only game on the docket this weekend that isn’t a rematch from earlier in the season – the Philadelphia Eagles–New Orleans Saints tilt – is the only one that sold out without assistance.
Some believe inclement weather played a factor in the unsold seats in Green Bay where the high is projected at zero degrees on gameday with a low of minus-18, and others point to the late playoff tickets being punched for teams like the Chargers and Packers delaying the ticket process. The reality remains, however, that the seat on your sofa has become more appealing than the cold, crowded venues where oftentimes binoculars are required to even see the action.
So whether it’s the rematch factor, the boredom of another Chargers-Bengals yawn-fest, or just the fact that a recliner has more value than an in-person experience, the Bolts’ battle in Cincy will only be on televisions throughout western Ohio on Sunday now thanks to a corporate bailout as sponsors purchased the remaining unpurchased tickets in all of the games mentioned above. Just how the league plans to prevent this from becoming a recurring theme in the future remains to be seen, but what doesn’t need any further deliberation is the fact that the threat of blackouts could be slowly becoming a trend rather than an anomaly in this country’s most popular sport.