The Jeffersonian: Politicks, Sports, and Culture

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Blacking Out The Saints?

No one knows:

Should the game fail to sell out by noon today, NFL blackout rules would prohibit it from being shown on local TV — that is, if blackout rules are applied to San Antonio as they would be to a traditional NFL city.

NFL spokesman Seth Palansky declined to say whether that would be the case, pointing out instead that the blackout issue isn't the only television concern the league has when it comes to the Saints and San Antonio.

"We are weighing whether San Antonio would be a Saints market for these three games, or whether it will be like it's always been, a (Dallas) Cowboys secondary market," Palansky said.

The NFL still does not get it. I wonder how much Jerry Jones is chortling after reading something like this. Red McCombs, who does get it, had this to say:

"One of our difficulties, not only with the NFL but also with Fortune 500 companies, is that they don't know we are a regional center for a radius covering 200 miles," McCombs said.

"We are a big market, and that has been hard for people to grasp, so we obviously have some work to do."

So, with over 12,000 tickets still left to sell, as of late Wednesday, by today at noon, no one knows if this game is going to be blacked out just yet.

Of course, the big questions come on the October 16 and December 24 games, when both the Saints and the Cowboys play at the same time and are slated to be covered by Fox. Of course we would expect local Fox affiliate KABB to help promote our city and the Saints in this time right? Wrong:

The Saints-Cowboys issue promises to be contentious, especially among local fans. In two weeks, TV options for games of Oct. 16 are likely to collide. The Saints will play the Atlanta Falcons in the Alamodome at noon that day. At the same time, the Cowboys will play the New York Giants.

The Saints-Falcons game is fewer than 5,000 tickets away from selling out. The local Fox affiliate, KABB, has indicated, however, that because it expects higher ratings, it would carry the Cowboys game.

Saints-Falcons has, hands down, been the most popular ticket, selling almost 60,000 seats in about three weeks time. But as it stands right now, we're not gonna get to see it on television. That's wonderful. Thanks alot KABB.

Elsewhere, Buck Harvey argues that San Antonio shouldn't be forced to see this as our one and only shot at getting a NFL franchise:

I understand the sentiment. I even understand the possible payoff.

But I don't like it. I don't like San Antonio being asked to jump through hoops, or fans being asked to prove with their credit cards something they've already proven.

I don't like Tom Benson making us dance without providing much music (broadcast or billboard advertising), and I especially don't like Sunday being called The Ticket of the Generation.

Which he's right about. Benson has gotten 120,000 tickets sold in less than three weeks on the backs of civic boosterism and free media. Not one penny has come from his pocket. But then again, this is Tom Benson, owner of the Saints, here. It's not as if the Saints franchise has ever been mentioned in the same breath as say the Patriots, Spurs, or Braves, in terms of well-organized, efficient organizations that will do- within reason- what it takes to win.

What I disagree with Harvey on is the idea that we should be happy with 50,000 tickets sold because we're getting a couple of 1-2 teams to play this Sunday. Listen guys, if we're getting a franchise, we're either getting the Saints or an expansion team. Neither of which is going to be uber-competitive for the forseeable future. We're not getting the Niners, or the Patriots, or the Broncos or any other team that has had sustained success over the last couple of decades. We're certainly not getting the Cowboys. And for all the articles I've read about Atlanta Braves fans not showing up for anything else but a NLCS or World Series matchup, it seems to me as if we've gotten spoiled over the past decade with the Spurs.

But I'd be more than happy, ecstatic actually, if I could get to more than one of these Saints games. Not just because it's good football- the Saints, for those casual fans, actually have some talent*, but like alot of professional franchises haven't been able to put it together for a variety of reasons- but because there's a really good chance that they could either be playing here for the next several years, or because this is where they might have to permanently relocate.

And I do see this as sort of a test for the San Antonio market. If we can sell 120,000 tickets in three weeks, imagine what we could do with a year-long, sustained effort. If we can make this sort of push now, it gives the NFL powers-that-be the type of argument that they don't want to see in front of them. That San Antonio, and all of South Texas, can sustain a NFL franchise.

And just for the record, I do have something other than a sports fan's interest in getting the Saints here. I abhor the Cowboys. Anything that can be done to keep them off my television sets is something that I can get behind.

*The Saints have a top-flight running back in Deuce McAllister, one of the best receiving pairs in all of football with Joe Horn and Dante Stallworth, and if they could get Aaron Brooks to just settle down a bit, they'd have a Pro-Bowl caliber QB. I don't know much about their defense, other than they lost LaRoi Glover a couple of years back, but they've generally had decent ones under Coach Jim Haslett's tenure, so I would expect as much from them this year.