The NFL Playoffs – it’s every fan’s best case scenario for the end of the season. Make the playoffs. Maybe even win a few games. Get to the Super Bowl, host a party and drunkenly cry when your team wins. So why, when your team makes those coveted playoffs and even hosts a playoff game, would you not attend? This is a question we’re forced to ask as twoplayoff teams are in danger of being blacked out in their local TV markets if they don’t sell enough tickets: the Packers and Bengals. The Colts were spared a blackout when Meijer bought 1200 tickets to give to military families. The NFL has granted each team an extension to sell the required amount of tickets, and we have to wonder if the NFL will actually black out a playoff game for the first time in over a decade.
This issue of unsold playoff tickets is especially mind-boggling for Green Bay, a team that has a season ticket waiting list in excess of 100,000 names. People leave season tickets in their wills. They take it very seriously up there in Wisconsin dontcha know? Well, I know – my mom’s entire family is from Wisconsin and I grew up rooting for the Packers in such a way that now my Jay Cutler obsession has spawned at least one attempted intervention. But I digress.
One reason why playoff tickets go unsold is simply the weather. On Sunday, the projected forecast in Green Bay calls for a HIGH of -3 degrees and a low of -19. In Cincinnati it'll be a balmy 9 degrees. Now, I can attest to the fact that temperatures like that make you feel like someone has lit your entire body on fire. It’s so cold, it burns. Why would anyone, no matter the number of layers, want to pay hundreds of dollars to sit outside in that kind of weather? The Packers also did not secure a playoff spot until literally the last minute during their game against the Bears. Maybe people have plans they don’t want to ditch out on – plans that don’t include exposing themselves to temperatures only polar bears can survive in.
But what about the other fans? Is the expense and hassle not worth it? Does the thought of sitting in the parking lot for three hours after the game while you wait for everyone to leave so you can actually move your car sound less than appealing? Sitting in the confines of your own house beats worrying about the annoyances that come with spending an entire day tailgating, drinking, being supremely uncomfortable in extreme temperatures… while being heckled… while your team loses… while your buzz wears off… while the line to the bathroom is 700 people deep.
And then there's the cost. The cheapest ticket on StubHub for these three playoff games was $79 in Indy, $90 in Cincy, and $128 in Green Bay. When you add in parking and concessions, we're talking about $100-200 to attend the game. If you're hoping to take a family of four, that cost may rise to $400-500. Would you rather freeze and spend that kind of money or sit at home in front of your large, flatscreen television and watch the game in warm high definition?
If you look at some of the comments on ESPN’s story about the extension, you get a bit more insight into the mindset of the average NFL fan who's choosing to stay at home instead of attend the game in person. For example:
"The bottom line is the Packers backed into the playoffs and the playoff ticket invoices were sent out during the stretch that Rodgers was out. If you send in your playoff ticket money(right before Xmas shopping) and the Packers don't make the playoffs you don't get that money back. They hold it and put it towards next year's season tickets. The Packers had over 40,000 tickets available when they went on sale Monday morning. By Thursday afternoon they had sold 37,000 of those tickets. Game day is also supposed to be extremely cold. Forecast calls for a high of -3 degrees and a low of -19. That's without wind chill!! I think the Bengals and Colts not selling out is a little more concerning since they locked up playoff spots a while ago."
From a Colts fan:
"I don't understand why people keep saying these cities does not have loyal fans. What do you want us to do? Starve or steal so we can go to a game? I will get a close enough experience watching the game at home on a 56" TV with friends, lots of food and drinks for less the price I will pay to go to the game. If you can afford it and you really want to go to the game, do it. If you cannot afford it or you just don't feel like going, stay home and enjoy yourself. You cannot tell me what or what not to do with my hard earned money. None of these situations makes me less loyal to the team I support. Go colts!"
The bottom line is that the home viewing experience is so good that many fans have decided it's not worth a small percentage of their child's college tuition to attend one playoff game. The NFL is trying to do everything they can to get more fans in stadiums and away from their great home viewing set ups, but it's not working. More than loyalty factors into whether or not we attend playoff games. We can only hope the blackouts don’t happen so that local fans can watch the game in the comfort of their own homes or neighborhood bars.