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And Another Thing

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NFL: Blackout, schmlackout

And now for today's Headline That Should Never Exist.

The NFL's blackout rule is a crass enough money grab, artificially creating demand and, by so doing, artificially jacking up ticket prices. But to allow it to remain in effect during the playoffs goes beyond crass to nearly criminal.

This is especially the case in Green Bay this weekend, where a local bank saved Packers fans from a TV blackout by buying up the last of the tickets. Never mind that a lot of those tickets didn't sell because (again, through manipulated price inflation) the cheapest, in Green Bay, were going for $119. A lot of them didn't sell because even Cheeseheads have an occasional rational thought filter through all that foam rubber, and the rational thought was reminding them that the game-time temperature tomorrow is supposed to be minus-3 with wind chills of -- hold onto your toque -- minus-30.

Yet the NFL was prepared to punish Packers fans, some of the most loyal in football, for not paying three figures for a ticket a lot of them weren't likely to use (and in many cases couldn't afford anyway). Won't buy a ticket to a game played in not just inclement but actively dangerous conditions? Too bad, we're not gonna let you watch it on TV if you don't fill Lambeau Field.

You can't over-emphasize what a disgusting piece of blackmail that is, which is why the NFL's blackout rule needs to go away and needs to go away immediately. This is especially true for the playoffs, when it shouldn't be in effect, anyway.

And that's not just because it's blatant fan abuse. It's because it's stupid from a business aspect.

Deliberately limiting the audience is never a winning move -- just ask boxing, which years ago chose cash over relevance by exclusively limiting their big fights to pay-per-view -- and it's especially stupid in the case of the NFL, which is sitting on a Mt. Everest of dough and wouldn't suffer an iota financially if it eliminated the blackout rule. It's only naked greed and an obvious contempt for its fans that keeps it in place.

And so: Get rid of the blackout rule. Or make Roger Goodell sit outside in minus-30 wind chills until he sees the light.

Ben Smith's blog.

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