2010: The Year of the NFL Television Blackout?

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Fans fill the New Meadowlands Stadium for the New York Giants' 2010 home opener.

REUTERS/Gary Hershorn

Four tickets: $288. Four hot dogs and drinks: $40. Parking pass: $25. Telling fans at home that the game is knocked off local TV: priceless.

That’s the state of affairs for the San Diego Chargers and their home opener. Despite winning five of the last six AFC West division titles, Pro Football Talk reports the club fell 7,000 tickets shy of avoiding a blackout for its Week 2 contest against Jacksonville. So, for the first time in six years, local fans will miss the Chargers on television.

While blackouts are far from new, the eye-opener here is a blackout in a playoff market. Since 1973, NFL rules have dictated that in order to avoid a blackout, teams must sell out their stadiums 72 hours prior to kickoff. Any franchise facing the pull of the television plug can buy back the remaining tickets at a rate of 34 cents for every dollar.

Yet, few teams, including the Chargers, make that move. As PFT notes, San Diego declined to fork over the $238,000 to prevent its blackout — a sum of money that seems insurmountable to most (except the football club doling out seven-figure contracts).

For now, the responsibility of preventing blackouts remains in the hands of the public — a reality that has incited fear all the way up the viewing chain. Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown issued a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell last week, imploring him to reconsider the league’s policy in light of current economic conditions.

Brown wrote: “I ask the NFL to examine its current television blackout policies and develop solutions that allow for franchises to remain viable businesses, while allowing fans to enjoy the game they love, both in person at the stadium or on television at home”

CBS News reveals that a year ago, 22 games never made it to local fans’ homes. And at $77 per seat, football tickets will continue to lag on a household’s list of spending priorities. But if a glass of stadium sales isn’t full, why should a fan’s glass of pride be emptied?