The Wild Card Round of the 2013 NFL playoffs offers four intriguing matchups that should have football fans everywhere on the edge of their seats.
However, hometown fans of the Cincinnati Bengals, Indianapolis Colts and—most surprisingly—the Green Bay Packers may be left in the dark unless more fans attend the games in person.
UPDATE: Friday, Jan. 3, at 3:05 p.m. ET:
From the Bengals' official Twitter feed:
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UPDATE: Friday, Jan. 3, at 1:00 p.m. ET:
The Packers have also sold out their game, according to the team's official website:
In addition to fan sales, a group of Packers corporate partners, led by Green Bay-based Associated Bank, purchased the remaining available tickets Friday to ensure a sellout and TV broadcast of the game throughout Wisconsin. Other corporate partners with a strong Wisconsin presence that purchased tickets are FOX TV affiliates WITI (Milwaukee), WLUK (Green Bay) and WFXS (Wausau); Mills Fleet Farm and Bellin Health.
“We’re very thankful to Packers fans, and our partners led by Associated Bank, for ensuring Sunday’s game will be sold out,” said Packers President/CEO Mark Murphy. “A unique season and other factors contributed to having tickets available, but with the support of our fans and partners, we’re looking forward to a great atmosphere Sunday at Lambeau Field for the playoff game against the 49ers. We also know fans around the state will be able to enjoy the telecast.”
“As a longtime partner with the Packers’ organization, we are honored to help ensure that fans can enjoy the full Packers playoff experience this Sunday, both at Lambeau Field in in their homes,” said Associated Banc-Corp President & CEO Philip B. Flynn.
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UPDATE: Friday, Jan. 3 at 10:30 a.m. ET:
The Bengals have sold out their playoff game as well, according to the team's official website:
In an effort to assist in reaching a sellout for local television coverage, the Cincinnati/Dayton Division of Kroger has purchased a large quantity of tickets to Sunday's Bengals playoff game at Paul Brown Stadium.
With the help of local radio stations, WKRQ, WUBE and WREW in Cincinnati and WHKO and WDHT in Dayton, Kroger will distribute the tickets to US Military veterans and Active Duty service members at several store locations in the area. Customers just need to show their Military ID for two FREE tickets to Sunday's game (while supplies last).
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UPDATE: Friday, Jan. 3, at 7:35 a.m ET
According to ESPN's Rob Demovsky and Coley Harvey, all three teams have been granted an extension to get the sellout.
The Packers joined that list after they came up about 3,000 tickets short of selling out 80,750-seat Lambeau Field for Sunday's NFC wild-card playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers.
A Packers spokesperson said the league gave them until 5 p.m. ET on Friday to sell the remaining tickets and avoid a television blackout in their home market, which includes both the Green Bay and Milwaukee areas.
The Packers began the week with 40,000 tickets available.
The Bengals have until 4 p.m. ET Friday to sell the remaining tickets to Sunday's first-round AFC playoff game against the San Diego Chargers.
The Colts have until 4:30 p.m. ET Friday to sell their remaining tickets. The Colts have sold out 137 of their past 138 games.
On top of that, Ohio senator Sherrod Brown sent the FCC a letter asking it to rescind the blackout restrictions regardless of whether the Bengals sell out, according to CNN's Dan Merica:
This is unacceptable at a time when the price of attending games continues to rise and the economy is not yet where it needs to be. Fans, through local taxes, often help pay for the stadiums. They should be able to cheer on their local teams, especially during the playoffs.
While the FCC’s recent unanimous vote to eliminate the Sports Blackout Rule is excellent news for fans and taxpayers across Ohio and across the country, the NFL should do everything it can to ensure that the Cincinnati Bengals' Sunday playoff game is not blacked out.
Packers fans have spoken out on the issue, according to Fox 11's Ben Krumholz:
Dawn Byrne of Green Bay says she wanted to do her part as a Packers fan to avoid a TV blackout.
“I'm like ugh, I don't want to see that, especially for a playoff game,” said Byrne. “It’s cold, yeah, but we've been through that before.”
Byrne bought three tickets. Other fans, who plan to stay home, are hoping more people like Byrne will still come forward.
“I'm pretty angry,” said Rocky Monnin of Manitowoc. “I can't come up here and watch it at the stadium. Its too far away and costs too much.”
“Between you and I, I think Packers fans will show up,” said Dennis Harold of Green Bay.
If they don't, it's still possible fan at home could be left in the dark. Something fans like Byrne aren't willing to risk.
“You want to say, hey I was there and if it happens great,” said Byrne. “If not, at least you're still supporting your team.”
Colts fans also chimed in, according to Fox 59 in Indianapolis:
Some fans questioned why there aren’t enough takers to fill the stadium for the game.
“This is a Colts town, a football town, and it surprises me they haven’t sold as many as you’d think they would,” fan Jared Mackey said.
“We usually look for tickets during the year and they’re all sold out so (for a) playoff game (to not sell out), I’m really surprised,” fan Keith Hinsey said.
Cost is also a big factor many fans told Fox 59 kept them from buying tickets to the game.
Even if you bought the cheapest seats in the house, a trip for two people to see the game will cost you upwards of $200.
“The tickets are a little expensive this time of year so it is a little harder on people,” fan Mitch Mitchell said.
According to team owner Jim Irsay's Twitter feed, the Colts appear to have sold out the last of their tickets:
Meijer's a superstar in our community. Bought 1200 tix and giving to local military families. Game on WTHR. BLUE OUT, not black out.— Jim Irsay (@JimIrsay) January 3, 2014
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According to Rob Demovsky of ESPN, the aforementioned teams have yet to sell out their playoff contests with the deadline set for Jan. 2 at 4:30 p.m. ET. If they are unable to sell out, then the games will be blacked out on local television.
That would be especially shocking for a team like the Packers due to their rabid fanbase. Per Demovsky, the Packers have sold out 319 consecutive games at Lambeau Field, yet they still had 13,000 unsold tickets as of New Year's Eve morning.
Should the NFL change its blackout policy?
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers returned in Week 17 after nearly two months on the shelf to lead Green Bay past the rival Chicago Bears and into the playoffs. With that in mind, excitement should be at an all-time high, especially with the San Francisco 49ers making the trip up north.
Despite the daunting task of selling 13,000 tickets in just a few days, Packers representatives believe that it can be done, according to Packers spokesman Aaron Popkey, via Richard Ryman of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
"It's Tuesday, we're optimistic," Popkey said. "We're just over 24 hours into it."
It would also be somewhat shocking if Bengals and Colts fans fail to purchase the remaining tickets for their respective teams. Cincinnati has roughly 10,000 tickets remaining, while Indy has 6,000 left to sell.
The Colts have sold out 137 of their past 138 games, and they will host a Kansas City Chiefs team that they beat handily on the road just two weeks ago.
According to Michael McCann of Sports Illustrated, no NFL playoff game has been blacked out in a dozen years.
If things don't progress, that drought could be broken thrice come Jan. 2.
The Federal Communications Commission recently voted in favor of a proposition that would end NFL blackouts, Reid Cherner of USA Today reports. The FCC's vote won't have any effect on this year's playoff games, however.
It remains to be seen if any progress will be made in Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Green Bay, but failing to sell out multiple playoff games may very well be the wake-up call that the NFL needs in order to change its archaic blackout policy.
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