By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Saturday, October 24th, 2009 at 10:52 am in Oakland Raiders.
So long as the NFL believes the sanctioned extortion of non-paying fans to be one of the bedrocks of its popularity, the only way the Raiders will be able to avoid embarrassing blackouts is to improve the product on the field.
There was a nice buzz to the Coliseum during last week’s 13-9 win over Philadelphia, one that went beyond the after-effects of, ahem, pregame tailgate activities.
The defensive play was emotional, inspired and mandatory, coming as it did after the previous week’s roll-over-and-play-dead effort in the Meadowlands against the New York Giants.
The Coliseum was as loud as its been since the first three quarters of the Week 1 loss to San Diego, and frankly, the parking lot was more full when I arrived than I expected.
Since the Raiders took over their own ticket sales, an operation driven primarily by CEO Amy Trask, having only two games blacked out in in each of the three previous seasons was quite an accomplishment considering the product on the field had a record of 11-37. But it’s clear there are as many people protesting with their checkbooks rather than utilizing their right to boo.
As it is, the Raiders might need to do something remarkable to avoid a run of blackouts to close out the season.
None of the remaining home games _ Kansas City, Cincinnati, Washington and Baltimore _ are particularly inspiring to the ticket-buying public unless accompanied by some sort of Raiders revival on the field.
Commissioner Roger Goodell made it clear the league is beholden to the blackout policy despite an economy that makes it more difficult to get fans to the stadium.
“Absolutely. You know, it’s a very important balance in attracting people to our stadiums and continuing to make our games (available) on free television,” Goodell said in an interview on Sirius Satellite Radio. “And it’s been done for several decades. We’ve been through a couple of recessions in that period of time.
“And the blackouts are extremely minimal at this point. I think we have seven in the first 103 games. You want all of our games not to be blacked out but that’s not possible. And we’re the one sport that’s been able to stay on free television and we’re proud of that.”
Seven in 103 games. And three of them are in Oakland.
If it’s an Oakland problem and not a league-wide problem, the blackout policy will remain intact.
Fans have seen the occasional surprise like the one they got last week against Philadelphia. Then all too often it’s been followed up with a resounding thud. Coach Tom Cable believes he’s got the flat-lining thing corrected.
“As I told them, I’m going to assume now that you will bring the fight every Sunday,” Cable said.
Short of that, those fans in the Bay Area who watch the home games on television will be left in the dark.