Crisis averted: Green Bay, Milwaukee and Wausau won't be evacuating Sunday
there any doubt?
Well, yeah. Many thought Sunday's Packers playoff game against the 49ers would most certainly air but there was a school of doubters who wondered if fans could pull the trigger and buy up remaining seats in time to avoid an NFL mandated blackout.
More amazing was how fast the doubters popped up, filling social media with aspersions as to the loyalty of Green Bay fans. Granted, Facebook and Twitter aren't arbiters of conventional wisdom as any moron with a keyboard and a partially functioning set of neurons between his/her ears can fire off vitriol, spite, bile and b-s. It didn't take much rooting around to find folks taking shot at Packerland and questioning just how true we are to our school.
Wisconsin Morning News sports guy Greg Matzek is right in pointing out just how well Wisconsin responded, what with 40,000 seats to sell in just a few days. It was only Sunday night that the Packers nailed down the divisional crown and with it the right to host a Wild Card game. Lambeau wasn't even stocked with enough beer and brats, since a Green Bay loss would've meant they wouldn't be needed until Family Night.
The team might've bungled a bit in the way it mailed out playoff ticket offers to the legion of season ducat holders and, let's face it, the paperwork arrived at the season's low ebb--right after the loss to the Lions on Thanksgiving Day. Few thought Green Bay had a chance at the postseason berth and, as a result, the built-in base of would-be playoff attendees didn't punch in for duty.
Weather doesn't help, what with the forecast temperature at kickoff seemingly getting ratcheted down hourly by state meteorologists. At the current clip the mercury will be wavering around absolute zero when toe meets frozen pigskin.
A team with a season-ticket waiting list as long as Green Bay's doesn't have to vouch for the voracity of its fan base, but the fact Sunday's tickets weren't gone in minutes does speak to a few things that Packerland shares with other NFL cities: the competition that comes from a better home experience in the form of man caves, sports bars and surround sound combined with rising seat prices. Dipping into the NFL Network's Red Zone allows one to see every game as it's being played during the course of the season and many of those featured empty seats, even if the home team still had a playoff pulse. I noticed a shocking number of vacancies at Pittsburgh's Heinz Field late in the season. Indianapolis and Cincinnati struggled to sell all of their playoff tickets, too.
The blackout rule needs to change, as the NFL is no longer financially gate-reliant. Time was when ticket sales were the mother's milk of the league. Television changed all that. The massive network contracts are what pay the freight. Stadium crowds? Sure, the money's big but the coffers are already brimming before the turnstiles open.
Green Bay remains unique to pro sports. This week's events do nothing to take the shine off a passionate, loyal fan base. Sunday will find Lambeau rockin' despite Siberian conditions.
It'll also find hundreds of thousands of fans safely at home or at the corner bar, watching the fray on network TV and thankful for the 80,000 or so souls who braved the elements and ponied up for the right to see it in person while assuring the rest of us the ability to watch it free in HD without having to drive to Madison, Chicago or some other place outside the blackout radius.
Thanks, and remember to dress in layers. Lots of 'em.