By Mark Gaughan
I'm not worked up about the Buffalo Bills' decision to reject the new, reduced 85 percent sales threshold for lifting the local television blackout rule. In fact, I've never been too excited about all the attention the blackout rule receives.
I fully realize I'm going to be called an apologist for the NFL and the Bills. Fire away.
My attitude stems from my days as a season-ticket holder. I've had the good fortune of going to the games for free for a long time. But I did pay my own way for season tickets from 1973 through 1981. My attitude those days was: If you want to see the game, buy a ticket. Most season-ticket holders I know today still hold that opinion.
The reality these days is as long as the team is pretty good, most games are going to be shown on local television. The NFL is an entertainment product. Do pop music stars give away their concerts for free? Generally, no.
But the Bills play in a facility that is subsidized by taxpayers, many people argue. The government subsidizes a lot of businesses - large and small - with major tax breaks and incentives. Unfortunately, those businesses don't let me walk in and get their product for free. Should governments be giving pro sports teams any public subsidies? That’s a legitimate argument. (A team likely would leave town if it didn't get a competitive deal from its community, but it's still a legitimate argument.) So is the argument about whether Amherst should provide subsidies to lure businesses away from Tonawanda, and vice versa. Let elected officials know what you think about these issues.
Again, as long as the team is pretty good, in a market like Buffalo, the games will be on TV. And when they're not good, the fans often are better off not being subjected to the game. I can think of a lot of games in the Dick Jauron era that were a sorry excuse for entertainment and would have been better off being played in a cave deep undeneath the surface of the earth.