By Tim Graham
The Buffalo Bills' public-relations predicament over what to do about the NFL's new blackout policy is illustrated on today's editorial page in The Buffalo News.
While the Bills weigh whether to loosen up the criteria for allowing a game to be televised locally (each team may choose whether to adopt the league's 85 percent sellout threshold) or maintain the complete-sellout system that maximizes box-office revenues, our editorial board has taken a public position.
From the editorial:
A big-city franchise, like the New York Giants or Miami Dolphins, might be able to absorb or pass on those costs with hardly a gasp. But while the Bills' fan base is a reliable -- and long-suffering -- bunch, it is a smaller group and Buffalo is a poor city. It is harder for the team to absorb those costs and harder to pass them on to ticket-buyers.
Still, the Bills should look closely at this opportunity for ways to make it work, if only on a trial basis. There are a number of potential advantages. Most hopefully, it could push the Bills to improve their performance on the field. There's nothing like a winning team to put fans in the seats.
Secondly, even fans who don't go to the games support the team through taxes that help maintain Ralph Wilson Stadium. The policy will give them -- and all taxpayers -- a small break, too.
I'm not obligated to agree with The News' editorial board, but I'm not sure where I stand. A big reason for that is because NFL teams don't share their books. I'd like to know exactly how much money the Bills realistically could lose by dropping its ticket threshold to 85 percent.
But I do know this: Even if the Bills have fantabulous reasons to stick with the old 100 percent sellout policy, the fans are going to resent it if the Bills don't adopt the friendlier option.
Some more links to clickety-clack:
* WGRZ Channel 2 reporter Dave McKinley's latest piece provides stadium lease updates from Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, who said the Bills "want more than I think they know they're going to get. But we're not going to give away the store to keep the team here. We're going to ensure that this team is economically viable and is kept here for many years. ... I feel confident that when all is said and done that we're going to get a lease that is fair for all and keeps the Buffalo Bills in this community, so that they're the Buffalo Bills, not the Los Angeles Bills."
* Former Buffalo News writer Tyler Dunne, now of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, reports Bills defensive tackle Jay Ross is selling the Super Bowl XLV ring he got from being on the Green Bay Packers' practice squad. It is being sold by Heritage Auctions in Dallas.
* Kevin Fishbain of Pro Football Weekly examines how much the Bills could rely on rookies at crucial positions this year: Stephon Gilmore at No. 1 cornerback and Cordy Glenn at left tackle.
* BuffaloBills.com writer Chris Brown wonders if the Bills can average 24 points a game this season. That would've ranked 10th in the NFL last year, the minimum of where quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said he wanted the Bills to be in 2012.
* In a Q&A piece with Newark Star-Ledger reporter Jenny Vrentas, 2009 Bills draft pick Ellis Lankster talks about playing up to the expectations of new teammates Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie.