By Alan Pergament
This is what I'm thinking, early Monday morning edition:
I hope you enjoyed the Buffalo Bills' 37-14 victory over the New York Jets in your living room Sunday because it might be the last game from the Ralph you will see that way this season unless the threat of blackouts is really a charade this National Football League season.
I wasn't surprised that Bills Owner Ralph Wilson came to the rescue and bought the remaining 3,500 or so tickets so the game wouldn't become the first NFL contest this season to be blacked out.
The Bills and the league may deny it, but the NFL appears to be reacting to the FCC's threat of changing a blackout rule that has helped set the league's voluntarily blackout policy by carrying games on TV in multiple markets with plenty of empty seats.
As I wrote last week, the blackout threat this season in Buffalo has appeared to be a bit of a charade as games with Carolina, Cincinnati and New York all appeared to be in jeopardy of being blacked out before they were saved for armchair fans.
The game against Atlanta in Toronto on Dec. 1. undoubtedly will be televised on Fox affiliate WUTV because the games in the Canadian deal always have been even when there are plenty of empty seats.
Unless the Bills spark ticket sales by winning games against three very beatable teams in the next month, the charade could end with the Bills home game against Miami on Dec. 22 because approximately 20,000 tickets reportedly were unsold last week.
I would estimate Wilson paid about $70,000 to buy up the tickets for the Jets game, which is manageable and a pittance compared to network TV revenue the team gets.
But buying up 20,000 tickets could cost $400,000.
The only way that charade will end is if the Bills go on a winning streak, sell thousands of tickets and even then Wilson may have to buy the remaining tickets as an early Christmas gift to long-suffering fans.
That scenario sounded implausible before Sunday's decisive win, which served as a three-hour advertisement for selling tickets to the Miami game.
An optimistic Bills fan could predict the Bills can beat Atlanta, Jacksonville and Tampa Bay over the next month -- since they only have five wins collectively -- and really be in the playoff hunt at 7-7 going into the Miami game.
But a NFL realist knows that they could just as easily lose or two of the games as well and make it tougher to sell tickets.
I caught the final three minutes or so of Channel 2's Kevin O'Neill's debut as a meteorologist on the station's 11 a.m. news Friday. Anchor Mary Friona told O'Neill he did a good job as the newscast ended. He responded by waving his hand in a way that suggested he thought he did just OK and there was room for improvement. I agree with his assessment. He stumbled with a few words and maps, but that probably was to be expected on a first show. O'Neill also seemed to be a bit windy during a live report from the waterfront on "Daybreak" this morning before steadying himself. He clearly is a work in progress.
I had this thought after watching the Buffalo Sabres beat the Toronto Maple Leafs Friday in Coach Ted Nolan's debut: What happened to the good old days when an advertiser sponsored the three stars and viewers could actually see who they were? With channels trying every way they can to make a few extra bucks, that would seem to be a no-brainer.
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