How The Bucs Likely Avoided Blackouts

May 13th, 2010

There are certain mysteries of American history that gnaw at Joe. Some examples:

* What on earth was Bobby Lee thinking when he sent George Pickett’s division to a suicidal march at Gettysburg?

* What exactly was Hideki Tōjō thinking when he gave Isoroku Yamamoto the green light to bomb Pearl Harbor?

* With first base open, why the hell did Tommy Lasorda pitch to Jack Clark?

Recently in the Tampa Bay area, a riddle has perplexed Joe. Last year, the Bucs sold out every home game.  Well, sold out in theory. Some games, there were more people at Fergs before a Rays game than at the CITS.

Granted, the Bucs gave away thousands to non-profit groups and charities. Still there were blotches of empty red seats.

Yet the Bucs never had one home game blacked out last year, despite the fact a game must sell out all non-premium seating 72 hours prior to kickoff.

That’s what Joe thought. So how in the world could or did the Bucs get away with lifting the blackout of every home game when, technically, all but one home game wasn’t remotely close to a sellout?

Joe has found out perhaps how, thanks to one of the top media writers in the country, Neil Best of Newsday.

A former Giants beat writer, Best may not be quite as entertaining — close! — as the great Phil Mushnick, may not be as well-known as the now retired Rudy Martzke, but Joe does not know one media writer with better sources or a better work ethic than Best. The man is tireless at his craft!

In fact, Best, who has one of the most underrated blogs known to Joe, influenced Joe. This very site in many ways was inspired by Best’s blog, “Watchdog,” found on (sadly, now behind the cloak of pay-per-read).

When readers see Carmella’s lovely figure within a post about Jeff Garcia, with no mention of Carmella at all, that is a direct influence from Best, who knows that lovely lasses somehow connected to the subject of the post have a way of drawing eyeballs to a story.

And my friends, it’s all about the eyeballs!

Joe follows Best on Twitter and noticed a post this morning from Best that documented an obscure NFL rule on how teams can dance around blackout rules — for a fee — which may explain how the Bucs didn’t have a game blacked out last season.

For this and other goodies, Best agreed to an interview with Joe concerning the NFL and TV. Enjoy!

JoeBucsFan: Noticed your Tweets about NFL blackouts. The common belief is the stadium must be sold out 72 hours prior to kickoff in order for the blackout to be lifted by the NFL (sans a special order from Park Avenue giving a team a few extra hours to sell more tickets). Just to confirm from what you posted on Twitter, a home team can avoid a blackout simply by cutting the league a check covering the costs of the visiting team’s share of the gate?

Neil Best: I was not aware of this until this week, frankly, and several prominent, experienced people I know in pro football were not aware of it either. But, sure enough, it turns out a team can cut a check for 34 percent of the face value of unsold tickets to cover the visiting team share and, presto, problem solved! But the Jets insist this is a moot point because they will sell out.

Joe: What is the blackout rule for preseason games? There is nothing specific about preseason blackouts on the NFL’s media site. There is also conflicting information concerning this floating out there. ran a series of articles last season claiming Jacksonville would be blacked out for all preseason games (it was), yet the Bucs never came close to selling out either home preseason game, but there wasn’t a blackout. The sports director of the local NBC affiliate (which has the rights for all locally produced Bucs preseason contests) claims it is in the station’s contract with the Bucs that all home preseason games are not blacked out; that regular season blackout rules do not apply to the preseason. Can you shed some light on preseason blackouts?

Neil: Honestly, I don’t know what the rules are for preseason. I’m just speculating here, but there can’t be blackouts in preseason, can there? If there is a rule blacking out preseason games that are not sold out, all is lost for us as a civilization.

Joe: It is becoming a belief of sorts that with the saturation of HDTVs and the costs of going to NFL games and the assorted hassles involved, that fans are choosing more often to stay in the comfort of their homes and watch the games on their HDTVs. Jerry Jones has openly spoken about how an NFL game must be an event in order to get people off the couch. Roger Goodell has spoken about this subject as well. Given your contacts with various media industry giants and the NFL, has there been any discussion of the NFL making home games in individual markets available on pay-per-view?

Neil: I am not aware of the NFL having any plans to take the PPV plunge. Its contracts with the various TV networks are so lucrative, not sure what the point of that would be. There is no question that the appeal of watching at home on a big, HD screen is a huge issue for the NFL to deal with. Other sports, too. That is one reason there are four huge video screens in each corner of New Meadowlands Stadium and a monster screen in Texas. You have to give people the in-person and TV experiences at the same time these days!

Joe: David Hill of Fox Sports has stated that the NFL making more and more games available online (via various broadcast partners, NFL Sunday Ticket and will dissuade broadcast networks from bidding for future NFL broadcast rights. This smacks of posturing. More and more people are going to the computer, not staying away. Your thoughts?

Neil: Well, I think that will continue to evolve as an option over the next five or 10 years, but as I wrote earlier, in the short term the NFL can’t do anything to mess up its main meal ticket, which is money from the TV networks. For now, that is still the mother lode.

Joe:  Time for you to gaze into your crystal ball. What is the future of the NFL and TV? Will all games at some point be pay-per-view? Will 3D broadcasts, like HDTV currently is, be the norm? Will fans someday have a device on their remote that would mute a broadcaster yet be able to hear the sounds of the game (a handy tool when Gus Johnson is involved)? Will fans in the stadium be offered smartphone-like devices in stadiums where they can watch other games or choose their own replays of the game they attend? What do you envision NFL broadcasts to be like, both short-term and into the future?

Neil: Heavens! The answer to that is a five-part series, at least. I think all of the above is very possible and/or probable. But there is no way to predict this stuff. Ten years ago I did not think the entire accumulated knowledge of the human race would be floating around in the air of my house and available to be captured on the laptop in my basement.

17 Responses to “How The Bucs Likely Avoided Blackouts”

  1. adam from ny Says:

    on another note:


    adam from ny

  2. d-money Says:


    This doesn’t make sense.

    I thought the Glazers are broke and dont care about the fans. They would never pay for this.

  3. oar Says:

    Joe, some helpful clues to your puzzles:

    * What on earth was Bobby Lee thinking when he sent George Pickett’s division to a suicidal march at Gettysburg?
    Maybe, because Pickett fell in love with a minor(9 yrs old when they met) and later married.

    * What exactly was Hideki Tōjō thinking when he gave Isoroku Yamamoto the green light to bomb Pearl Harbor?
    Maybe, cause he felt it was an omen to have an eight-fingered Naval General lead the attack. Or mabe he just wanted “to awaken the sleeping giant!”

    * With first base open, why the hell did Tommy Lasorda pitch to Jack Clark?
    Maybe, cause who was on first, what was on second, and I don’t know was on third.

  4. CharlieB Says:

    So as long as tv ad revenue + goodwill > 34% of unsold tickets, we’ll have televised games. Good to know.

  5. Joe Says:

    adam from ny:


    (sigh) Joe hopes those are nothing more than unfounded rumors.

  6. Joe Says:


    So as long as tv ad revenue


  7. Eric Says:

    Why did Bobby Cox bring in Charlie Leibrandt to pitch to Kirby Puckett in the Sixth game of the 91 World Series?

    Still have nightmares over it.

  8. BigMacAttack Says:

    Joe, you were trying very hard to impress this man. Yes? It is easy to see how much you value his opinion. Well, was he impressed with you? Good job letting him have the last words in the article. Joe doesn’t usually do that.

  9. admin Says:

    Joe here,

    BigMac – Joe does his share of unedited Q&A’s. You know that. As for whether Best was impressed with Joe? Don’t know. Don’t really care. Would be nice, though.

  10. BucFan South Tampa Says:

    Joe, Thanks for the article. Great insight as always. I assume now you will be writing articles that the Glazers do have money and that their refusal to play in Free Agency or sign Fat Ass 400 lb Offensive Linemen to long term deals is that they are prudent with their money not that they are broke.

  11. Joe Says:

    BucFan South Tampa:

    First, thanks for the compliment.

    Joe has written likely a dozen times he believes the Glazers — as well as many owners — are waiting for the new CBA before breaking out the checkbook. Of course, whenever Joe writes this, he gets roasted.

    The Bucs have 17 players who will be free agents in 2011. Just so happens that’s when the current CBA expires and the likely work stoppage takes place.

    Coincidence? Joe thinks not.

    Does that mean the Glazers will become spendthrifts in 2012? Who knows?

  12. Radio Mushmouth Says:

    The black-out rule is so out-dated , and has never worked anyways.

    The theory is ; if the game is not on TV , fans will go and buy tickets they otherwise wouldn’t. This is proven not to work. You don’t get a larger walk-up after a blackout. If fans don’t want to pay for the game , it’s either because they can’t afford it , or the product is so bad that they aren’t going to pay for it regardless.

    Black-outs don’t work , and the NFL should just scrap the idea.

  13. Rob Says:

    Gus Johnson is the best broadcaster in sports.

  14. thomas Says:


    If you dont understand this:

    So as long as tv ad revenue (and other intangibles) > then cost to nfl,

    then you probably have been lost re the state of this team for a while.

    Just b/c they paid $ toward something doesnt it doesnt mean that it was done as a money losing-gift to the fan base bonehead!

  15. Leighroy Says:

    I second Rob. Granted, my appreciation for Gus Johnson reaches further when he calls basketball games more so than football, but he actually brings excitement to a telecast that is otherwise brought down by dry, comatose broadcasters (i.e. Joe Buck).

    Anyone who has heard the line, “My name’s Al Harrington and I GET BUCKETS!!!” knows what I’m talking about!

  16. act12greg Says:

    This is one of the best story’s you have ever done. You might even make the NFL change their rule so the owners don’t look like the cheap asses that most of them are. At least the Buc’s owners did the right thing last year, let’s hope they do the right thing next year.

  17. Joe Says:


    What a kind thing to say, Joe thanks you!

    But to be fair, you should thank Neil Best. He agreed to talk to Joe on the record about this. Joe has more online readers than Best. No joke.

    All of Best’s Newsday online articles are behind a pay firewall. Last Joe heard, which was a few months ago, Newsday had only 37 online subscribers. Seriously.

    So by going on the record with Joe, Best got the word out much better than his own newspaper could.