If you follow enough Packers fans on Twitter — reluctantly, I do — you would have noticed a strange dynamic shift over the past few days: the euphoria of Aaron Rodgers’ return in Sunday’s dramatic NFC North-clinching victory over the Bears giving way to unthinkable concern that Green Bay’s playoff opener against San Francisco might not be available on TV in many parts of Wisconsin.
Normally the only blackout Packers fans have to worry about during a home game is flask-related. But a perfect storm of circumstances led to legitimate concern that the game Sunday at Lambeau Field vs. the 49ers might not sell out before Thursday’s TV deadline.
As of Wednesday afternoon, about 7,500 tickets remained unsold for the game. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel laid out the reasons nicely, ranging from a new policy relating to season tickets, a Lambeau expansion that created thousands of additional seats, forecast cold weather and the fact that the 8-7-1 Packers didn’t win the rotten NFC North until the final day of the season, giving the organization less time to sell the playoff game.
Another factor noted — one which could be influencing slow ticket sales for the Bengals and Colts, also in danger of blackouts — is how comfortable it is these days, regardless of weather, to watch games on TV. For the price of four tickets to Sunday’s game (roughly $125 apiece), a fan could buy a perfectly nice HD television, with money left over for snacks and beverages that are a fraction of the price of concessions.
Those who stay home, of course, are counting on others to attend the games in order to avoid that dreaded TV blackout. If the Packers don’t reach their ticket threshold by the deadline, the game will not be shown in the Green Bay or Milwaukee markets — a sizable chunk of Packer Nation in Wisconsin.
Perhaps there are enough fans in both camps — those who want the in-person experience and those who prefer their creature comforts — to keep everyone happy. But when fans who buy “stock” in a team in order to become “owners” are hesitant to pay for tickets to an actual playoff game, it’s notable.
The Packers have nearly 100,000 fans on their season-ticket waiting list and have sold out 319 consecutive games. If that streak ends for a playoff game, it will be a sad day for all in Green Bay.