Mar 7, 2012; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay (above) would be making a huge mistake blacking out his team locally in 2012. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE
Recently, the National Football League changed the blackout rules to allow teams to decide whether or not to black out games, provided they sell at least 85 percent of tickets.
Today, the Colts made it clear that they intend to still black out any games the team does not sell out. According to Fox 59 in Indianapolis, the Colts will not take advantage of the new rule and will require 100 percent of tickets to be sold or else they will black out games locally. From the Fox 59 news report:
Recently, the NFL announced it's changing those rules, minimizing the chances fans would miss watching their team play. Instead of having to sell out to be on TV, the home team would only have to sell 85 percent of its tickets. It would be up to the team to decide if it would air the game.
The Colts, however, are sticking by the old rule: all tickets must be sold or fans can't watch the game on TV.
"We're confident that the games are going to sell out this year, but if for some reason one didn't, then obviously the blackout rules would still apply," said [Colts Vice President of Ticket Operations Larry] Hall.
Look, we could debate all day about why the Colts are having trouble selling ticktets (hint: it has alot to do with a certain quarterback leaving), but that is besides the point right now. Jim Irsay is not a very popular guy among Colts fans right now, as many are still upset about him getting rid of Peyton Manning. Forget about money for a minute, and blacking out games is the worst possible thing the Colts could do. If you want to generate popularity and buzz among the local fans and get them excited about the future, the absolute worst thing to do is to alienate them. If the Colts black out games in Indianapolis when they do not have to, I fear they may have a hard time recovering. If the Colts want fans falling in love with the new era of Indianapolis Colts football, they must give them the chance to watch them.
So while the Colts would love to sell out every game, the reality is that they do not have to be blacked out even if they do not. Blacking out the team regardless would do incredible damage to Irsay's reputation and the Colts' popularity. I think they will sell out, but I hope they will do the right thing even if they do not.
[UPDATE]: The Indianapolis Star has confirmed the report with Colts chief operating officer Pete Ward.