Much of the week leading up to wild card weekend was dominated by three of the four games needing extensions in order (hopefully) sell out. If they didn't, the games would be blacked out locally. There really was no chance of a blackout happening, but as of Friday morning, the Colts made it official, announcing that they sold out and there would be no blackout.
The reason? Meijer - a regional supermarket chain headquartered in Michigan but with stores in several of the surrounding states including Indiana - bought the remaining tickets. According to Colts owner Jim Irsay, Meijer bought 1,200 tickets and is giving them to local military families. That is an awesome move and very cool. It's awesome that they bought the tickets to avoid a blackout, but even cooler is that they are giving them to military families. It's great that they're showing support to both the Colts and military families. Huge props to Meijer for an outstanding and very quality move.
As far as the other teams struggling to sell out - the Bengals and the Packers - they both seem to be very much within reach. Shortly after Meijer bought the remaining Colts tickets, Kroger bought tickets to the Bengals game, and while I don't believe they are sold out yet they are close, as are the Packers, who have less than 1,000 tickets remaining. Neither of those games will be blacked out, I'm sure of that.
Rather than being an indictment of the fans, the fact that three of the four games needed extensions to sell out should send a very strong message to the NFL that their system was messed up and the league should be very thankful for companies like Meijer and Kroger buying tickets to avoid blackouts - because instead of being a black eye for the fanbases, it would have been a massive black eye for the league.
Why? Well, consider that the league required season ticket holders to buy tickets weeks early and required them to buy tickets for two playoff games. Additionally, playoff tickets only went on sale to the general public this past Monday, and that was a day after the time and dates of games were announced. That's very short notice.
Add to that other factors, and it's not hard to see why there was a hard time selling out. The Packers will be playing in one of the coldest games in NFL history. The Colts are playing on the same day as Indiana University (who hosts Big Ten foe and one of the best teams in the country, Michigan State) and the Indiana Pacers (who host the New Orleans Pelicans) - and tickets for both of those games went on sale long before fans even knew the Colts would be playing on Saturday. And for all three of the fanbases, they're all in smaller markets and the games take place just weeks after Christmas - where people spend a lot of money on gifts. And playoff tickets for Christmas as gifts? Nope, because they weren't even on sale then.
Hopefully the fact that none of these games will be blacked out will not cause the NFL to overlook the several flaws that resulted in these games being hard to sell out. And for anyone wanting to criticize a fan base, go ahead and try to criticize Packers fans, who are among the most loyal in all of sports and who will be sitting in negative temperatures to watch their team this weekend.
The NFL avoided a black eye this weekend, but there are still areas the league needs to look at. Thanks to Meijer, the Colts won't be blacked out on local TV. But if you still want tickets, the Chiefs returned 300 of them and they are available at the usual ticket outlets. It does not affect the sell out, however.