It's Wednesday. The playoffs start for the Colts this Saturday. They play at home, in Lucas Oil Stadium, against the NY Jets. Yet, as of this posting, roughly 1,000 tickets are still available. These tickets must be sold by 8pm Eastern today or the playoff game will be blacked out locally.
Things have gotten so desperate that Colts players are taking to Twitter, begging followers to buy tickets.
Again, this is a playoff game, folks.
Now, I'm not the type of person who is going to write an article here urging all you people out there to dig deep into your pockets and shell out money for 'discounted' tickets selling at around $200 bucks a pop. Professional football teams like the Colts (worth $248 million), earn gazillions of dollars due to TV contracts, play in a taxpayer funded stadium for free, and get all the benefits from having the corporate sponsorship for the stadium. They aren't short for money. And as is usual in these situations, when a number of tickets are still available, said corporations usually step in and purchase those tickets so they can give them away to clients, investors, etc.
But, with just about four hours left until the game is blacked out locally, the multi-zillion dollar corporate giants, like Indianapolis-based drug giant Eli Lilly, aren't buying.
Why is this happening? Why is a team that, for over ten years, never had trouble selling out their stadium suddenly having trouble selling out a home playoff game? Answers after the jump...
Before I get into possible reasons why there might be empty seats for the friggin playoff game in Indianapolis, let me make one thing absolutely clear: It's not the fault of the fans if this game doesn't sell out.
I've been very consistent on this point, often defending the fanbases of rival teams like the Jaguars on this topic. NFL tickets are way too expensive. Why pay oogles of money to watch a game live that is, by design, organized and structured so it will look good on TV? Factor in parking, concessions, getting a babysitter, gas, etc. and it all adds up to a very expensive venture to Lucas Oil.
So, when I hear idiots complain that 'it's the fans' fault' that the stadium doesn't sell out, I want to kick such people in the jewels with a steel-plated army boot.
At a time when billionaire owners are fighting with millionaire players over how much profit the two should share, one should never 'blame the fans,' who are currently sitting a 10% unemployment in this country during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, for not buying over-priced tickets.
That said, if the game Saturday doesn't sellout, there are a number of possible reasons. I personally don't agree with all of them, but all are perfectly legitimate, no matter how embarrassing it would be to the city and the fanbase if the game is blacked out locally:
Fans know the team isn't that good
Fans aren't dumb, even though they look and act the part. We all have watched this team for sixteen weeks. We know what they can and cannot do. We know that, barring some kind of miracle, this isn't a Super Bowl team. If they still had Dallas Clark, Austin Collie, Melvin Bullitt, Bob Sanders, Anthony Gonzalez, and Jerraud Powers then yes, this team would undoubtedly be a favorite to win the Super Bowl.
But, with all those said players done for the 2010 season, fans know that their replacements (while hardworking and enjoyable to watch) likely aren't enough to get this team a ring.
Also, for Colts fans, the playoffs are very much 'been there, done that.' It's why I wrote my preseason analysis calling this season 'Super Bowl Or Bust.' For some Colts fans, if the team isn't truly competing for a ring, the team isn't worth their money, and the 2010 Colts are quite obviously inferior to the 2009 version. Perhaps some fans just aren't interested in spending money on a team they feel isn't championship caliber.
Fans don't have any money
I'll speak from personal experience here. I work three jobs. My wife and I make a very good yearly income. Yet, because of the economy, Christmas was VERY scaled down for us this year. I cannot imagine how things are for people who live on fixed incomes with food stamps, or have been unemployed for months. This playoff game is two weeks after Christmas, a time when everyone spent their money on gifts and food. Credit cards are maxed. Bank accounts are dry.
Asking these same people to shell out $200 for tickets just isn't within their limited budgets this time of year.
Fan are still pissed about Week Sixteen last year
This one is more the 'elephant in the room' which no one wants to talk about. Head-in-the-sand types scream that only people like me still bring this specter up just to generate page views, create controversy, or because I still have some kind of personal ax to grind against Bill Polian because I'm just THAT much of a douchebag.
The reality is people still bristle when they recall how, for that Week Sixteen game against the Jets, tickets for that contest were given to loved ones as presents. Those loved ones showed up for the game only to see 60,000 boo the coach for yanking Peyton Manning and the stars in the third quarter of a winnable game. Afterward, on his radio show, a fan called in and confronted Bill Polian with this. He then accused her, on live radio, of lying.
Fun times, folks.
Fans remember that kind of stuff, especially Indiana fans. So, when a playoff game against a 'meh' opponent (and by 'meh' I mean no Tom Brady, no Pittsburgh Steelers, and no division rival) comes along and there are tickets available, some of those 60K fans who either bought Week Sixteen 2009 stubs, or were given those stubs as a gift, are less inclined this time around to shell out bread. Also, the opponent for this upcoming playoff game is the same one Indy laid down against in December of last year.
And yes, I know the two playoff games last year at the Luke sold out easily. Circumstances were different for those games, especially the Jets playoff game which was the AFC Championship.
If the third reason is truly why many fans aren't buying tickets, then it is a classic example of why 'customer relations is important, folks. This is why berating fans is a really, really bad idea. Regardless of the real reason, if the game is blacked out locally, it will indeed be an embarrassment. The city, and the fanbase, will take a hit. But, the reality is that fans are not to blame. In larger markets, extra tickets are bought up by corporations and other business entities, making it 'seem' like the fans are 'more passionate' there than in smaller markets.
I hope the game sells out, but if it doesn't, the fans are not the ones to blame. For me, the Colts need only look in the mirror and, perhaps, do a serious re-evaluation of how they treat their loyal, dedicated customers.
If there is a reason you can think of as to why this game might not sell out, shoot it in the comments.