January 2, 2009

Cardinals and Vikings Try to Avoid Blackout


Many N.F.L. fans are consulting on-line auction sites, casual acquaintances and possibly their bank managers in the pursuit of playoff tickets, but the Arizona Cardinals and the Minnesota Vikings are still struggling to fill their stadiums for this weekend’s wild-card games. If they fall short, the games will not be shown on local television.

The Vikings said Thursday night that they were 8,000 tickets short of a sellout, and the Cardinals need to sell 3,700. Normally, a team must register a sellout 72 hours before kickoff to have its game broadcast locally. But because of factors like the New Year’s holiday and the distressed economy, the league has granted extensions to both teams.

The Vikings, who play the Eagles on Sunday, have until Friday afternoon, and the Cardinals, who play the Falcons on Saturday, required a second 24-hour extension Thursday.

Greg Aiello, an N.F.L. spokesman, said wild-card weekend games are always “the most challenging” sales of the playoffs, primarily because of the late scheduling. Traditionally, Aiello said, if they are close enough to a sellout, the teams work with their sponsors to buy the remaining tickets.

The Cardinals and the Vikings seemed confident that they would meet the requirements.

“There’s no reason to have a Plan B,” Ron Minegar, the Cardinals’ executive vice president and chief operating officer, said in a telephone interview. “In spite of all those challenges, we’ve been really happy with how the public has responded.”

Steve LaCroix, the Vikings’ vice president for sales and marketing, said the economic downturn had become a consideration this season. But, he added, it was not a major concern this weekend with tickets starting at $30 and with the league’s decision to reduce the price of playoff tickets by 10 percent.

The Cardinals have sold out each of their 30 games since moving to University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.

The Vikings, who play at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, have a streak of 114 consecutive sellouts since 1998, which includes their last home playoff game eight years ago.

“The Metrodome can get very loud and really give us a home-field advantage,” LaCroix said, “so it’s critical that we keep it packed with purple versus Eagles fans in green.”

He has good reason to be worried. The Eagles have started an equally aggressive online campaign with the front of their Web page telling fans that tickets are still available and instructing them, “Let’s turn Minnesota green.”

The last playoff blackout came in the 2002 wild-card round, when games between the Ravens and the Dolphins and the Jets and the Raiders were not broadcast in the Miami and Oakland areas.

Perhaps the highest-profile victim of that rule was the wild-card game between the Buffalo Bills and the Houston Oilers in 1993.

Because it was blacked out in Buffalo, Bills fans missed their team’s 32-point comeback, which remains the largest in N.F.L. history.

Source: NY Times

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