They're trying hard to avoid using the dreaded "B-word" around Paul Brown Stadium this week, but it is becoming evident that despite the Cincinnati Bengals' best efforts, it still might pop up before the week is over.
In this case, the B is for blackout. If the Bengals can't sell approximately 8,000 more tickets to Sunday's first-round playoff game against San Diego between Thursday and Friday afternoon, then they will be assured of having the first local blackout of an NFL playoff game since 2002. The semi-good news, though, is that they are not alone. As we've seen this week, the Green Bay Packers and Indianapolis Colts are having trouble selling out their postseason games, as well.
The combination of market sizes, ticket prices, weather, holidays and matchups explains why sales in the three cities have been down. Perhaps most specifically in the Packers' case, the fact the team just found out last weekend that it would even be in the playoffs contributed to a slow start to ticket sales. Some of the other aforementioned factors are at play for the Colts and Bengals, teams that appear to have "similar" sales challenges in the eyes of Bengals director of sales and public affairs, Jeff Berding. It appears the NFL may be feeling the same way about those challenges and will be granting Cincinnati, like it has already done for Indianapolis, an extension Thursday to stave off a possible blackout for one more day.
Aside from the financial blow the region could take due to a local blackout, the perception that goes along with having a playoff blackout could be damaging for the Bengals. Coach Marvin Lewis spent part of his weekly news conference Wednesday discussing how his team has turned a corner since its 2011 "restart" that came after owner Mike Brown retained him following a disappointing 4-12 record in 2010. In the years since, the Bengals have had three straight playoff berths, and ridden the talents of key signings and high draft picks. The Bengals have started ridding themselves of the "Bungles" tag that was slapped on them long ago for the way they bumbled their way to more losses than wins.
Nationally, the perception of a franchise that can't sell out a playoff game is that it isn't a very good one, and that it isn't worthy of attention if its own fans don't show up.
The Bengals don't believe that's their reality. But the clock is ticking on them being able to prove otherwise.
This Thursday's Morning Stripes takea a few extra looks at the Bengals' difficulty dumping tickets:
In this Cincinnati Enquirer blog, you can see where former Bengal Chad Johnson has been having fun with a few writers and fans the last couple of days. He tweeted Wednesday that he chatted with Berding not long after Berding spoke with reporters. Johnson has said he'll pick up the balance of the tickets, much like he -- and Motorola -- did in 2009 to help the team avoid a blackout. The Bengals have jokingly tweeted Johnson back to see if he might jump in and snatch a few.
On the not-so-fun side of the ticket story, a blackout could mean a lost day of work for some in the region. Cincinnati television station WKRC has this story on the impact a blackout could have on businesses. Some employers, like pizzerias which do better business on game days, may be sending employees home if fans can't see the game.
There's this from the Dayton Daily News. The Bengals are enticing fans attending Sunday's game with the first public honoring of the 1981 AFC championship team. Players off that team who live within driving distance have been invited to the game and will get recognized pre-kickoff as the Bengals capitalize off this postseason pairing with the Chargers. The teams are meeting in the playoffs for the first time since that year's conference title game which was nicknamed the "Freezer Bowl" because of the day's minus-59 wind chill. Snow is in the forecast Sunday with a low of 3.