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With the Lions mired in a winless season and suddenly unable to sell out Ford Field, Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press makes the case for a lifting of the blackout policy for the rest of the year.
Sharp argues that, if the league won’t do it on an across-the-board basis for every team, then the Lions deserve a special exemption.
But do they?  We realize that the autmotive industry is struggling right now, but we’ve got a feeling that every seat would have a butt in it if the Lions were something other than 0-9.  
Besides, isn’t it the job of the organization to devise price points and other strategies that will ensure that tickets sell even if the team doesn’t produce?  Plenty of bad teams still sell all their tickets, even if the people who buy them choose not to actually come to all the games.
Frankly, this idea from Sharp smells of something that Lions COO Tom Lewand has whispered in his ear.  Because even though Lewand has somehow managed to insulate himself from blame for the on-field failures during more than a decade with the franchise (his online bio declares that “Lewand’s leadership positions every aspect of the Lions’ organization, including Ford Field operations, to significantly impact the Lions’ drive for a Super Bowl title“), Lewand — and no one but Lewand — should bear responsibility for the inability to sell enough tickets to permit the games to be broadcast locally.
The current economic climate isn’t something that suddenly developed; it’s been lingering for months.  And so it’s Lewand’s job to ensure that the Lions come up with ways to sell enough tickets to permit the games to be shown on television.
Instead of being proactive, Lewand is now forced to react.  And we have a sneaking suspicion that the major part of Lewand’s strategy is to find a way to get himself out of the crosshairs.
So instead of having anyone scrutinize whether Lewand might be responsible in whole or in part for the failure of the turnstiles to sufficiently turn, people in Detroit will now be blaming the situation on the economy, or on the fact that the league won’t give the Lions the same break that it gave the Saints after Katrina.
Look, we’ve got nothing personal against Lewand.  But, frankly, he’s the product of a shmoozeocracy that allowed him to piggyback on his father’s connections as a prominent Detroit lawyer (his dad’s firm  even has offices at Ford Field) into a gig that Lewand likely would never have been able to finagle based solely on merit.  And while Lewand is very skilled at saying and doing all of the things that has positioned himself for ongoing employment in a high-paying job with an NFL team, the reality is that he has far more responsibility for the Lions’ current situation than anyone within the Detroit media has ever acknowledged.
Thus, the blackout policy should not change.  And if the Lions can’t sell out their games, the local fans who don’t get to watch the team play on television (is that really a bad thing?) should dust off the “Fire Millen” chant and change it to “Fire Lewand.”

Permalink 45 Comments Feed for comments Latest Stories in: Rumor Mill
  1. ABROWNSFAN says: Nov 13, 2008 5:36 PM

    No….nobody wants to see their garbage.

  2. mrussie says: Nov 13, 2008 5:40 PM

    oh look, some bullshit story to try to make people look the other way on the facebook story

  3. extremist says: Nov 13, 2008 5:40 PM

    Don’t lift the blackout, I think Lions fans have suffered enough already.

  4. PrettyFnTubular says: Nov 13, 2008 5:41 PM

    Not reading this article until you post the picture

  5. dlmcc0202 says: Nov 13, 2008 5:43 PM

    As bad as the Lions are, they still have plenty of fans in Detroit. Seeing as how alot of them work in the auto industry and have more serious concerns and responsibilities than spending their money on an over priced ticket to a sports event, I think the Lions should get an exception. Now is not the time to be petty and block out games to something some people in Detroit might want to watch. Those people have enough problems, lets not make it worse.
    I realize alot of you may say something funny like “well the league is doing the fans a favor by sparing them of the agony that is the Lions football team” but SOME people there probably still want to watch the games. Since they have their jobs to worry about I dont blame them for not spending the ridiculous sum of money it costs to go to a sports event nowadays

  6. Mbehavin2 says: Nov 13, 2008 5:46 PM

    No – if the Fords want the stadium filled let them reduce the ticket prices or give the tickets away. They will write them off anyway.
    Next thing you know the NFL will be asking for some of the bailout money! Wait the Fords are already going to get some of that for their executive bonuses!!!

  7. texasPHINSfan says: Nov 13, 2008 5:46 PM

    well i don’t think they should life the blackout rule… however the lions SHOULD lower ticket prices. its supply & demand. demand isn’t big right now because the prices are high and the team is underperforming.
    if the lions would lower ticket prices in-line with the product fans can expect to receive, you might see increased attendance. Hell, i LOVE my team and can’t afford to see them, i can’t imagine how lions fans must feel.
    lower the damn prices already. across the board.

  8. The Blast Furnace says: Nov 13, 2008 5:50 PM

    Why they gotta be called ‘black’outs?

  9. CapsLockKey says: Nov 13, 2008 5:51 PM

    Moving them to LA or disbanding the franchise altogether would be more beneficial to the great citizens of Detroit. If the Ford’s run their car company in the same manner as their football team, it’s now wonder they are on the brink of asking for a bailout from the Feds.

  10. andyinsdca says: Nov 13, 2008 5:53 PM

    The problem isn’t just the Lions selling tickets, it’s the Red Wings, too. There are lots of empty seats at the Joe every game. But, the NHL doesn’t have the stupid local blackout policy, so even the fans that can’t afford tickets get to see (and support) the Wings.
    The NFL needs to drop the local blackout policy altogether. The policy may have made sense a long time ago, but that’s past. Put ALL of the local games on TV and collect the TV revenue.

  11. dmatt says: Nov 13, 2008 6:02 PM

    I’ll bet they could sell out if the tickets were ten bucks a pop. They want people to pay top dollar for crap.

  12. extremist says: Nov 13, 2008 6:02 PM

    dlmcc, if economics are truly the reason the 0-9 Lions can’t sell out, then how about if the Lions try lowering ticket prices enough so their “fans” can buy them?

  13. ACDC84 says: Nov 13, 2008 6:04 PM

    Lifting the blackout would simply deprive NFL fans living in Detroit of seeing a competitive football game on TV.

  14. titans_fan says: Nov 13, 2008 6:09 PM

    Uhh what about the areas where contruction is the predominant form of employment? Do we make exceptions for those teams as well? I mean we could go on and on about the different industries that have been impacted and in turn impact football. On top of that, those UAW workers have made ridiculous money for many, many years; odds are they’ve squirreled a few bucks away. I have a hard time having much pity for them.

  15. inmymind says: Nov 13, 2008 6:10 PM

    There is a line here that needs to viewed as a serious matter in the incident that has the ability to bring out a modicum of change in the NFL and its ability to manage the inepitude of the less fortunate fans that are NOT from Detroit. The NFL needs to black out the game for the entire country.

  16. dave0320 says: Nov 13, 2008 6:12 PM

    The bigger story will be what will the NFL do about ticket prices going into next year. They have already discounted this years play-off ticket prices.
    I retired from a Fortune 250 company, and they have maindated they will no longer purchase season ticktes or suites to any cfoncerts or sporting events.
    The Banking industry has always had a ton of season tickets, so it remains to be seen how far companies back off, including future naming rights.

  17. Ntrikit says: Nov 13, 2008 6:14 PM

    Adrian Peterson took off his helmet and wasn’t flagged.
    Did you know that?

  18. Jim Beam says: Nov 13, 2008 6:15 PM

    Being from the area I dont think the people realize just how bad it is here.
    That being said, how can publicly funded stadiums that are being built with tax payers money be blacked out regardless? To me that the bigger crime.
    You the fan is going to build our stadium and my portfolio, but if you dont spend even more money to fill it up and buy $9 beers I’m going to make it so you can’t see the game at all.

  19. freedomispopular says: Nov 13, 2008 6:16 PM

    Should the league life the Lions’ blackout? That’s like asking, should Congress should bail out the housing market? Or should Congress bail out the automotive industry? Here’s my question: should people actually be accountable for the actions they take or should we just throw out that whole notion of there being consequences, positive or negative, for what you do?

  20. clangille says: Nov 13, 2008 6:17 PM

    Not only should the league not lift the blackout, but they should kick the Detroit Lions out of the NFL. Do they even turn a profit?Barry Sanders could’ve broken the all time rushing record handily if he didn’t retire early, but he couldn’t bear to play another season for such a shamefull franchise.

  21. empty13 says: Nov 13, 2008 6:19 PM

    Dear Santa Roger
    All lions fans want for Christmas is for you to expand the NFL and bring pro football to Detroit!
    Long Suffering Lions Fans
    P.S. Maybe you can do something nice for Oakland and Cincinnati next year.

  22. JimmySmith says: Nov 13, 2008 6:29 PM

    The Lions play pro football? Who knew.

  23. exit162 says: Nov 13, 2008 6:30 PM

    Sharp is an ass and therefore he is out on his own with this idea. He and the Lions do not share ideas. The next good idea from the Lions organization will be their first. Classic example, Illinois played Western Michigan at Ford Field this past saturday. Attendance was generously stated at 13,000 people.
    Could anyone with half a brain had the NFL schedule the Bears for the next day rather than the Jags? At least then, the Ford Field management (lewand et al) could have sold a package plan to Bears/Illini fans that could have lifted the blackout and gotten WMU some revenue.
    Even with a payoff to the NFL to make it work, the idea could have been easily profitable. Of course one must realize that the Lions are the dumbest franchise in all aspects of sport.

  24. CD_Ridge says: Nov 13, 2008 6:40 PM

    extremist says:
    November 13th, 2008 at 5:40 pm
    Don’t lift the blackout, I think Lions fans have suffered enough already.
    Dammit, someone beat me to it.

  25. narrabeen23 says: Nov 13, 2008 6:50 PM

    f U ‘n DA a Florio!
    until you post the facebook pic consider yourself shunned like dwight from the office

  26. Finalyst says: Nov 13, 2008 6:54 PM

    Look, we’ve got nothing personal against Lewand. But, frankly, he’s the product of a shmoozeocracy that allowed him to piggyback on his father’s connections as a prominent Detroit lawyer (his dad’s firm even has offices at Ford Field) into a gig that Lewand likely would never have been able to finagle based solely on merit.
    Ahh, the truth comes out. I didn’t realize a guy who gets paid to sit on his butt and write about football could be jealous of anyone.

  27. Selgae_LA says: Nov 13, 2008 6:57 PM

    Let the laws of supply and demand solve this. Demand is down so maybe the owner needs to LOWER his ticket price for his unattractive product that he is fielding.

  28. OldNumber7 says: Nov 13, 2008 7:00 PM

    Please God don’t lift the blackout. I’m stuck in NFL hell. I have to watch the Lions, Browns, and Bengals every week and I hate all three teams.

  29. wvugrad00 says: Nov 13, 2008 7:00 PM

    could the NFL be kind enough to black out the thanksgiving game for me in VA?

  30. bucco bruce says: Nov 13, 2008 7:02 PM

    NO. Ownership should be punished for the mistakes they have made for the last decade, or more. Ford family owns this team and they are wanting a bailout on taxpayers money. BS. The Fords cant run an auto company and have proven they can’t run a football team. Let them all fail. Cincy, Detroit and St Louis should consolidate to field one competitive team.

  31. CaptainFantastik says: Nov 13, 2008 7:11 PM

    Life must be pretty bad up there if Lions football is considered in any way to be a positive distraction. They should keep the games blacked out and just show Sienfeld or Married With Children re-runs… least then the people of detroit are getting some laughs.

  32. CountSnail says: Nov 13, 2008 7:15 PM

    You know what I think, Florio?
    You need to post the bong pic.

  33. G-man says: Nov 13, 2008 7:28 PM

    I have a feeling next year we’re going to see changes to the blackout rule due to the economy.
    Instead of a full rollback of all blackout rules, we may see the league offer a couple exemptions throughout the year, such as giving a team the option to air 2 non sellouts of it’s choice, etc.

  34. kmitch218 says: Nov 13, 2008 8:00 PM

    Drew Sharpe is a UofM loving jerk who is trying to inflict some of his pain on the rest of SE Michigan by trying to get the league to lift the blackout so people might inadvertently stumble across the Lions on local TV.
    He complained last year in a column about not being able to watch the Big 10 network at his home as he had cable. It didn’t occur to him to pick up the DirecTV package for one of his TV’s to get the game as it only pertained to his job. I wrote him about him about it and he replied he would consider it.

  35. sumnomeaztim says: Nov 13, 2008 8:08 PM

    Well obviuosly you’ve found a very sore subject and the whole blackout rule was an attempt to sell tickets for teams that sucked and couldn’t sell tickets. But I would think that by still broadcasting the game there would be other benefits to advertisers and the fans that still decided to watch. There have been a lot of emotional and intelligent posts to this and everone has valid points. The truth is if that a team can’t sell out a majority of its’s seats who should really be to blame? The owners, the players or the fan’s? To me the fan’s should never be penalized althought that seems to be the case more and more. If you really want to have fun make an NFl law where if a team can’t sell the majority of tickets and gets blacked out the players, coaching staff and owners have to give 20% of theor profits to that game to a charity.. See what happens then

  36. empty13 says: Nov 13, 2008 8:53 PM

    I live here in wonderful MI, folks, and it is worse off economically than other parts of the nation. Governor Jenny on the block admitted it, which got caught on film and showed in competing campaign ads…
    The Red Wings are damn good and are extremely popular outside the 1000 points of blight known as Detroit. The lousy economy also extends to Canadia, since at any time half the people at home Wings’ games are from across the tunnel/bridges. If the Wings have a great product and cant sellout repeatedly, then the Lions arent going to sellout either. The Pisstones dont sell out every game either. And the Tigers attendance dipped this summer after 2 pretty good years.
    I think the only thing that insulated the Lions this long is that a lot (and i mean a lot) of tickets were corporate purchases. As they start pulling out, or going under, or adjusting their spend rates, attendance falls. And it isnt just the cost of tickets. A former co-worker of mine took the d-inlaw and 2 grandkids to the circus. Tickets, snacks, parking and dinner afterwards was $250. Booze just ratchets the bill more.
    I dont know that I would say that Ford automotive (or Chrysler or GM) are run that badly. Even Toyota, who like other overseas carmakers is actually marketing much more high end stuff nowadays, is hurting.
    It has much more to do with the economy sucking wind overall. As a result, new houses and new cars go unpurchased. Just who do some folks think is going to go buy all of them besides Obamasama?
    If one is to bailout anything, and I dont approve of such acts, autos and housing are the places to prop up.
    That is assuming he doesnt just spend the whole budget bailing out a shitty little foreign country, people who dont pay any taxes already, and investment firms that simply amount to well heeled casinos.

  37. Eric says: Nov 13, 2008 9:05 PM

    One thing about Florio’s theory that Lewand (or someone else) is whispering in Drew Sharp’s ear…
    Drew Sharp never – NEVER – has anything good to say about the Lions. Why the heck would Lewand or any other Lions higher-up suddenly buddy up to him in order to plant an idea in Goodell’s head? There are far more friendly beat writers in town that Lewand could go to. Going to Sharp makes no sense.

  38. toddbenjamin says: Nov 13, 2008 9:08 PM

    Florio – Don’t play down to the talent level in detroit. Drew Sharp does not deserve your long article, he has been as bad as the Lions are for years and years… Keep up the good work otherwise. The Lions BLOOOOOWWWWWWWWW! Somewhere in the NFL the second worst team in the league is ELATED that the Lions are 0-9 and Crabtree will make it to at least #2 on draft day. Actually, I’m not sure about that given the Lions history.

  39. Messiah says: Nov 13, 2008 9:32 PM

    What have you done for me lately?
    Why would any team get preferential treatment?
    Are we going to be known as the generation of “Bail Outs?”
    If the home teams fans can’t watch the game on one of the biggest holidays of the year, well, shame on the Management.
    Wouldn’t that be incentive to produce a product that sells?
    Why was this even brought up?

  40. Romans58 says: Nov 13, 2008 11:59 PM

    Florio why do you question Lewand’s qualifications. Obviously, the man must have something to offer to be in the position he is in not just his father’s name recognition. Basically, what you are stating is innuendo and unsubstantiated allegations (aka false witness, libel and slander). I am fine with criticizing the way he is doing his job, but to make an ad hominen argument is frivolous. I think you do better by stating the facts and trying to argue from counter perspective in order to persuade the reader.

  41. whytemyke says: Nov 14, 2008 12:52 AM

    The earlier comparison to the Red Wings isn’t fair because mike illitch was the only owner in the league who didn’t lower NHL ticket prices at his teams games after the strike. So the wings are in the same boat as the Lions– empty seats brought on by greedy owners.
    It’s really just bad business. If I’m WCF, then those seats are going to be there anyways, right? Might as well bite the bullet and get $40 a seat. It’s not as good as $60/seat but it’s a damn site better than getting nothing at all.
    That being said, as a fan from Detroit but now living in Chicago, I would be happy to see the blackout lifted just for the Thanksgiving day game.

  42. Patrick says: Nov 14, 2008 8:20 AM

    Never liked the blackouts for any team…if the NFL has a good product and priced reasonably the Fans will show…I would love to see the games live but way way too spendy for my income level…This shows the level of respect the NFL has for fans of the game…

  43. dcouzens says: Nov 14, 2008 8:57 AM

    Let’s clear up a couple things here for the people who don’t live in Detroit and don’t read the Detroit papers or listen to Detroit radio.
    Ford Sr. retired in 2005 from the Ford Motor Co. Board of Directors. He has had nothing to do with the car company since.
    Ford Jr. was the CEO and COO of Ford Motor Co. but turned over those roles to Alan Mulally in 2006.
    Drew Sharp is not buddy buddy with ANYONE from the Lions organization. To suggest that Lewand whispered something to Drew to make himself look good is B.S. Just this past week Drew and Lewand had an exchange that was quite hilarious. Drew asked why the coaching staff still had jobs and Lewand acted like Drew was an idiot and said, “I don’t understand what you’re trying to get at.” Drew also asked why the Lions have been more competitive on the road than at home and Lewand said, “You better get your facts straight before you ask a question like that.” Laughed and walked away. The facts are that the Lions have lost by an average of 20.5 points a game at home and only 8.8 on the road.
    While Florio’s venom at Lewand is justified, it’s wrong to suggest that Lewand pushed Drew to write that article. Drew rips the Lions every chance he gets and rightfully so. The Detroit media needs to do a better job of holding the Fords and the entire organization to the fire.
    The Lions are a non story nationally. No one talks about them because they suck. It’s like they’re invisible and not a part of the NFL. I don’t blame the national media either, because it’s not worth talking about the Lions. They are not a real NFL team…either on the field or management wise.
    The Lions won’t reduce ticket prices, they are clueless how to market and fill the stands. It might not matter anyway. The fans in Detroit have had enough. Yes, the economy is bad and it’s having an effect on all the local sports teams attendance. But, even if the economy was thriving, people in Detroit are done spending their money on the Lions. We don’t want to give Ford our hard earned money when he has never ever done anything to justify us doing so.
    I know some people think it would be the worst thing ever if the Lions moved out of Detroit, but I don’t. If things continue to be ran like they have for over 40 years by Ford, he won’t sell out a game again in Detroit and he will be forced to sell or move. He deserves nothing better.
    Some people think because Ford isn’t in the media and isn’t a meddling owner like Jerry Jones or Dan Snyder that he’s a good owner and great to work for. The guy is clueless. He doesn’t and hasn’t attended the NFL owner’s meetings, instead he sends Lewand and Millen (when he was still here). The guy was given the Lions as a hobby back in the 60’s and he does whatever he wants because it’s his team. He doesn’t like anyone telling him what to do because he never had a chance to be a major part of Ford Motor Co. growing up. Until Sr. has passed away, sells or moves the team, it will always be the same for Lions fans. No hope.

  44. brianlion says: Nov 14, 2008 12:17 PM

    If the Ford’s run their car company in the same manner as their football team, it’s now wonder they are on the brink of asking for a bailout from the Feds.

    William Clay Ford doesnt have anything to do with Ford Motor Co. The man hasnt been part of that company in almost 40 years now. You’d be more accurate affiliating them with Harrison Ford then FMC.

  45. Mike Florio says: Nov 14, 2008 12:22 PM

    *double sigh*
    William Clay Ford retired as a member of the Board of Directors in 2005, and he retired as vice chair of the company in 1989.
    Bill Ford was the CEO of Ford Motor Company until September 2006, and he’s still the Executive Chairman.

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