For all the hand-wringing and teeth-gnashing regarding the possibility of rampant local blackouts in 2009, the hard numbers paint a much prettier picture.
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy points out in his Twitter page that, of 76 total games through Week Five, only four have been blacked out.
They were both Jaguars home games (vs. Cardinals in Week Two and vs. Titans in Week Four), the Week Three Redskins-Lions game in Detroit, and the Week Three Broncos-Raiders game in Oakland.
This week, no games are blacked out, thanks to the Steelers playing at their home away from home (Detroit . . . by the way, did you know Jerome Bettis is from Detroit?), the Jaguars and Raiders playing on the road, and the Chargers are on a bye.
McCarthy points out that the 95-percent sellout rate is higher than the figure from five years ago (89 percent) and ten years ago (86 percent).
But things could get worse as the year goes on. This year, plenty of bad teams already have emerged: the Lions, Chiefs, Raiders, Buccaneers, Browns, and Rams. Also, while the Chargers currently are 2-2, ongoing sluggish play could make it harder to sell those final 2,000 non-premium seats that the Chargers scramble to sell nearly every week.
Come November or December, there might be a few UFL-style crowds in cold-weather cities with teams who hopes have been long since dead and buried.
For now, though, the blackout phenomenon has been nearly as rare as sightings of the Great Pumpkin.