Chargers CEO says home opener "most likely" will be blacked out

In 2009, the Chargers took steps to prepare their fans for a rash of blackouts.  In the end, there were none.

This year, it’s not looking as good.

Team president and CEO Dean Spanos told the North County Times on Thursday that he believes the home opener won’t be sold out, and thus not televised locally.

“It’s a disappointing trend, to be sure, and I do believe that
the home opener will most likely be blacked out,” Spanos said.  “It’s an
unfortunate fallout from the economy as a whole. I think Southern
California is still suffering, and in some ways the region may be
worse off today than it was a year ago.

“That’s my opinion, but you
go forward with what you have,” Spanos said. “We try to make the games as
fan-friendly as we can.  We haven’t raised ticket prices in over
three years.  We have payment schedules to ease the burden on the
potential season-ticket holder.  We’re trying to make the game-day
experience more fulfilling for the fans.  We’re sensitive to the
economic conditions, and we know we’ll have to ride this tough
economic period out.”

It’s one thing for the stadium experience to be “fan-friendly.”  It’s another for the team to approach the retention of established talent in a manner that can alienate the folks on whom the team is counting to buy tickets.  As we discussed recently with our friends Scott Kaplan and Billy Ray Smith of XX 1090 in San Diego, the handling of left tackle Marcus McNeill and receiver Vincent Jackson represents either gamesmanship by G.M. A.J. Smith or an effort to help send a broader message to the NFL’s players in the uncapped year.  Either way, nothing about the way Smith has handled the situation suggests a desire to push the chips into the middle of the table in the hopes of winning games and, hopefully, a championship.

So it could be that fans have figured that out.  It also could be that, last year, the Chargers opted (like the Buccaneers) to pay 34 cents on the dollar for the unsold tickets.  Whether or not the Chargers did it last year, implicit in Spanos’ comments is an acknowledgment that they won’t be doing it this year.