The NFL is winning the war to get butts in seats. So far.
Through two weeks of the 2013 season, there have been and will be no blackouts, according to the league office.
The hot spots for Week Two were Tampa, Buffalo, and Oakland. On Thursday, all three teams announced that enough tickets had been sold to permit the games to be televised locally.
It’s part of a positive trend for the league. Based on numbers provided by the league, one games was blacked out through two weeks in 2012, one was blacked out through two weeks in 2011, and three were blacked out through two weeks in 2010.
If my math is correct (and it rarely is), five games have been blacked out in the first two weeks of the last four seasons combined. In contrast, five total games were blacked out through the first two weeks of the 2004 season.
In 1993, 11 of 28 games were blacked out through two weeks. That’s 39 percent. Five years earlier, it was 12 of 28.
In 1983, it was 17 of 28 — a whopping 61 percent. And in 1978, 20 of 28 games played through the first two weeks of the NFL regular season were blacked out locally.
So while the NFL is looking for ways to get more fans to choose coming to stadiums over staying home, things have improved dramatically over the past several decades.
Aiding the cause over the last two years has been the ability of every team to reduce its minimum sales threshold from 100 percent of all non-premium tickets down to 85 percent. In Oakland, nearly 10,000 seats have been tarped this year, reducing the capacity to 53,286.
As the NFL tries to strike the balance between full stadiums and maximized TV audiences, the key could be to shrink the size of current stadiums — and to install fewer seats in the next wave of NFL venues.
Of course, the league also could reduce the price of tickets. Or the NFL could seize on the cockeyed wisdom in Colts owner Jim Irsay’s recent justification of preseason ticket costs, setting a price point for each game based on a variety of factors, including the quality of the opponent and the home team’s recent performances and overall record.
Really, why let the secondary market set the number? The teams should be able to charge more, and compelled to charge less, based on how significant or otherwise a game may be.