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NFL blackouts hurt fans

Mike Fasano is looking to roast something besides a turkey.

On this day set aside for giving thanks, consuming poultry and watching football, Fasano wants to ensure NFL fans aren't denied the opportunity to actually see their hometown teams on television. In other words, the state senator from New Port Richey wants to turn up the heat on National Football League team owners.

Fasano usually battles utilities, insurance companies or their regulators. His pro-consumer stance is piqued now by the NFL's policy to black out football broadcasts to markets that fail to sell out their stadiums 72 hours in advance of kick-off.

Earlier this month, Fasano filed legislation in Tallahassee requiring the owners of the NFL franchises in Miami, Tampa and Jacksonville to lift their blackouts or else forfeit the public subsidies that helped to build their stadiums. While the NFL blackout rule has been around for five decades, team owners or sponsors can sidestep the action by buying up the unsold tickets. Fasano thinks they should do just that and give them away to people who can't afford the cost of game tickets, parking, and a snack at the stadium.

There will be no television blackouts of NFL games today in the Tampa Bay region. Mostly because the Buccaneers aren't playing. Today's slate features Green Bay at Detroit, Miami at Dallas (Leon Lett memories anyone?) and San Francisco at Baltimore in a broadcast that is sure to focus on the Harbaugh brothers' Thanksgiving.

The Bucs don't play at Raymond James Stadium again until Dec. 4, but if past crowds are any indication, there will be no local television broadcast of the game. Attendance at the Bucs' home games in Tampa averages less than 55,000 people in a stadium that holds nearly 66,000.

A cynic might suggest that playing to 83 percent capacity matches the team's effort in the last home game, Nov. 13 when the team lost 37-9.

No, that was just a little bit of bad luck, says Carol Tuck, 71, of Spring Hill.

The team knows how she feels. She calls One Buc Place every Monday to critique their game performance. Tuck cheers for the Bucs, but she also is pulling for Fasano on the blackout bill.

She moved to Florida 11 years ago from Richmond, Va. She had been a Dallas Cowboys fan, but pledged her loyalty to the Bucs when she arrived in Tampa Bay. Look around her Timber Pines villa for evidence. The home is adorned with a pristine Buccaneers wastebasket (nobody is allowed to actually put trash in it), Bucs glasses, shot glasses, hats, shirts, miniature helmets (both the original orange and white and the current pewter) and toy footballs, one of which commemorates the Super Bowl victory after the 2002 season.

But, Tuck does not drive and Spring Hill to Tampa is not an easy commute. A bum left knee keeps her from climbing stairs, and her Social Security-based income keeps her from buying tickets to see games in person. Friends took her to the New Orleans Saints game to celebrate her birthday earlier this season, otherwise she is a fan by television.

The blackouts put a damper on that for most of the regular season home games.

"It's just not right,'' says Tuck. "The people paid for that stadium. Why are the Buccaneers being blacked out when the Rays games are on TV when there's like 20 people there.''

So on the Sundays the Buccaneers play at home she turns on the radio. Loudly. A neighbor once threatened to call the police. Go ahead, Tuck said, but I'm not answering the door until the game is over. Another time people heard her screaming so loudly for a Ronde Barber interception they thought she was being harmed.

Barber is her favorite because of his own ties to Virginia. She'd like to meet him. As it is, the Bucs have shown her hospitality. She got a tour of the team headquarters at One Buc Place because of her frequent phone calls.

She is grateful for that, but still she frets about not being able to see her team every Sunday.

Why is she such a fan?

"I have nothing else in my life, but the Buccaneers. Does that sound horrible? I guess it does.''

She said she will spend today watching television. The football is fine, but it would be better if one of the games featured the Bucs playing at Raymond James Stadium.

If Fasano can get the Florida teams to circumvent the NFL's blackout rule, she would be forever thankful.

NFL blackouts hurt fans 11/23/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 23, 2011 3:34pm]
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