Monday, July 9, 2012

Opining on the impact of the NFL's revised blackout rule on the Bills, the first-place Pittsburgh Pirates & the closing of Mickey Mantle's in NYC

             Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, deserves credit for sticking up for sports fans and taking on the NFL’s antiquated and avaricious blackout policy. But the league’s new rule that will allow games to be televised locally even if they aren’t sold out doesn’t go far enough. Under the new proposal – which individual teams can still opt out of – a game can be shown if 85 percent of the tickets have been sold 72 hours before kickoff.

 This is a slight improvement over the current 100 percent policy, but had the new plan been in effect the past two seasons, only one of the six Bills non-sellouts would have been telecast in the Buffalo-Rochester market.
    I have long railed against the NFL’s blackout policy. Congress and the FCC should not allow games to be blacked out by teams, such as the Bills, who receive sizable taxpayer money to refurbish or build new stadiums.

                Higgins called the new policy a “game-changer.” But the game won’t really change until the NFL is forced to televise every contest locally, regardless of ticket sales, as in done in other sports.

It’s time to white-out the blackout rule once and for all.


                The league’s schedule-makers certainly haven’t done the Bills any favors as far as attendance is concerned. For the second consecutive December, Buffalo will host three home games. Even during the Bills glory years in the early 1990s, late-season home games were not an easy sell.


                There are some great stories unfolding this baseball season, none better, in my opinion, than the drama in the Steel City. At the All-Star break, the Pittsburgh Pirates are sitting atop the NL Central. Thanks to the play of leading MVP candidate Andrew McCutchen and pitcher A.J. Burnett, Pittsburgh has a great shot of not only snapping its North American-record losing streak of 19 consecutive seasons, but making the playoffs for the first time since 1992. Burnett’s revival obviously has many Yankee fans wondering, “Why didn’t we see these kind of pitching performances in the Bronx?” A.J. is another in a long line of players who couldn’t hack it under the Big Apple’s bright lights. He was 21-26 with a 5.20 earned run average in his two seasons in Pinstripes and is 9-2 with a 3.74 ERA this season.


                Rough week for this child of 1960s television. First, Andy Griffith leaves us, and, now, Ernest Borgnine. Borgnine was an Academy Award-winning actor, but for me, and millions of others, he’ll always be remembered for his lead role in the TV sit-com, McHale’s Navy.


                I was saddened to hear that Mickey Mantle’s Sports Bar and Restaurant has closed. I was at the Manhattan eatery on several occasions and loved the atmosphere. With all the memorabilia in its display cases, it had a museum-like feel to it. ESPN had named it the top sports bar in America and it hosted numerous major sports news conferences through the years. I even dragged my then-fiancee, Beth, there the day after I proposed to her atop the Empire State Building. She was cool with it because it was across the street from Central Park and I arranged for an afternoon carriage ride and a stop at the Park’s zoo. In its 25-years, Mantle’s became one of those secondary NYC landmarks. I’ll miss the joint.

            You won’t hear any complaints from this 19th century base ball pitcher about run support. Through four games, our Flour City Base Ball Club has averaged 25 runs per contest, including a team-record 32 two matches ago. When you interpret 1866 base ball as we do and play sans gloves you always have the feeling that you never have enough runs. But that clearly hasn’t been the feeling this season. My fellow hurlers and I are loving the prosperity. The margin for error has been quite large.                               

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