Green Bay Packers: unusual blackout possibility avoided

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With as strong of a fan base the Green Bay Packers have, the team faced the possibility of a blackout for its upcoming postseason game.

The Packers, who will play the San Francisco 49ers Sunday in a wildcard game, announced Friday morning that it had finally sold out all of its seats, preventing an NFL-enforced blackout for Milwaukee, Green Bay and Wausau.  The Pack had until 4 p.m. Friday to sell the seats, after the NFL gave an extension to the team Jan. 2.

This is the same team which has a 30-plus year waiting list for season tickets, right?

It just seems a little bizarre that the Green Bay Packers didn’t sell out its first playoff game of the season instantaneously.  It’s surprising that the Packers had 40,000 tickets to distribute with just three days until the deadline, and needed an extra 24 hours to hawk the final 3,000.

Perhaps the strangest part of this affair was that the Packers needed corporations to help them sell out.  The Journal Sentinel reported that Associated Bank purchased the remaining tickets Friday, and although the company wouldn’t disclose how many were bought, it probably wasn’t one or two dozen.

The Packers weren’t the only NFL team scrambling to sell seats and avoid blackouts this weekend.  Meier bought 1,200 tickets for the Colts game, and Kroger and Procter & Gamble purchased thousands of seats for the Bengals game.  Both the Indianapolis and Cincinnati areas will avoid blackouts thanks to the help of large corporations.

And while it’s great that local companies helped these teams sell seats and assured area viewers the opportunity to watch the game at home, it’s a little unusual to hear Green Bay involved in something like a blackout.

“It’s kind of different,” guard Josh Sitton said. “That’s the first time I’ve heard of a blackout around here. It was different seeing that. I’m glad it finally got taken care of.”

Coach Mike McCarthy said this sell out at home is “the way it’s supposed to be.”

“This is Lambeau Field,” he said. “Our fans are phenomenal. Our fans always show up … and I’m glad they came through.”

Except it took a lot of prodding to make the fans come through.  It is true fans purchased around 37,000 tickets between Dec. 30 and Jan. 2.  But prices dwindled down to just $90 for field level behind the endzone.  And alongside Associated Bank, the Packer’s Fox affiliate WITI made “significant” contributions.  WITI’s General Manager Chuck Steinmetz said many of the tickets will go to nonprofits.

The Packers have always been known for selling out Lambeau, regular season or playoff game, bright and sunny or frozen tundra.  What was so different this time around?  Similar to the Packers’ up and down season, perhaps fans didn’t want to take a chance on buying tickets to a game which may have a surprising outcome.

But this time around, at least, the Packers were able to sell out Lambeau, no matter the method.  Hopefully the extra fans at the game, and the assurance of thousands more watching from the couch, can give the Packers confidence to keep the season alive.

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