As we get closer to the deadline for the Chiefs to “sell out” Sunday’s game it looks like the Chiefs streak of blackout free football will be over.
Unless Santa Claus shows up by noon today and buys the remaining 3,500 tickets for Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills, it will be blacked out within a 75-mile radius of Kansas City, including satellite services at sports bars. That would end a streak of 155 consecutive Chiefs games, regular-season and postseason, that have been televised locally.
It’s possible the Chiefs could ask the NFL for a 24-hour extension in an effort to preserve the streak, but it most certainly would end next week when even more tickets will be available for the final home game of the season against the one-win Cleveland Browns.
During the last few years, as the Chiefs’ fortunes on the field have faded and the season-ticket base waned, corporate sponsors and either KCTV-5 or Fox-4, whichever station had the local rights to the game, would pick up the remaining seats to assure a sellout when needed.
Every week of the season, the Chiefs telecasts are the highest-rated television show of the week in Kansas City, which justifies the stations’ decision. Even this year, during a 3-9 season, Chiefs games attract an average 54 share of all televisions in use, or 14 percent better than this time a year ago.
So again this week, KCTV took on its share of tickets, but that still left the game 3,500 shy of a sellout at the start of the week.
“It’s as much the economy as it is the Chiefs,” said Robert Totsch, vice president/general manager of KCTV. “My counterparts in the television industry are facing similar blackout situations.
“From my perspective, and KCTV, we certainly don’t want to lose a Chiefs game and the audience it brings. We’ve helped them as much as we can. As unfortunate as it is, there is only so much folks can do. The underlying problem is the economy. If the Chiefs had a better record, and the weather was better and the economy was better, you’d probably see the streak continue.”
Yes, the economy is a mess. But Totsch makes the most important point: if the Chiefs were better, this wouldn’t be an issue. No one would be talking about the economy or wondering about extensions and TV station ticket buys. The football at Arrowhead has been bad for a long time and things have finally caught up to them. And the sad thing is that even if someone steps up this week, there is little chance next week’s game against the equally bad Cleveland Browns will come anywhere near the level needed to avoid a blackout.
You not be able to see him on local TV Sunday, but the Bills starting quarterback will be Ryan Fitzpatrick. If things would have broken a little differently, he could be lining up for Kansas City this week instead of Buffalo.
Fitzpatrick played in college at Harvard, near Boston, and spent the days leading up to the 2005 draft thinking the hometown Patriots would draft him.
“I’d just had a tryout with the Patriots,” Fitzpatrick said. “I was thinking that the Patriots, they had three seventh-round draft picks and they were going to pick me. Then all of a sudden I see Matt Cassel’s name pop up. I had no idea who he was. That was the clincher that I wasn’t going to get drafted (by New England).”
So it was Cassel and not Fitzpatrick who was with the Patriots last season when Tom Brady was injured. Cassel filled in ably for Brady and was traded to the Chiefs this year.
Fitzpatrick was drafted later in that 2005 draft by St. Louis. He spent two seasons with the Rams and two with the Bengals before joining the Bills this year.
He was Cincinnati’s starting quarterback against the Chiefs in the season’s final game last year. The Bengals won 16-6.
I’d be lying if I told you I’ve seen more than two Bills games this year, just as most Buffalo fans haven’t stopped and watched much of the Chiefs. But Fitzpatrick definitely has talent and will make things difficult for the Kansas City defense. Hopefully he doesn’t have the same sort of success that Philip Rivers had two weeks ago, but he moves around just as well and will be working against a battered Chiefs secondary.
One issue for Fitzpatrick — and for Cassel and the Chiefs — has been injuries across the offensive line. The Bills could be without both of their starting tackles.
Right tackle Kirk Chambers (ankle) worked out on the side with a team trainer but was unable to practice Wednesday. It remains to be seen if he is able to work today or Friday. If he doesn’t, look for rookie Jamon Meredith to start in Kansas City.
It looks like left tackle Demetrius Bell will miss his fourth straight game with a knee injury.
Coach Perry Fewell said Bell looked good working out on Monday, but he was not at Wednesday’s practice.
If you go look back at some of my comments during the draft, I was dying for the Chiefs to take a flier on Meredith. He is huge (6-5, 300) and has a world of potential. That said, he has a long way to go before he is ready to be a starting right tackle at this level and that along with Bell being out, the Chiefs pass rush should be in full effect Sunday.
With the injuries the Bills are dealing with, anything short of 5 sacks should be seen as completely unacceptable.