Blackout May Be Inevitable

With the Chiefs in danger of suffering their first television blackout since 1990 on Sunday against the Buffalo Bills, we have to ask the question: why is this happening now, after 20 years?

You can blame the players and their lack of talent. You can blame inept coaching decisions. You can blame fans for choosing to spend their money elsewhere. You can even blame the local television affiliates, who aren't pushing enough to avoid a blackout. You can blame the negative light being thrown on the Chiefs' organization that comes with three wins in 12 games.

But the bottom line is that fans are choosing to stay away from Arrowhead because they don't have the passion for the team they once did. And you know what? There isn't anything wrong with that.

Fans in Kansas City are fickle. Since 1971 we haven't had reason to truly celebrate anything in football, and not since 1985 has there been a reason to celebrate the Kansas City Royals. Instead the area has counted on the Big 12's big three (Kansas, Missouri and Kansas State) to provide entertainment in big games that hold real meaning.

Right now the Chiefs are in the midst of a complete overhaul. That transition was made necessary after Carl Peterson resigned last December. He did his job and now it's Scott Pioli's job to fix the mess that was left behind, which is actually residual from Marty Schottenheimer's departure following the 1998 season.

Since then, the Chiefs have never committed to a true rebuilding season and are now paying the price. The organization often made emotional decisions over coaches and players, delaying the inevitable, perhaps fearing that the fan base would not understand what had to happen to make the Chiefs winners again if the franchise was to be built from the ground up.

Maybe now the fan base understands. That moment has arrived and it's too late to do anything about it. While the economy is an issue, there seems to be resounding theme in Kansas City that being with your family and friends on the weekends is far more attractive than paying money to see a bad football team in an unsure world.

Our country is at war. Unemployment is at an all time high and people aren't spending money like they once did. The only industry that is booming is cheap entertainment. Americans will spend nearly $10 billion at the movies in 2009. That's where a lot of sports dollars are heading because people can buy two hours of entertainment for $5.00, plus overpriced concessions, instead of paying for Chiefs tickets, parking and overpriced concessions.

The Chiefs are suffering the side effects of their own success in the 90s. We took for granted that the organization would ensure the sellout streak remained intact for eternity. In retrospect, it just wasn't possible.

You can't blame the Chiefs if they let unsold seats stay empty this weekend against Buffalo or in a week against Cleveland. This may have been inevitable, because NFL schedule makers gave Kansas City three December games, two of them against bad teams. That's a bad combination with the state of the team and the economy.

When you compound all the factors, to be fair, nobody is to blame. The consumer has a choice and with the economic times so tight, Chiefs fans are simply choosing to spend their hard-earned dollars in other places with more value. The average annual disposable income in the Kansas City area is roughly $7,200 per household, so the Chiefs should feel fortunate that so many fans came to Arrowhead this season.

The team will improve and the fans will return. But for now, a blackout is simply a matter of bad timing. Top Stories