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5 Reasons the NFL Should Fix Blackouts Next

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Now that NFL fans and commentators are done throwing their temper tantrum about replacement refs, can we get some games televised?

The NFL's regular referees returned more than a week ago after the entire football-watching world had itself a good cry over the "fraud" being perpetuated on fans, the atrocities of subjective penalty calling and such high-minded notions as the integrity of the game. Fans in the San Diego and Tampa/St. Petersburg areas would have joined them, but they were too busy watching some other market's game while their home team was busy being booted off television for insufficient attendance.

That's the order of march in today's NFL average-joe replacement refs missing a few calls early in the season? Can 'em and pay the regular refs immediately. But average-joe fans can't watch a game in their area when lofty ticket prices and a floundering economy keep them away from stadiums their tax dollars paid for? Forget 'em. Let the bums buy a ticket if they want an NFL team.

While some say an NFL market missing a broadcast may not seem as important to some fans as, say, a questionable call over mutual possession, NFL blackouts have the potential to affect the pro sports landscape far more deeply that a few weeks of replacement officiating. Here are just five reasons why the NFL and its fans should turn their attention to the blackout issue immediately:

1. The NFL's answer isn't working: For much of the blackout rule's existence, an NFL team's home game was blacked out when it didn't sell out a game 72 hours before kickoff. This year, the NFL gave teams the option of reducing the blackout ceiling to 85% of total capacity, with any revenue from tickets sold above that margin going into a collective pot to be split among all teams. The San Diego Chargers, a team prone to blacking out home games in recent years, opted to decline the NFL's offer and wound up blacking out a home game against the Atlanta Falcons two weeks ago at Qualcomm(QCOM) Stadium when both teams were 2-0.

Even teams that took up the NFL's offer have had to black out games this year. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have blacked out two games thanks to the tough math required to reach 85% capacity.

2. The blackouts themselves aren't working: After spending two seasons with much of the home slate blacked out, fans in Tampa seem just fine with keeping billionaire owner Malcolm Glazer's team off local airwaves while he tinkers with Machester United and takes $15 million for 30 years from taxpayers to maintain Tampa's Raymond James (RJF) Stadium. In the words of the folks at SportsFans.org, "The Bucs owners either 1) don't actually care about their fans or 2) don't realize that they're only exacerbating the waning interest in their team by continuing to black out game after game or 3) both."