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Dolphins face tough sales dilemma, fans face tough choice

The Dolphins will not sell out this Sunday's game in which the St. Louis Rams will visit Sun Life Stadium. That is a virtual fact already given the thousands of tickets that remain unsold as of this writing and the thousands more tickets (often going below market value for seats in better locations) that are available through the secondary market.

That's the problem the Dolphins face this week and have been facing for some time as they continue to weigh whether to -- gulp --  buy their own tickets and lift the TV blackout in the local market.

We know that so far the Dolphins have bought up remaining tickets to ensure the lifting of the TV blackout. I have a guess as to what the Dolphins will do today at the deadline but because it is only a guess and major dollars are at stake for other folks based on what I might write I don't want to share it here.

We'll know soon enough if the Dolphins dig into their own pockets and pay the bill that fans normally pay to make sure the game is televised. Or if the deadline comes and the team allows the blackout to stand.

But what I do want to do today is explain to you the dilemma the team faces in making the decision whether to continue buying its own product (tickets) in hopes that eventually fans will return to the fold and do the buying instead.

Here's the dilemma:

If the Dolphins were playing hardball and not caring whether you fans see the game on television or not, they would simply let Thursday's deadline come and pass and announce the sufficient number of tickets were not sold.

Remember, this is a low threshold. The Dolphins this year are needing to sell 15 percent fewer tickets for a sellout to be granted and yet fans aren't even doing that for this game.

The team could say, "If you want to see the game, South Florida, you have to purchase a ticket and come out to the stadium."

The club is perfectly within its right to do this.

The problem is the Dolphins are on something of a roll of late. They have a chance to even their record at 3-3 on Sunday.  The team has been competitive so far this season. By all accounts the decade-long struggle to find a good young quarterback finally seems on the road to being solved.

So the team wants to continue riding that wave of goo feelings. The club wants please its fans and its fans have universally requested that all the games be on local TV. And the last three weeks, in two overtime losses and a victory over Cincinnati, the TV ratings have reflected a significant uptick in fan interest.

On the other hand, the Dolphins are also a private business. And it is a bad business model to buy your own product and then give it away free on television. (Sounds remotely similar to what newspapers do, but that's another story.)

At some point, the team must and will put its proverbial cleat down and say, "No more free rides. If games aren't sold out, they're not televised."

But is that time now?

Is that time in the middle of this so-called roll I just described above? Are the Dolphins in a position of sufficient strength to tell their fans that they must be at the stadium to see the game or otherwise they won't see the game?

The Tampa Bay Bucs made that call a couple of years ago. You know what the Tampa Bay fans did?

They didn't buy tickets to the games to see the team play. And they stopped watching on television also.

So what the Dolphins have going on is a high wire act.

And this is where you come in ...

The Miami Dolphins read this blog. That is not bragging. It is simply true. Folks at all levels of the organization read this blog from the very top on down. And they read your comments.

So here is the question of this day as the blackout deadline looms and the team makes the delicate decision whether to buy its own tickets and televise the game, or allow the facts of the current market to be the facts of the current market and black out the game:

As fans would you blame the Dolphins if they stop buying their own tickets and the game is blacked out?

Or do you put the responsibility of buying tickets on the actual ticket-buying public and blame fan apathy or a tough economy for the blackout?

And if the Dolphins make the hard decision of blacking out the game, would that decrease your overall excitement about this team? Would you blame the team for a bad public relations move? Or would you understand that business is business and this too shall pass?

This is your chance to tell the team what you, the fans, think ...

Show wisdom in your answers because they matter.

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